At Petit Le Mans, Nissan DeltaWing aiming to complete unfinished business

It captured the imagination of fans and media around the world at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, now the Nissan DeltaWing is headed back to its "birthplace" to complete unfinished business.

#0 Nissan DeltaWing Project 56 Nissan: Lucas Ordonez, Gunnar Jeannette
#0 Nissan DeltaWing Project 56 Nissan: Lucas Ordonez, Gunnar Jeannette

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

The unique race car which features half the weight, half the power and half the aerodynamic drag of a typical Le Mans sporstcar was originally unveiled 12 months ago at Petit Le Mans when Michelin tires was revealed as the program's first technical partner.

The Project 56 DeltaWing group soon teamed up with major technical partner Nissan for the Le Mans assault that took advantage of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's Garage 56 concept - allowing new and innovative technology to be showcased at the world's greatest endurance race.

Powered by the 300 horsepower, 1.6 liter Nissan DIG-T engine, the unique packaging of the Nissan DeltaWing including the dramatically narrow front end and lack of traditional aerodynamic wings was a major hit in France. However, contact with a P1 prototype after six hours of the endurance classic forced the car out of the race early.

The attack on Petit Le Mans represents "unfinished business" for the Nissan DeltaWing squad. The team - now featuring American ace Gunnar Jeannette and former Nissan Playstation GT Academy winner Lucas Ordoñez behind the wheel - is targeting a race finish at the 1000 mile / 10 hour Petit Le Mans event.

The "homecomng" Petit Le Mans race is the first event in North American for the car which was "Born in the USA". Concept originator Ben Bowlby acutally had his first meeting with Automobile Club de l'Ouest here at Petit Le Mans in 2010, He was later joined in the partnership by racing legend Dan Gurney's All American Racers organization who built the Nissan DeltaWing; two-time ALMS championship winning team, Highcroft Racing's Duncan Dayton; project patron and multiple IndyCar title and Indy 500 winning team owner, Chip Ganassi; and American Le Mans Series founder, Dr. Don Panoz.

Panoz also founded the Petit Le Mans race in 1998. This year's race will be the 15th running of what has become renowned as one of the world's great endurance events.

The "homecoming" connection also includes the Atlanta race being only 250 miles from Nissan's North American headquarters in Frankkin, TN; and a mere 100 miles from Michelin North America's headquarters in Greenville, SC.

LUCAS ORDOÑEZ “For me it’s a fantastic opportunity.

“My background as a race driver is completely different coming from the Nissan GT Academy. Now four years later I'm racing one of the most innovative, exciting and revolutionary programs in the world. It has been a fantastic experience so far.

“The Nissan DeltaWing is really fun to drive over the ups and downs and fast corners at Road Atlanta.

“Our car is very efficient in high-speed corners, and we are working on more improvements to have a very fast car. We are really happy with the car and what we have achieved so far. Hopefully there is more in the future in the U.S. for me, Nissan and DeltaWing. But for now we are enjoying this time and focusing on doing a good job in the race.”

GUNNAR JEANNETTE “I'm very excited to be part of the Nissan DeltaWing program for its first race here in the US.

"The fan reaction to the car so far has been pretty amazing with lots of people showing huge interest at promotional events over the past week.

"The testing early this week has given me the chance to try the car in traffic for the first time which has been very beneficial.

"We made a lot of improvements to the car on Sunday and Monday and I was incredibly impressed with the car in wet conditions - probably the best car I have ever driven in the wet.

"If it actually rained on race day, I really wouldn't be too upset.

"The performance of the Michelin tires in damp conditions was really impressive."

DON PANOZ - DELTAWING RACING CARS “Given the fact the car was born here in the US, I’m very excited to see it make its second race start here at Petit Le Mans.

“I founded this race back in 1998 and have been thrilled to see it become one of the biggest sportscar races in the world.

“To now have such a unique car compete in Petit Le Mans is a huge thrill. I know the guys at Road Atlanta have seen a huge amount of interest and ticket sales really stepped up when the announcement was made.

"Everyone involved in the project from DeltaWing Racing Cars, Nissan and Michelin have really thrown their heart and soul into creating the car and everyone is really looking forward to seeing it perform on US soil for the first time."

DARREN COX - NISSAN “Petit Le Mans is a unique opportunity for us to demonstrate the international flavour of Nissan Motorsport.

“Our racing activities are growing exponentially with GT Academy competitions in Europe, USA, Russia, the Middle East and now South Africa. We are powering most of the LMP2 runners in the FIA World Endurance Championship and powered a quarter of the entire grid at Le Mans.

"We’re delighted that the US fans will finally get a chance to see Nissan DeltaWing race after it was so well received in Europe.

"It is a project that has captured the imaginations of so many and it is good to hear that the car will race on in the ALMS next year. This is a very interesting chapter in the story of Nissan in motorsport.”

Source: Nissan DeltaWing/Highcroft Racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series ALMS
Article type Preview
Tags cox, deltawing, jeannette, nissan, panoz, petit le mans, road atlanta