How Nissan threw it away
While Nissan took the plaudits in qualifying, Jaguar secured the laurels on what ultimately became one of the biggest failures for the Japanese brand.
Nissan entered no less than seven cars into the 1990 Le Mans 24 Hours, spread across five teams, but all but one of them hit trouble. The win was lost due to an issue that was known by half of the teams pre-race, but not communicated to any of the others.
The pole-sitting car of Mark Blundell, Julian Bailey and Gianfranco Brancatelli picked up frontal damage after a prang with Aguri Suzuki’s Toyota before retiring in the early hours of the morning with a terminal engine problem. A cocktail of engine and electrical issues blighted the rest of the entry.
That left the Nissan Performance entry of Derek Daly, Geoff Brabham and Chip Robinson as the leading entry, heading the timesheets for three hours before dark.
The Nissan was able to match the pace of the TWR Jaguar XJR-12 crewed by Martin Brundle, Price Cobb and John Nielsen, but crucially was capable of using less fuel as the cars then had a total of 2550 litres with which to complete the race.
Things were looking good for the final run-in on Sunday morning, when a fuel leak curtailed Nissan’s hopes.
The leak was caused by low fuel sloshing around in the collector within the tank and pulling the fittings away and causing fuel to leak and pool in the passenger side of the cockpit. The fault had been caught by two of the squads before the race, but not communicated to Ray Mallock’s RML outfit, which was running the number 83 R90CK.
It led to a late fuel tank change, and ended the car’s challenge, leaving Jaguar unrivalled to take a one-two finish.
Nissan was left to rue its mistake, with just a fifth-place finish for the R90CP of Masahiro Hasemi/kazuyoshi Hoshino/toshio Suzuki as compensation.