The DeltaWing uniqueness could open new doors for future prototypes

One of the hot topics that followed the Grand-American Road Racing and the American Le Mans Series merger concerned the DeltaWing prototype. Where would it fit in to the ongoing discussions of class designation?

It appears that the experimental unclassified unique prototype will find a home in 2014. In fact it has already found a “home” for the 2013 season.

The first showing of the radical car was at the Chicago Auto Show in February of 2010. The comments ranged from “are they nuts” to “no way will it work” to “revolutionary”. Nicknamed by those who designed, invested, and gave the idea its life, Project 56 had taken flight.

#0 Nissan Delta Wing Delta Wing Project 56 Nissan engine
#0 Nissan Delta Wing Delta Wing Project 56 Nissan engine

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

When Ben Bowlby came up with the design, his mind was on IndyCar. Needless to say that did not happen, so he contacted the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). They listened, the saw and they sent an invitation for the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans. The DeltaWing would be accepted but would be the radical car would be unclassified with the understanding that its finish position would not count.

Next step was to form a team that would be perfect for the project. Dan Gurney and his All American Racers partnered with Bowlby to put the finishing touches on his design and build the DeltaWing. Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft Racing joined the team, and so did Don Panoz. Michelin signed on and that was not an easy task for any tire company. The front tires are very small and had to be specially designed. The pieces of the puzzle were missing the power plant for the new baby. Up stepped Nissan and viola the engine deal was sealed.

At this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Nissan DeltaWing may have looked odd compared to the Audi, Toyota, Lola, HPD, and other prototype chassis on the La Sarthe circuit but they proved they were a contender, had the power and of course the low fuel consumption. The Michelin tire wear due to the design is a plus.

#0 Nissan Delta Wing Delta Wing Project 56 Nissan steering wheel
#0 Nissan Delta Wing Delta Wing Project 56 Nissan steering wheel

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

When Le Mans ended, it appeared the unique prototype would not be seen on a race circuit again. Not true. IMSA, the sanctioning body of the ALMS, invited the Nissan DeltaWing to contest the series season finale at Road Atlanta for the 1000-mile or 10 hour race known as the Petit Le Mans.

Yes, it is still considered unclassified but after the heartbreaking scene in France when their race ended early, the fans will be happy to see the “dart” like car take to the track in Georgia.

Today the Nissan DeltaWing mixed it up with other prototypes and GT cars during an open test day. The testing will continue tomorrow. The actual opening day for the Petit Le Mans will be on Wednesday, 17th.

There may yet be a surprise for the future of the DeltaWing and Nissan after the recent news from the International Motor Sports Association regarding the 2013 season by stating: That the revolutionary new prototype would compete as a fully classified car in the 2013 ALMS season.”

Once the on-track data is analyzed from the Petit Le Mans even, IMSA could elect to add the Nissan DeltaWing as a championship class. If that happens, then one could expect other teams beside Highcroft to take up the challenge.

#0 Nissan Delta Wing Delta Wing Project 56 Nissan: Lucas Ordonez, Gunnar Jeannette
#0 Nissan Delta Wing Delta Wing Project 56 Nissan: Lucas Ordonez, Gunnar Jeannette

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Of course if it does, then how many new or current teams will elect to campaign the DeltaWing? Will there be a special class for the car? Will Nissan make it a spec class with their engine?

Fast forward to January 2014!

The first race of the year under the new series formed due to the marriage of Grand-Am and ALMS. You are in Daytona Beach for the 24 Hours of Daytona. On track are the Daytona Prototype cars, a mixture of Grand Touring (GT) Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, Mazda, Corvette, Mercedes, McLaren, and Aston Martin sports cars. Now add the new prototype class: DeltaWing!

Whatever decision is made, the idea of the “dart” prototype could open the door to new prototype designs in motor sports.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Duncan Dayton , Dan Gurney , Gunnar Jeannette , Don Panoz , Eric Gilbert , Lucas Ordonez
Article type Commentary
Tags alms, bowlby, deltawing, featured, grand-am, lemans, nissan, petit le mans, prototypes, road atlanta