The article on the new Delta Wing design from Ben Bowlby in the December issue made me smile and at the same time feel very pleased that Ben has finally been recognised as the iconic designer that he really is.
I first met Ben at Thruxton in around 1985 when he, and I think his dad, were competing with his own Clubmans car of unique and inventive design. Building the car on a shoestring probably meant that its reliability was a bit compromised, but it was quick alright! It was therefore really nice to meet Ben again when in 1992 my company Automotive Consultants had started a project with Sheffield University, Lola Cars, and Zytek called Project ZERO (Zero Emission Racing Organisation). Eric Broadley had assigned the newly-employed Ben to the project. We were going to build 11 electric-only single-seaters, the idea being to demonstrate, on GP days around the world, that electric traction vehicles are not slow like milk floats or golf carts. Jackie Stewart was helpful in providing some data logs of their Formula 3 car around Donington for us to aim at. Our projections showed that Ben’s design could do around six laps at F3 speeds, but would out-accelerate the F3 car with a 0-100mph time of 5.8 seconds.
Ben created a really slippery car and I still remember as superb his designs for the four uprights including the 32kW, 12,000rpm electric motors, a 9-1 ratio reduction casing with narrow lightweight gears and all the necessary pick-up points as a piece of sheer beauty. And at 27lb a corner it rivalled the unsprung weight of the F3 wheel, tyre and brake combination. We were all in awe. It is therefore really fantastic to see that Duncan Dayton and Don (not Dan) Panoz have shown such faith in him and his creation, which I think will be a game-changer in our otherwise anodyne, samey race car design era.
I cannot think of a better way to demonstrate his superb design than its participation and a victory at Le Mans. Long may Ben carry on giving us his innovative ideas.
Gerard Sauer, Streatham, London
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