2012 Nissan DeltaWing projectEnlarge Photo
It might not be "one and done" for the Nissan DeltaWing, scheduled to take garage No. 56 at Le Mans that's reserved for technically innovative entries that aren't eligible to receive points in the 24 Heures du Mans on June 16-17.
While the revolutionary Delta Wing debuts at The Sarthe circuit after not quite 12 months of effort by its manufacturing crew at Dan Gurney's All American Racers and Elan Motorsports Technologies, managing partner Don Panoz believes American fans should be able to see the unique concept that features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodynamic drag of a typical LMP prototype.
The Project 56 group brings together Panoz, concept patron Chip Ganassi, Dan Gurney's All American Racers and Duncan Dayton's Highcroft Racing as the race entrant. Panoz is quite vocal about wanting to see the car perform in the USA after its debut in France.
As Panoz looks forward to the debut, "The amount of effort that has gone into preparing the car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been truly remarkable. The level of interest in DeltaWing has been quite amazing and I'm sure the car is going to attract a lot of attention in France.
"We are under no illusions about running at the front of the field or actually making it to the finish. Getting to the end would be truly remarkable," Panoz admitted, "but our goal will be to showcase what could be done. We will be there to showcase the possibilities for the future.
“Having a partner like Nissan has been fantastic and they are equally as excited about the next month. This project had a lot of doubters but people like Nissan and Michelin shared our vision for the future and they are all sharing in the exposure benefits which highlight everyone involved as companies who are prepared to question the status quo and look to the future,” Panoz said.
Marino Franchitti tests the Nissan DeltaWing - Highcroft Racing photoEnlarge Photo
The DeltaWing doesn't conform to the current ACO rules (the governing body for Le Mans) so if the car were to race outside Le Mans after that race is complete, it would have to be invited by the FIA World Endurance Championship in the same guise as how DeltaWing runs at Le Mans: as an unclassified new technology car. "We'd also love to see the car compete in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) presented by Tequila Patron and we're working towards that goal," Panoz allowed.
Panoz, who brought the ALMS to fruition wants to see more DeltaWing cars produced and at his facility in Braselton, Georgia, where Indy 500-winning Panoz/G-Force chassis were built, as were the DP-01 Champ Cars and all cars in the Superleague formula. "The DeltaWing that will race at Le Mans will, hopefully be the first of many cars to be constructed," Panoz said.
He's already had discussions with ALMS sanctioning body IMSA regarding the possibility of a rules framework that would permit the DeltaWing to run "against either P1 or P2 cars in the ALMS. The secret will be to come up with a set of rules where the cars are competitive without being overly dominant," he mused. "We want to see a diverse range of cars on the grid - it is certainly not our plan to replace all the current prototypes - but to supplement the competition that is already on track."
All the principal partners in DeltaWing are talking with the Le Mans organizers, the ACO about the possibility of racing at the 24-hour race as a certified entry in the future. Once the DeltaWing hit the track and people saw it was a viable concern, phones started to ring, Panoz stated. "We've had the obvious questions: are you building more cars? When would they be available? What is the rules structure going to be for 2013? It's going to be matter of balance, getting the car at the right weight and the right amount of horsepower. We hope to have a framework for the rules in place soon," in the ALMS. Panoz - and everyone - will have to wait and see what the ACO has in mind for its next set of rules.
Panoz is looking to see the DeltaWing race in other series as well: “The DeltaWing was born as a single-seater racing car originally and we’d love to bring that configuration to the track. Thanks to Chip Ganassi and Ben Bowlby, the car began its life as a single-seater and we’d love to see the original vision be brought to reality as well. We wouldn’t be ready to head to France with the sportscar version if not for Ben’s original IndyCar concept and Chip’s backing.
“There are a lot single seater one-make championships throughout the world that to the casual fan all look remarkably similar. The hard-core fans can obviously tell the difference but the man on the street really doesn’t know the difference between an IndyCar, World Series by Renault, AutoGP, GP2, Formula 2, GP3, Superleague Formula or even F1.
“If you lined up a grid full of DeltaWing single seater cars, you would certainly know the difference,” he concluded.