Le Mans concept racer back on track for ‘unfinished business’
It captured the world’s attention on its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now the Nissan DeltaWing is set to race in North America for the first time at the finale of the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.
The pioneering, dart-shaped Nissan DeltaWing will compete in the 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda on Oct. 17-20 at Road Atlanta. The revolutionary race car was designed to perform like a contemporary sports prototype while cutting weight, fuel consumption and tire use by half. Monday’s announcement came at Nissan’s North American headquarters in Nashville with Nissan Americas Vice-Chairman, Bill Krueger, on hand.
Nissan became a founding partner in the DeltaWing project in March, and the team then faced a major challenge to get the experimental Nissan DeltaWing car and its specially developed 1.6-litre DIG-T Nissan engine, ready for the grueling Le Mans 24 Hours.
The project provided a test bed for Nissan to develop future innovations that can be filtered into the company’s global motorsport programs as well as future road products. This will continue to be the case at Petit Le Mans, with new technology being tried during the race and further development work carried out by partner, Michelin, on its bespoke tires, specially built for the Nissan DeltaWing.
“The Nissan DeltaWing’s inclusion on the grid at Petit Le Mans reflects the vision and determination that embody the future of sports car racing,” said ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton. “The car’s participation brings a benchmark example of innovation and leading-edge automotive technology to the season finale of a remarkable season for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.”
The Nissan DeltaWing project, with ALMS founder Don Panoz as managing partner, will compete for the first time since its June debut at Le Mans. It retired from the French endurance classic after six hours, following contact with another car.
The team believes that the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans is the perfect event for the Nissan DeltaWing to not only give fans the race finish they desire, but also demonstrate its prowess on a more traditional track, as opposed to the high-speed Le Mans circuit, which also incorporates public roads.
Spaniard Lucas Ordonez is set to race the car at Road Atlanta, along with American Le Mans Series 2011 PC class champion Gunnar Jeannette.
“Le Mans was a huge success for us,” said Darren Cox, General Manager, Nissan in Europe. “The car did everything we wanted it to do and more, proving that the pioneering technology we were testing in the world’s most public laboratory works and is a viable option for the future sustainability of motorsport.
“The only thing that didn’t go our way was the way the race ended for us, which was entirely out of our control,” he continued. ”Because we’d proven the technology worked, it was hard to be too disappointed, but we were blown away by the level of support and goodwill that came our way from the fans so now we feel we owe it to them to race again.”
The plight of Japanese NISMO racing driver, Satoshi Motoyama, who tried heroically to repair the impact damage by the side of the Le Mans circuit for 90 minutes before having to admit defeat, garnered massive support for the team from fans, whose demands for it to return to the racetrack will now be satisfied. Nissan DeltaWing’s team considers Petit Le Mans to be the venue for settling “unfinished business”.
Based on fuel consumption and tire wear data taken during more than six hours of running at Le Mans, the car was on course to achieve its goal of completing the 24 Hours using half the fuel and half the tires of its fellow entrants. Data taken from a standard LMP2 car at Le Mans indicated that it used 2,350 liters (620 gallons) of fuel and changed tires every 300 miles, going through nine sets. And, while the LMP2 car had a fuel consumption level of 5 mpg, Nissan DeltaWing was running at 10.7 mpg.
Panoz, who was behind the ‘Project 56′ organization under whose banner the DeltaWing started its journey to Le Mans, said: “Petit Le Mans has built up a reputation as one of the largest sports car races in the world. Every section of the Nissan organization has supported this car and I think the fans will love getting to see what RACER magazine called a ‘gamechanger’.”
Panoz even hinted that this may be the first of many races in North American for DeltaWing. It’s feasible that the car could be part of the new unified North American sports car championship for 2014 when ALMS merges with GRAND-AM.
Meanwhile, Nissan DeltaWing’s visionary creator, Ben Bowlby, said: “At Petit Le Mans, we will get the chance to show the U.S. fans just how cool this car is but also the chance to prove that it works on a much tighter, twistier road course, rather than the flat-out Le Mans-style racetrack. It’s important for us to gain in lap experience, testing and driver feedback and really validate the whole concept.”
The Nissan DeltaWing team comprises a group of key partners including American motorsport entrepreneur Panoz; designer Bowlby; project patron and IndyCar team owner, Chip Ganassi; tire supplier, Michelin; Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers organization; and Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft Racing team.
“Don Panoz, Ben Bowlby and the entire DeltaWing team expertly blended their talents into the development, testing and proof of performance with the DeltaWing’s competition debut at Le Mans,” Atherton said. “We are truly fortunate to have this remarkable car make its American debut at Petit Le Mans. Adding the DeltaWing to our already world-class field of entries, including those from the European Le Mans Series, will make this a spectacular curtain call for our 14th season.”
The 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, Oct 20 from Road Atlanta. ABC’s broadcast begins at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 21. Full, live coverage starts at 11:15 a.m. ET on ESPN3.
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