This car looks like it comes straight out of the next Batman movie, but the Nissan DeltaWing experimental racecar will actually start at the 24-Hours of Le Mans in June.
The DeltaWing is unlike any other racing car currently on track. The driver sits well back in the car, almost over the rear axle and looks ahead down a long, narrow fuselage to specially created narrow twin front tyres. With a rear-mounted engine, the car has a strong rearward weight bias, which makes it highly manoeuvrable, while its light weight and slippery shape make it far more efficient.
This ground-breaking car was designed and developed by Dan Gurney, winner of races in the Formula 1 Indy Car, NASCAR, Can-Am, and Trans-Am Series, and Don Panoz who has founded the American Le Mans Series. Concept designer Ben Bowlby, Highcroft Racing team and Michelin also joined the project, and eventually Nissan became a founding partner as well.
The DeltaWing was initially originally proposed for the American IndyCar Series. Compared to other open-wheel designs, the wheels of the DeltaWing are entirely enclosed, which drastically reduces drag, allowing faster straight and corner speed than a regular IndyCar and also increases safety. But the organization of the IndyCar Series opted for another design by Dallara, leaving the DeltaWing in its conceptual phase.
But luckily the DeltaWing team received an invitation from Le Mans 24 Hour race organizers, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to contest the 2012 race as an additional 56th entry. The 56th place on the grid is reserved for a technologically innovative car to participate “outside the classifications” – a vehicle showcasing new applications and unique technologies previously unseen in the world’s greatest endurance race. As it doesn’t conform to any existing championship regulations, Nissan DeltaWing will not be eligible to challenge for silverware and will carry the race number ‘0’.
The DeltaWing is powered by a Nissan 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine, featuring direct petrol injection and a turbocharger. The engine, badged DIG-T (Direct Injection Gasoline – Turbocharged), is expected to produce around 300hp, sufficient to give Nissan DeltaWing lap times between LMP1 and LMP2 machines at Le Mans, despite having only half the power of those conventional prototypes. But the DeltaWing also weighs half as much and has half the aerodynamic drag of a conventional racer. This drive for efficiency will see car use half the fuel of its conventional counterparts.
The confirmed drivers are British Sportscar racer Marino Franchitti and Nissan’s reigning FIA GT1 World Champion Michael Krumm. In the meantime, the Nissan DeltaWing will be demonstrated on Thursday at Sebring where the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship will be held on Saturday.
The 80th edition of the 24-Hours of Le Mans will be held on 16–17 June 2012 and will also mark Toyota’s return to the world’s most famous endurance race.