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Wednesday 14th March 2012

Nissan DeltaWing: the full story

The inside line on Nissan's DeltaWing, from designer Ben Bowlby and driver Marino Franchitti



You may not have heard of it (yet), but it could be the future of world motorsport

Yes, it looks like the Batmobile - can we move on?
Yes, it looks like the Batmobile - can we move on?
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, sort of on that last one actually, or at least that's where the DeltaWing Le Mans prototype gets its name from. Think of Concorde (you probably already were) and you're somewhere near.

The DeltaWing project has been knocking around for a while, and though having secured a place at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours under the Automobile Club de L'Ouest's 'Project 56' experimental technology entry, it hasn't had an engine to power it. Until now.

Nissan has now revealed it will be backing the DeltaWing project as an official partner with the tripod-like racer getting a 300hp, 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder motor loosely related to that of the top-spec Juke 1.6 DIG-T. Not the sonorous V12 or intricate experimental petrol-electric hybrid powertrain you might have been hoping for given the car's Batman's-trackday-toy looks. But the stealthy racer is really quite an innovative, well thought out and truly relevant project, based on existing technology in order to keep costs (relatively) low and maximise efficiency.

Nissan backing literally writ large on DeltaWing
Nissan backing literally writ large on DeltaWing
Effici-what?
And there's that word most of us wouldn't associate with the glamour and excitement of motor racing - efficiency. But while most driving enthusiasts see it as a byword for dull and drab motoring, with power reined in to improve fuel economy efficiency in racing actually means more speed.

The whole concept has been based on a strategy of half the weight and half the drag of a conventional LMP car, and in doing so has allowed the DeltaWing's engineers to halve the tyres' effective contact patch at the front, therefore halving the friction and drag thanks to that cigar-like front profile. Importantly, that means fuel consumption is also cut by 50 per cent.

Concept inevitably proven in windtunnel first
Concept inevitably proven in windtunnel first
According to DeltaWing's Chief Designer Ben Bowlby, "to halve the drag the DeltaWing doesn't employ any wings, relying solely on downforce created by ground effect and the car's body." That means it'll be extremely slippery down the 3.7-mile long Mulsanne Straight and the reason why it can achieve speeds of a modern prototype with under half the power. But more importantly, it'll be affected less by turbulent air in traffic - a massive factor with 56 cars on track, even if the Le Mans lap is eight and a half miles round.

On the pace
Bowlby is bullish about the programme's prospects, citing, "the ACO has given us a target lap time of 3:40 around Le Mans [that's in between LMP1 and LMP2 pace] with an intended top speed of 300km/h." The latter of which DeltaWing has already exceeded in testing.

Bowlby (foreground) is confident about pace
Bowlby (foreground) is confident about pace
For those of you thinking pie-in-the-sky stuff and recalling examples such as Aston Martin's ambitious but ultimately doomed attempt at Le Mans last year (the DW is actually loosely based on last year's Aston LMP1 chassis), you might be surprised.

With backing from Dan Gurney's All American Racing outfit, American Le Mans Series founder and owner Don Panoz, two-time ALMS champions Highcroft Racing and now the might of Nissan in the engine department, DeltaWing carries some serious clout.

So how does it drive?
According to Marino Franchitti, now confirmed to drive the car at Le Mans, "it's like a normal racing car - it has its own idiosyncrasies but it's easy to drive. You have to apex a corner with the rear wheels as opposed to the fronts in a normal car, due to the rear being the widest point, but it handles really well and is easy to position. Everything is very progressive and the aerodynamic balance is very consistent and controllable - it's just like a normal car when it breaks away."

Half of everything is the theory...
Half of everything is the theory...
Under that slim nose are two specially developed tyres from Michelin just four inches in width. And that's all the rubber DeltaWing has to play with up front. Yet despite the comparative lack of rubber the team is boasting of corner speeds similar to more conventional prototypes.

