The experimental Nissan DeltaWing prototype sportscar kicked off its European testing program in England at Snetterton, in Norfolk, yesterday with Scotsman Marino Franchitti and German Michael Krumm getting the opportunity to sample the car in wet conditions.
Steady rain throughout the morning enabled the team to undertake wet weather development with tire partner, Michelin, with the hugely innovative 1.6-litre Nissan DIG-T turbo-powered car.
The Nissan DeltaWing features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodymamic drag of a traditional Le Mans sportscar – with front tires that are only four inches wide.
With the famous Le Mans 24 Hours just two months away, the Nissan DeltaWing team gained valuable information about the ground-breaking car's performance in typical European track conditions, having conducted all of its development work so far in America.
Darren Cox, General Manager Nissan in Europe, said: “The whole Nissan DeltaWing team is still on a massive learning curve. Testing in the States was a stable, predictable way of doing the initial groundwork but this exciting car is going to be racing in the French countryside. Today, the whole team got a taste of the conditions they may well face on June 16/17, so it may not have been much fun in the Norfolk rain, but it's about the best thing that could have happened for a project and a car that will face an enormous challenge just to make the end of the race.”
Franchitti conducted most of the morning running in conditions that ranged from damp to fully wet weather – gathering valuable data as to how the car performs. Having only previously conducted some brief wet track running on an artificially damp track at Sebring, with the help of a water truck, today’s on-track action was an important step in the development of the wet tires for the car.
Michael Krumm climbed aboard for much of the afternoon running – enjoying drier conditions as the team worked on suspension adjustments, braking and gearbox improvements.
The Nissan DeltaWing will make its debut at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. Nissan’s involvement in the program was announced in March, with the manufacturer not only providing the engine, but additional technical resources for the car’s debut.
Designed by Ben Bowlby, the DeltaWing partnership brings together some of the biggest names in North American motorsport, including project managing partner and American Le Mans Series founder, Don Panoz; racing legend and Nissan DeltaWing constructor, Dan Gurney’s All American Racers organisation along with Le Mans entrant, Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft Racing.
The Nissan DeltaWing will continue its testing program next week with a two-day test scheduled.
“Mother nature really did us a favor today, because it was great to get another run in the wet.
“I basically got monsoon conditions and Michael got to try the car on a drying track. It was a very good test for the car and the tires.
“The day allowed us to try the wet tires in a real world situation – we didn’t have to wet the track at all, it was a proper wet, rainy day.
“The day has really given us some important data and provided Michelin with some clear direction for future development.
“The engine and gearbox were really strong – it was a proper testing day when we were really able to get down to business doing damper work, brake work – all in all, it was a very positive test and we’re now very much looking forward to the next run.”
“The guys have done a great job with the car since the Sebring tests. Even though the conditions were quite damp today and we really didn’t get a proper run in the dry, I am really pleased with how the car felt.
“We’ve made some changes to the car including the steering which is now a lot better. Everyone was wondering before the car ran whether it would turn – in fact it probably turned too well and we have made some improvements in that area.
“It is great to kick off the European testing, because Le Mans is looming fast. Sebring was obviously a lot warmer and sunnier, but the conditions we had today could be exactly like you face at Le Mans sometimes.
“Getting that wet weather running under our belt - working with Michelin on the tires - we now know what to expect.”