Stephen Errity, Le Mans Correspondent
Exclusive interview with Krumm on driving the Nissan DeltaWing
It's not running in any of the four classes, but the Nissan DeltaWing is still one of the biggest stories at Le Mans this year. We spoke to long-time Nissan works driver Michael Krumm about what it's like to get behind the wheel of this innovative and ground-breaking machine.
Q: What's the DeltaWing like to drive?
We're like, wow, look at our Batmobile here.
A: “Surprisingly similar to a normal car. It looks crazy, even for the drivers. We're like, wow, look at our Batmobile here. How can we drive the Porsche Curves where you need so much downforce? You look at it and you think it's impossible – we think so, too. But when you drive it, it's crazy how much downforce it has and how quick it goes through the turns. It's fun to drive.”
Q: Does it feel closer to a single-seater or a prototype?
A: “Between the two. It has the lightness of a formula car, but on the other hand it feels a bit like a prototype as well, because the chassis is based on a prototype. 75 percent of the weight is at the rear, so you have to change your driving technique a bit. You drive it more off the throttle, you have to apply the throttle to make it turn, a bit like an old Porsche 911. So there are differences there as well.”
Q: With less power than a normal prototype or single-seater, is maintaining momentum through the corners important?
A: “Yes, absolutely. We have to make sure we don't slow down too much, so it's a bit risky in some corners. I had a problem at Tertre Rouge on Wednesday trying to take maximum kerb and maintaining maximum momentum when the car hit the kerb too hard and the power systems shut down, so we have to be careful.”
Q: You've already exceeded the ACO's target time of 3:45 by a couple of seconds, so is the team ahead of where it expected to be at this point?
A: “Yes, I think we could probably do a 3:38 or something like that with the car as it is now, which is amazing. It's a great job by the development team to have the car at that point. Now we're going to focus on finishing the race, which will be tough.”
Q: So you're not really targeting a specific finishing position on Sunday?
A: “Well, of course. Even though we're not classified, we're on the timing screens and we want to beat the LMP2 cars. We're all racers and naturally we look to move up the order – if not, we wouldn't be here in the first place.”
Q: After a while driving the DeltaWing, do you start to think of it as just any other car, rather than focusing on its unusual aspects?
A: “Yes, there's a huge difference between looking at it and leaving the pits driving it. Once you leave the pits you need to keep reminding yourself that it's wider at the rear than at the front. You tend to forget that very quickly, as the car feels so natural. You do sit much lower than in other racing cars, though, so you feel a bit unusual coming up behind a big GT car, looking at the big exhausts right in your face.”
Q: You drive with Satoshi Motoyama in Japanese GT, but Marino Franchitti is new to the team. How have the three of you been getting on?
A: “Satoshi is for me the best Japanese driver out there, really fast and makes no mistakes. We haven't worked with Marino until now, but he's a really great guy and we've gelled together very quickly.”