Nissan DeltaWing hits Le Mans

Nissan DeltaWing (Photo Credit: Quickpic)While it may look more Batmobile than Le Mans racer, the Nissan DeltaWing aims to change the face of endurance racing forever in what is the most radical motorsport project of its time.

As is immediately apparent, the Nissan DeltaWing is unlike any other racing car currently on track. The driver sits well back in the car, almost over the rear axle and looks ahead down a long, narrow fuselage to narrow twin front tyres – which incidentally are only 10 cm wide. With a rear-mounted engine, the car has a strong rearward weight bias, which makes it highly manoeuvrable, while its light weight and slippery shape make it far more efficient.

The engine to power this 500kg race car is the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder motor found in the Nissan Juke. It is expected to develop 225kW thanks to direct petrol injection and a turbocharger, which is sufficient to give the DeltaWing lap times between LMP1 and LMP2 machines at Le Mans, despite having only half the power of those conventional prototypes.

Looking at the outline of the project it is actually remarkably simple; although it has half the power of a full blown Le Mans Prototype, the DeltaWing carries just half the weight. It also produces half as much drag as the design does away with conventional wings in favour of ground-effect  aerodynamics along the floor of the vehicle. Furthermore it will consume half as much fuel and get through half as many tyres. All of which are significantly favourable attributes for an endurance race.

The DeltaWing’s innovative design and forward-looking technology have encouraged the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the organisers of the famous Le Mans 24 Hours, to invite the car to run in this year’s race from ‘Garage 56′, the spot in the pitlane reserved for experimental cars. As it doesn’t conform to any existing championship regulations, Nissan DeltaWing will not be eligible to challenge for silverware and will carry the race number ‘0′.

Sunday, June 3 this revolutionary race car completed its first running on the famous 8.5 mile Circuit de la Sarthe. The team enjoyed a virtual trouble-free day and completed every lap but one on a single set of Michelin slick tires. A sole lap on wet tyres during a brief rain shower was the only time the team switched tyres all day.

The team will now return to the UK tomorrow to complete final preparations for the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team transporter will return next weekend before the car goes through pre-event tech inspection in downtown Le Mans at the Place de la Republique.

So while Nissan DeltaWing will not be classified in the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours, the company is looking to showcase the pioneering technology that will show one potential direction for the future of motorsport and will feed into the research and development of future technologies, that filter down to Nissan’s road car product range.

Official practice kicks off on Wednesday, June 8 at 4:00pm.

Miles Downard

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