That's because the car's weight distribution is biased rearwards to the tune of 73:27, putting all the mass behind the centre of gravity and offering excellent stability, especially in a straight line and under braking. The car's brake balance is weighted towards the rear too, making use of the significantly larger 12.5-inch wide rear tyres. That rearward weight distribution should mean less weight transfer under braking (well over 50 per cent of the braking force is behind the centre of gravity), as well as more traction under power, equating to a less wayward tail than you might otherwise imagine.

Going the distance
"With only 40 litres of fuel to carry and much less mass we're hoping to go further on a stint than the regular prototypes," reckons Franchitti. And we can well believe him. From the time the Scot has already spent behind the wheel of the DeltaWing, he outlined that triple-stinting tyres at Le Mans won't be an issue, and that the car's inherent, almost benign balance - despite its outlandish looks - means degradation in the rubber won't upset the chassis or bite the driver.

DeltaWing has proven itself on track
DeltaWing has proven itself on track
It's a futuristic looking piece of kit, and there are some proper innovations in the design - not least the clever "half everything" principle and its manifestation in the metal (or should that be carbon fibre). The developments in efficiency through reduced drag, lower mass and a small turbocharged engine are relevant to the future of road cars as well.

According to Nissan Europe General Manager, Darren Cox, "DeltaWing is about innovation and relevance to road cars. The developments in efficiency will challenge the way people think about motorsport and benefit road car progress in a sustainable way through real-world technology - downsizing and improving aerodynamic efficiency as two examples."

That's all well and good for the future, but in the here and now the DeltaWing has a job to do.

"The car is the first real wholesale change since putting engines in the back of Formula 1 cars or the development of wings - fans are drawn to it and it's so important in engaging the next generation of sportscar followers. It's great to be involved in something so exciting," believes Franchitti.

It won't be competing for the podium proper, unfortunately, as it's in an experimental class of one. The team has been warned by the ACO to not get in the way of anybody's race, and it's well aware of that. Given the claims it's making though, Franchitti and Co. might not have to be checking their mirrors all that frequently.



   
   
   
   

 

carse
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dino ferrana

753 posts

135 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
http://twitpic.com/8vqbab

Now that should make it a bit more interesting!

Altrezia

7,373 posts

94 months

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Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
Indeed, confirmed.

http://yfrog.com/essu1ucj

Looks way better in black!

Rude-boy

18,263 posts

116 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
Now it gets interesting biggrin

I have been a fan of this project from day one and the more I see the more I hope that really does work on the track.

How cool would it be to see one pulling out from behind an Audi down the Mulsanne whilst being chased down by a Toyota...

I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it.

This is what our sport needs, a bit of visual diversity and scope for proper left field thinking.

robmlufc

3,928 posts

69 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
Rude-boy said:
Now it gets interesting biggrin

How cool would it be to see one pulling out from behind an Audi down the Mulsanne whilst being chased down by a Toyota...
Only if the Audi has a problem wink

The ACO have given it a theoretical time of 3:45 which puts it in the middle of the LMP2s

dino ferrana

753 posts

135 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlLZ3d-X8aY&fea... This will look bonkers/odd at Le Mans! Love the concept. 4 inch wide front tyres!
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MrKipling43

5,693 posts

99 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
Yeah, this is brill. I was really cynical when I saw the renderings (yeah right, never going to happen, stupid idea etc etc) but the one thing motor racing is really missing at the moment is diversity in design within series.

Great stuff.

Rugbyman

1,584 posts

86 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
NA NA NA NA NA NAAAA BATMAN !!!!!!!!!!! bounceclapcloud9

dino ferrana

753 posts

135 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
Franchitti having a little blast in it http://www.highcroftracing.com/news/2012/3/13/niss...

DanDC5

8,581 posts

50 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
I just can't see how this car will handle as well as a conventional LMP car? The front tyres are too narrow and I don't get how such a narrow track is a good thing??

robmlufc

3,928 posts

69 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
MrKipling43 said:
Yeah, this is brill. I was really cynical when I saw the renderings (yeah right, never going to happen, stupid idea etc etc) but the one thing motor racing is really missing at the moment is diversity in design within series.

