We got a small taste of the Nissan-Delta Wing’s potential at Le Mans. The revolutionary car also created a huge wave of interest both within and outside the sport and Delta Wing majority owner Don Panoz is determined that the car will race again this year, at least at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October.
He also says a batch of production Delta Wings will be built later this year at Elan Motorsports Technology in Georgia to race next year in the ALMS’ LMP2 or P1 categories. And Panoz hopes the ACO will agree to formulate a rules package for the car to race again at Le Mans as either a P2 or P1 car.
“The first thing is certainly we would like to continue on from where we are,” Panoz (below) told me last week. “We have a proposed agreement with Nissan to do that. But success brings a million fathers and we’ve got to let the politics of the puzzle play out before we can make an agreement going forward.
“If we don’t go forward with Nissan the car will be returned to Georgia and we’ll start preparing it. We have an engine identified that we can put in the car and we’ll get it ready for Petit Le Mans. And we are going to make sure that it can race in the ALMS next year.
“The rules and regulators have had to deal with the advent of diesel engines and now hybrids. This car’s got a performance criteria. It’s got four wheels. It works a little different, but it’s half the weight, half the horsepower. We understand that you have to write some regs to control it, but it’s not rocket science. It can be done with a restriction or expansion of horsepower. It isn’t a big deal.
“We intend on starting to design a tub specifically for the production car, a tub that can accommodate the different LMP classes. We’ll start working to get ready to build Delta Wings as production race cars. We’ve built Indy cars, Champ cars, the Superleague cars, the Star Mazda cars and a whole bunch of other cars and we can certainly handle the production of these cars.
“There are a few refinements that have been learnt as the development process has come along and we’ll incorporate those lessons and add a few other adjustments to make it more durable, longer lasting and more competitive.
“The real secret is we need to generate data. For people to look at it realistically and to be responsible in writing the rules they will need to see all the data. We did that at Le Mans. We demonstrated we could run consistently between 3.46 and 3.50mins with half the weight, half the horsepower and half the fuel. In the test days we did 3.42mins but the ACO wanted us to be at 3.45 so we took off rpm and reduced the performance level.
“We were running less than 300bhp and had cut back 500 rpm. So could we do 3.39s with the LMP2 configuration? Yes, I think we were on that lap when Krumm jumped the curb and the fire extinguisher went off and ruined the lap.
“Can this car compete effectively in LMP2 and LMP1? Yes. Can it jump up to LMP1? Yes, I think it can. I think we need to monitor the horsepower and other data.
“We’re hoping the car will race in some WEC events this year and certainly Petit Le Mans. We’ll start accumulating more data and from that we’ll write the rules for the ALMS. We will provide the ACO with all the data as well and allow them to monitor and judge accordingly about what rules they wish to write for the car to compete in either LMP2 or P1 at Le Mans.”
Panoz is convinced a market will develop over the next few years for LMP2 or P1 Delta Wings. “I think it will be a natural process that will grow as people need new cars,” he said. “Teams and drivers will look at the Delta Wing and make their own decisions about racing the car and in what configuration. The genie is out of the bottle. Nobody can ignore it any longer.”