Nissan has stepped up to provide the engine and backing for the experimental Delta Wing that will race at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours on June 16/17.
The Japanese manufacturer commissioned Ray Mallock’s RML Group, which ran Nissan’s British Touring Car Championship campaign in 1997-99, to produce a lightweight four-cylinder direct-injection turbo engine for the Delta Wing. It has subsequently become the major backer of the car, which will occupy ‘Garage 56’ reserved for technically-innovative cars at Le Mans.
Nissan’s head of brand strategy in Europe, Darren Cox said: “Initially we were just going to do an engine deal, but we have become more and more involved.”
Long-time Nissan driver Michael Krumm has been added to the driver line-up alongside Marino Franchitti.
Cox explained that the radical Delta Wing, which aims to achieve near-LMP1 levels of performance using half the fuel, had to meet a strict set of targets before the project was signed off by Nissan.
“We believed in the project, but we needed to make sure,” he said. “We laid down what they needed to achieve. We had to do our due diligence, if you like.”
This included running the first car at different angles of attack in the full-size Windshear wind tunnel to make sure it was stable. The car also had to meet certain g-levels under cornering, acceleration figures and fuel consumption.
Nissan also embedded its own representatives within the project including sports car engineer Ricardo Divila and ex-F1 driver and Nissan sports car driver Erik Comas.
“Straight after the first test all the data was taken to the Geneva motor show, where all our senior executives were present, to get signed off. If our criteria hadn’t been met, that would have been it as far as we were concerned.”
The Delta Wing, which was demonstrated in public for the first time at Sebring during the 12 Hours meeting, stayed on at the venue and was due to test over the two weeks following the race.