Classic Racing Video: ‘My Wastegate Is Stuck Closed So I Should Drive Harder’

OK, maybe Mark Blundell didn’t really ever say that, but we bet that he thought it at the time.

It’s mid-December and while that should mean I’m buying gifts for my family, what it really means is I’m celebrating “Halfway to Le Mans,” which I just made up for the purpose of sharing this video that I rewatch like 40 times a year. I can always get to gift purchases later, but my absolute favorite automotive event every year—besides Zip-Tie Drags, of course—is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June and I enjoy foisting its best moments onto unsuspecting people.

Exactly six months from today, the fastest sports cars in the world will be qualifying for the full-day race in France. To celebrate that half-iversary (another thing I just made up) and give RK Nation a gift, I present one of the craziest drives of all time: Mark Blundell’s 1990 qualifying lap. This requires a small bit of explaining, but it’s one of the best Le Mans stories of the last half-century.

Nissan GT-R NISMO LM - Le Mans 2015

While driving the Nissan R90CK during qualifying, Blundell discovered the wastegate for the 3.5-liter V8’s twin-turbo system stuck shut, meaning the turbos were feeding ALL of the boost. He alleges that he called the team on the radio (Or maybe he unplugged it…memories are fuzzy like that) to report that the car felt “different” but got no reply. As any race car driver would when presented with more power, Blundell did the obvious: He pressed on regardless.

Since this was the era where turbocharged F1 and sports cars ramped up boost for qualifying, that meant Blundell suddenly had way more power than the maxed-out qualifying trim. Nobody really has a definite number, but people kick around “more than 1,000 horsepower” when telling this story. We should remind you this was in 1990. While chassis development, tires, and aerodynamics were pretty well understood at the time, they weren’t anywhere near modern standards. Essentially, Blundell had in his possession the bluntest of blunt hammers.

Nissan GT-R NISMO LM - Le Mans 2015

The result: Blundell outqualified every other car in the field by an astounding six entire seconds. To put that in perspective, the next five cars qualified within 2.5 seconds of each other. You’d have thought Blundell was dragging his own Boost Caboose from that monstrous gap. Unfortunately, the transmission gave out during the race and the Nissan didn’t finish the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Even though the onboard video remains a bit blurry, you can still see the British driver wrestling the overboosted Nissan. It’s awesome stuff and my gift to you, RK Nation. When Nissan returned (briefly and unsuccessfully) to Le Mans in 2015, Blundell reunited with his old steed. You can check out more photos of Blundell and the car right here. You can read more of this story right here, also.

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