The revolutionary racer had already experienced an overheating issue in the early stages of the race – caused by a wayward carrier bag – as well as a gearbox issue.
But worse was to come. Shortly after those two snags, there was a safety car restart – before the DeltaWing was punched into the barriers.
It was running reliably until it became caught up in the leader’s battle and the Toyota hybrid of ex-Formula One driver Kazuki Nakajima appeared not to see the DeltaWing as it tagged the side of the car in the Porsche Curves.
Despite a heroic effort from driver Satoshi Motoyama to fix the DeltaWing at the side of the race track, he couldn’t get the innovative race car going again. Le Mans rules state only the driver can attempt repairs at the side of the track.
The DeltaWing drivers were furious at Nakajima’s clumsiness. Marino Franchitti told The Sun: ‘He used to hit a lot of things when he was in F1 and things don’t seem to have changed.’
Michael Krumm told the newspaper there is often contact in the Japanese Super GT series in which Nakajima competes — and he possibly forgot where he was.
Despite its premature exit from the race, Nissan are delighted with the publicity the DeltaWing has generated for the car firm. Huge numbers of fans have followed the car’s progress with some motorsport websites reporting traffic dropping off 30 per cent once the DeltaWing retired from the race.
Nissan Europe’s Darren Cox said he was ‘initially gutted’ by the crash, but added: ‘That feeling quickly gave way to a huge sense of pride in what we have achieved.
‘Everyone should celebrate the success that the Nissan DeltaWing has been and feel pride in the impact it will have as a test bed for future innovations both on the road and track.’
DeltaWing designer Ben Bowlby added: ‘It has exceeded everyone’s expectations. There’s a huge fan base for this car now.’
But what’s next for the DeltaWing project? Well, Bowlby would certainly like to the see the car back at Le Mans.
He told a press conference: ‘As the saying goes, the genie is out of the bottle now and we can’t put it back in. We have left the fans wanting to see more – they want to see it finish the race.
‘The future is now in the hands of the movers and shakers in Nissan and the financial partners of the project to bring this car back in a recognised class so we can showcase that lightweight, low drag race cars work.’
Bowlby also believes the DeltaWing could point to the future of road cars.
‘The car represents something that is not a million miles away from a personal mobility car. It could work as a commercial car that’s not only exciting to drive, but that has incredible fuel efficiency too,’ he said.
‘Racing has a habit of changing people’s perceptions. Just look at what it did for diesel – that became cool here. Maybe lightweight, low-drag cars with fuel efficient engines will become the next hot ticket.
‘Le Mans is the greatest test – we’ve put down a marker now and our car will go down in history. I’m very proud of that.’