One of the hottest automotive stories over the past year has been the development of the DeltaWing racecar project which will participate in the 2012 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. Nissan announced they are partners in the project as the car was unveiled yesterday. So what is all the buzz about? Well just take a look at it. Describing it inevitably includes phrases like land rocket, Bat Mobile or Hot Wheels. The long and narrow proportions of the car look more like a futuristic top-fuel dragster meant conquer straight lanes of asphalt. The driver sits nearly in the back, nearly over the rear wheels. A single vertical wing which looks straight off a fighter plane is a distinctive element in the car’s profile. The design may look fanciful, but it was carefully considered to improve efficiency and speed.
The remarkable feat Nissan hopes to achieve with the DeltaWing is to run the 24-hours with a competitive speed by using half the fuel. The car integrates a number of efficiency and weight saving tactics. For starters it is powered by a race-prepared Nissan 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, featuring direct petrol injection and a turbocharger. The engine is based on technology already found on current Nissan road cars. While it will have half the power of their surrounding competitors, the DeltaWing will be able to match their speed by operating more efficiently. Every unnecessary ounce of weight has been stripped off the car. The overall shape creates clean aerodynamics. and even the size of the tires has been considered to reduce rolling resistance.
The fact that the Deltawing is racing at Le Mans this year wasn’t planned. The car was originally developed as a next generation study for the Indy car series. In the end it wasn’t chosen but the project captured the imaginations of racing legends Dan Gurney and Don Panoz, concept designer Ben Bowlby and Michelin who continued to back the project. Le Mans organizers have classified the DeltaWing in an experimental class which doesn’t count for a win. But barring incident, there’s no doubt the DeltaWing will get a lot of broadcast air time when the race takes place in June. Ahead of that, the car is scheduled to complete a few demonstration laps at Sebring on March 15 ahead of the 12-hours of Sebring.
Checkout this video which explains what Nissan hopes to learn from their involvement with the project.