There are occasions in modern motorsport when it appears – from the outside – to be devoid of passion. The DeltaWing project at Le Mans is one that has defied neutralisation.
A prototype machine designed by Ben Bowlby – and run in conjunction with Highcroft Racing, Don Panoz and Dan Gurney – the DeltaWing had been running steady laptimes, despite occasional gearbox glitches.
Its daring ideas and representation made it a fan favourite and garnered plenty of headlines for the event in the run up to this year’s Le Mans.
Just over six hours into this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hour Race, Kazuki Nakajima in the LMP1 Toyota carelessly bumped DeltaWing driver Satoshi Motoyama off at the Porsche Curves.
Race rules demand that only the driver can touch the car while it is on track, leaving Motoyama to attempt a basic repair to the car’s suspension under the advice and supervision of the car’s engineers.
Determined to get the machine back on track, the Japanese racer fought earnestly to apply a temporary fix, but to no avail. Distraught, Motoyama was comforted by his engineers, while fans applauded his valiant efforts.
It is rare to see such emotions at the racetrack today, as they tend to be smothered by commercial responsibilities – and that’s a shame, because passion and emotion are elements that fans lock into.
The likes of Formula 1, NASCAR and endurance racing are struggling badly to latch onto an audience under the age of 45. Maybe if they put away their portfolios and politics for a little while, they might begin to understand why younger viewers shy away from motorsport.
For more on the DeltaWing project, here is an interview with Ben Bowlby from late last year.