Delta Wing to race at Petit Le Mans

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Gordon Kirby

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An announcement is expected in the next day or two that the Nissan Delta Wing will race again this year at the ALMS’s season-closing Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on October 20th.

The car completed two days of testing in the UK last week and will be flown to the USA next week to prepare for some testing at Road Atlanta. Delta Wing designer Ben Bowlby believes the car is ready to run the Petit Le Mans’ 10 hours or 1000 miles.

“We’ve been loading up the test miles,” Bowlby said. “We ran for two days and completed heading on for a thousand kilometers. We’re still working through some very basic parts of the test programme but the reliability is looking good and we’re learning a lot. We’ve been working through reliability concerns to make sure we can run 1000 miles.”

Bowlby emphasised that the revolutionary car is still in the very early stages of its development. “We’ve got so much unfinished business and we’re keen to show the Delta Wing to our American fans,” Bowlby said. “We need to build our racing experience with the car and it’s important for people to realise that we haven’t made a kit to suit Road Atlanta which of course is a very different track from Le Mans. Road Atlanta is much more about cornering and grip than Le Mans which is a lot about straightline speed.

“We will be the only car running a Le Mans-spec aero package and Le Mans-spec tyres because there simply hasn’t been the time or resources to develop a Road Atlanta kit, but we’re looking forward to racing the car in America. So it will be another learning experience for us. I’m not expecting us to be challenging at the front, but we will be competitive and we hope to show more of the potential in the car.

“The Delta Wing will be quite challenged in the argy-bargy of the Road Atlanta environment,” Bowlby added. “It’s much more crowded than Le Mans simply because it’s much shorter and tighter. We will be out there wearing our hearts on our sleeves all over again. Innovation has its innate risks and until we’ve done twenty races we will be on the ragged edge of the car’s ability and our knowledge of it. Again, there’s a great deal to be learned.”

Bowlby’s only disappointment is that the Delta Wing’s electronic, torque-vectoring differential remains unready to race. “Unfortunately, we won’t be running our electronic differential because there’s still a lot of work to be done there,” Bowlby said. “To have true torque-vectoring will be one of the most exciting innovations on a race car but it needs a little bit of work before we run it.

“At Le Mans we ran with a completely open diff and we were able to demonstrate that the car works without the electronic diff. Some people believed the diff was the key to making the car work but that’s not true at all. However, when we’re able to get it working reliably and well and get it in the car, hopefully for next season, it will for sure make the car better.”

Don Panoz has also confirmed that the Delta Wing will race in next year’s ALMS series and in the following year’s combined ALMS/Grand-Am series. Panoz said Elan Motorsports Technology in Braselton, Georgia is gearing up to build an initial run of production Delta Wings over the fall and winter.

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