Delta dream lives on
When it was unveiled early last year the Delta Wing’s unique ground-breaking shape caught the attention of many fans. Some hated the look and the concept of tiny front wheels and tyres located within the nose. Others hoped the Delta Wing would rejuvenate Indycar racing, until Indyear bosses rejected the concept last summer in favour of a new-look Dallara for 2012. But Delta Wing designer Ben Bowlby has been quietly working behind the scenes. Bowlby hopes to get a prototype built and tested this year and has been talking to various sanctioning bodies around the world about where the Delta Wing might race in 2012 or ’13.
I hope Bowlby is successful because I think the Delta Wing is exactly what the sport desperately needs something outside the box and entirely revolutionary that makes some people laugh and others think hard. Many Motor Sport readers agree that the sport has become too restricted and narrowly defined by the FIA and other sanctioning bodies. Everyone loves the 1960s and ’70s when so many new and innovative cars proliferated, changing the sport year by year. Without doubt innovation has always been one of the sport’s driving spirits.
Racing today needs something completely different, and we also need a car designed to run without external wings. Everybody’s talked for years about gaffing rid of wings but nobody’s made any serious effort until the Delta Wing came along. Bowlby has thought about it thoroughly and worked closely with Bridgestone/Firestone in finalising the concept and designing the tyres. Bridgestone’s top brass and engineers are unequivocal in saying that the Delta Wing will work exactly as Bowlby believes.
One of the many goals with the Delta Wing is to produce a car that is more raceable, more capable of running in close quarters and being able to pass other cars. “The goal,” Bowlby asserts, “was to have a broad operating envelope and give the drive an opportunity to overtake and race in a fan-friendly way where you can actually see them at work. That means having a car that is on the edge of control, but in such a way that the driver can maintain control in a wide range of operating conditions.”
The Delta Wing weighs just 800Ibs and its very low-drag design means that theoretically it is capable of lapping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at over 230mph with only 300bhp. Bowlby wants to manage development of the car through an open-source system with all the latest engineering data and drawings available online. “We discussed our ideas with as many informed people as possible and looked at all the different areas of opportunity,” he says. “It was really about, ‘If we threw the rulebook away, what could we do?’ We attended conferences and took in many different sources of information to pull this thing together.
“We tried to make a car that had clean lines and was appealing to the eye. But it’s not a styling model. There’s nothing on this car that’s there to look cool. It was about creating the most efficient, best-handling racing machine that we can come up with.”
Bowlby was delighted by the February issue of Motor Sport, which helped him realise that he’s on the same page with most people in the sport. “That issue was stunning. There was so much good content I read it for about seven hours straight! It was very satisfying to see so much buzz about the importance of innovation. Everybody seems to get it now that if we don’t innovate in racing we’ll lose a major part of the sport. Everybody realises how important innovation is. There has been a lot of innovation in Formula 1 but it’s become less and less accessible to the fans. It seems everyone would like to see something radically different.”
Bowlby has brought plenty of radical thinking to a sport that’s grown inward-looking and become increasingly moribund. I hope his baby soon comes to life so we can begin to explore and enjoy the Delta Wing’s many revolutionary ideas.