Photo courtesy DeltaWingEnlarge Photo
It's been a busy month of Nissan DeltaWing preparation for the 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans. First the revolutionary racecar had its first outing at Buttonwillow in central California, then it was trucked cross-country for a reveal and demonstration runs during the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
After that race, the Nissan DeltaWing stayed in the central Florida area to conduct additional testing prior to being sent to Elan Motorsport Technologies (EMT), Nissan DeltaWing partner Don Panoz' race car building concern near Road Atlanta as final preparations take place for its voyage to Europe and a more concentrated test program.
Photo courtesy DeltaWingEnlarge Photo
Following its demonstration runs during the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season opening race weekend in mid-March, the DeltaWing had a week of testing - on its own and with other competitors - at Sebring International Raceway, acknowledged as one of the toughest tracks in the world.
"There were a lot of lessons learned from our week in testing at Sebring," said Ben Bowlby, designer of the Nissan DeltaWing and concept originator. "With the bumps, it is certainly very tough on every component and that was one of the attractions of testing there. We've been able to make some adjustments to the car and we will continue to do so right up to the green flag at Le Mans," where the Nissan DeltaWing occupies the 56th garage area dedicated to innovative design. The Nissan DeltaWing receives no points for the race.
"Overall," Bowlby continued, "we are very pleased with the performance and the car confirmed our simulations that is does, indeed turn and turns remarkably well. While this car has half as many components as a traditional LMP1 car, there are still more than 3,000 new parts that have never been bolted together before. The guys did a fantastic job last week and having access to the EMT facilities this week has been brilliant. We've made a great start and we're all now very much looking forward to hitting the track in Europe."
The initial prototype was constructed by Dan Gurney's All AMerican Racers in southern California. Panoz' EMT organization went to work the first week of April fine-tuning components and bodywork and using lessons learnt from the shakedown at Buttonwillow and the Sebring test to refine the race car. Partner Michelin has had an embedded engineer for all tests conducted thus far.
Like Gurney's AAR race shop, Elan has a pedigree of constructing winning race cars, as it designed and built the 2003-4 Indianapolis 500-winning G-Force chassis, the DP01 Champ Car tub, the DP09 Superleague Formula chassis as well as cars for IMSA Lites and F2000 competition in the United States.
Don Panoz agreed with Bowlby that "it's very rewarding to see the kind of attention paid (to this car) because we are involved in this project because we think it is a game changer. It is what is needed in racing," he declared. "We need to let go of the past and look forward to better fuel and tire efficiency without sacrificing any performance.
"The fact the car is so different looking has attracted so much attention," Panoz continued, "but the reason why it looks like it does is because that is what is needed to produce these kind of results. EMT has been involved in building a lot of cars in the past and we've been delighted to be involved in helping make some refinements this week using the lessons learned at Sebring. With any new car," he reminded, "there are always some things you need to update after you have done some initial miles and we now look forward to the next phase of development in Europe."
Nissan are not only providing the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine for the DeltaWing; they have embedded technical personnel within the DeltaWing team since the manufacturer became involved in this project. Nissan's commitment now ramps up another level as the program moves to Europe in preparation for June's race date:
"This really is a rolling science project for Nissan," said Darren Cox, general manager, NIssan Europe. "The timescales are extremely tight and we are learning every day and will do so all the way to the start of Le Mans 24 hours. At Sebring the basic concept exceeded our expectations; Nissan’s role now is to work on the reliability as we take more responsibility for the program. The project continues on a very steep learning curve and this is motivating and exciting everyone."