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Sports Cars 14

Don Panoz on the Delta Wing’s future

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.

sports cars  Don Panoz on the Delta Wing’s future

“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.

sports cars  Don Panoz on the Delta Wing’s future

“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.

sports cars  Don Panoz on the Delta Wing’s future

“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.”

Add your comments

14 comments on Don Panoz on the Delta Wing’s future

  1. Ray T, 25 June 2012 14:01

    The most important aspect of this design is that it can generate downforce in turbulent air, which means close racing and real passing.

    If the various motorsports administrators cared any more about the formulae, sport and driving, they would actively seek to get rid of front wings.

  2. Frank Butcher, 26 June 2012 00:15

    The Wing isn’t even a race car; it’s an engineering experiment in efficiency. Give it the same horsepower as a real racer; if it goes twice as fast, I’ll be impressed!
    And yes, it would be so easy for rulemakers to de-emphasize aero on race cars; why don’t they?

  3. Ray T, 26 June 2012 14:34

    Frank, I have no idea. People have been complaining about the poor racing due to turbulent air for over a decade since F1 went to the flat-bottom rule and relied a lot more on those massive and fragile front wings for downforce. It degraded to DRS, and people still watch it on TV, so why change?
    If they just set a regulated amount of downforce by ground effects, we could see drafting and passing like in the early 80s. This would also save a fortune in aero development.

    As for the Deltacar: Panoz should start producing them in numbers and someone should re-start the Can-Am series using this as the formula. Half the power, half the weight, half the fuel, is basically a formula from the early 70s F1. They could add more boost to the I-4, and many manufacturers could provide engines.
    Efficient racing is the right thing to do.

  4. N. Weingart, 26 June 2012 17:34

    I think the deltawing is an engineering cul-de-sac and it’s true potential was shown at Le Mans. Don’t prolong the agony, put it down.

  5. ChrisPageNG, 26 June 2012 19:39

    Curious why you think it needs ‘putting down’ after Le Mans. It was the first race after limited testing for a completly revolutionary design. It set quick times, despite being pegged back, and only suffered through gremlins. I think it was a roaring success – I only hope it finds it’s own path instead of being packed into LMP1/2

  6. Ian Mann, 27 June 2012 08:41

    In a world of spec cars I think it is fantastic – I love the Can-Am idea.

  7. Ray T, 27 June 2012 14:52

    If you are going to “put down” the DeltaCar, would you offer the same advice to the Toyota Hybrid?
    We should stop development of any car that gets into an accident at LeMans?

  8. DDT, 28 June 2012 06:59

    I must say, I’m always shocked at how many racing fans appear to be closet Luddites. How is that even possible? If you like racing you MUST like technology, yet when something new comes along your brain just locks up and you start arguing total nonsense: “A race car must have wings” (or leaf springs and treaded tires). “A race car must have 600 bhp, and waste most of it on aero drag”. Yikes!
    The delta wing is not only a race car, it has already changed racing forever. The car could have been built at anytime since ground effects were perfected, but we’ve persisted in pushing massive wings through the air for whatever reason.
    I’m just happy somebody has done it. I’d love to drive, or get a ride in one! Perhaps at Petite?
    A note to the innumerate: twice the horse power will only get you 25% more top speed. Those pesky laws of physics.

  9. Ray T, 28 June 2012 20:24

    DDT.. not all racing means technology, remember, it’s only in 2012 that NASCAR got fuel injection, and they still sport 4 speed transmissions. Similarly, the Corvette and the new Viper still have pushrod engines, now bored out to an incredible 8.4L for the Viper.
    Racing in the US used to be technology based in the 60s-70s, but very little technology is now new from the US, and most racing is supported by tech and manufacturing from outside the US. (notable exception: carbon technology, driven by the US military)

    For that reason alone, the US should embrace the Deltacar, and try to stick an American engine into it (is there a 4 cylinder engine made in the US?), perhaps even use American tires?

    The racing community is very threatened by the idea of efficiency in racing. Panoz is a car guy, but remember , he made his money as a scientist in biomedical research, where being a Luddite will end your career quickly.

    Similar responses came out when Tyrell unveiled the P34, and when Shadow brought the MkI AVS to CanAm..which was essentially a go-kart with a big V8. Even when Chaparral introduced moving wings and active suction downforce -no one else tried to copy them.

  10. Lewis Lane, 28 June 2012 21:35

    Now that the concept has been shown to have legs (albeit those of a toddler learning to walk, it could be argued), i personally would love to see it run as it was originally intended, i.e a lightweight single seater, with a purpose built chassis. It’s a long way down the line in these financially straightjacketed times i appreciate, but a series for similar vehicles would be to say the least, intriguing… How long’s the current Indycar formula for?!!

  11. DDT, 29 June 2012 06:18

    @ Ray T
    I’ve been a huge fan of the DW ever since I heard about it well over a year ago. During that time I’ve read some of the most ridiculous ignorant nonsense about it.
    I just don’t get it.
    If you want to make a technical argument, even an incorrect one, about the engineering, that’s fine. Or if you think it’s weird looking, that’s fine too. But to make rude comments because you don’t understand it gets tiring.
    Anyway your point that it solves real RACING problems is probably why it will survive. The incredible thing is that if they were allowed a full size gas tank and a few more bhp, they could probably win Le Mans overall!

  12. Lewis Lane, 29 June 2012 10:23

    I’m glad the concept has been shown to have legs (albeit in the same way a toddler learns to walk, it could be argued). I’d still love to see it run as it was originally intended at some point; as a lightweight single seater with a purpose built chassis. The idea of a series for such a vehicle really appeals, and it would be fascinating to see what type of racing would occur. However, in these financially straightjacketed times, i can’t see that happening. How long does the current Indycar formula last for?!

  13. Lewis Lane, 2 July 2012 20:13

    Apologies for the repeat post. The first one hadn’t appeared after 24 hours, so i assumed i’d gone wrong somewhere and did another…

  14. DR. DIXON Bh.D, 17 March 2013 10:22


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