Great stuff.
Its only great stuff and great for diversity if its actually quick around Le Mans otherwise its a complete waste of time.

Rude-boy

18,263 posts

116 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
robmlufc said:
Only if the Audi has a problem wink

The ACO have given it a theoretical time of 3:45 which puts it in the middle of the LMP2s
Boo! Forgot that in my excitement.

Still 2013... smile

MarkRSi

4,189 posts

101 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
DanDC5 said:
I just can't see how this car will handle as well as a conventional LMP car? The front tyres are too narrow and I don't get how such a narrow track is a good thing??
+1 I'd be very interested of the reasoning behind the design (I assume Le Mans rules are somewhat relaxed compared to F1 etc.?).

I would guess the wider track at the rear gives stability and keeps the car flat while cornering, while the narrow body gives a smaller drag coefficient for better fuel efficiency/top speed etc.?


Edited by MarkRSi on Tuesday 13th March 12:39

DanDC5

8,581 posts

50 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
That's as far as my reasoning got with it, I'm keen to see the feedback on it's handling though. Might have to do some searching for an explanation on how it works.

robmlufc

3,928 posts

69 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
Shirley it has the same front section of an LMP just without a honking wing. LMP's cant get enough front downforce and the Delta Wing thinks it will get away with none? hmmm.

marcosgt

7,449 posts

59 months

[news] 
Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
Must be a few doubters needing to eat humble pie right now.

I'm sure there was more than one post where people said "If it ever gets beyond the drawing board, I'll [insert action they never imagined they'd have to carry out here]" biggrin

Great to see something so different racing - Up there with the Lotus 88, Arrows 'Doodlebug', Fan cars and other crazy looking projects.

I could cope with a field of deltawing racers, personally.

Regardless of how successful it is, I like it!

M

Arklight

301 posts

72 months

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Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
Was thinking about this the other day and whether it had actually gotten off of the drawing board.

It is a radical design and hope it goes as well as they hope.

tuffer

6,013 posts

150 months

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Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
They want to be careful, they could have someones eye out with that smile Mental.

eastlmark

1,184 posts

90 months

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Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
was that Erik Comas?

PW

2,144 posts

122 months

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Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
marcosgt said:
I could cope with a field of deltawing racers, personally.
It was originally a concept put forward for the new Indycar.

Their website answers many of the questions from this thread: http://www.highcroftracing.com

In a nutshell:

Highcroft Racing said:
The group has received an invitation from Le Mans 24 Hour race organizers, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to contest the 2012 race as an additional 56th entry.

The 56th place on the grid is reserved for a technologically innovative car to participate “outside the classifications” – a vehicle showcasing new applications and unique technologies previously unseen in the world’s greatest endurance race.

While racing cars have traditionally strived for increased performance through gains in horsepower and aerodynamic downforce, the DeltaWing concept concentrates on exploiting efficiency gains found outside contemporary regulations to reduce fuel consumption without reducing performance.

The new and experimental car is targeting competitive performance with only half the horsepower of the outright contenders. It does this through halving the amount of aerodynamic drag of traditional racing cars as well as a similar reduction in weight.

The Project 56 Group is in discussion with engine partners to provide a 1.6-liter turbocharged power plant for the project – producing approximately 300 horsepower.

The car will be unlike any previously seen at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car features a slender nose with extremely narrow front track – minimizing the horsepower required to push the car to speeds of 200mph around the 8.5 mile circuit.

Eliminating the use of traditional wings, downforce for the DeltaWing is generated solely beneath the car by the contoured underbody.

groomi

8,832 posts

126 months

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Tuesday 13th March 2012 quote quote all
I've been a big fan of Ben Bowlby since the Equinox documentary in the 80's. This is properly radical thinking and I'm impressed that it's got this far and is now attracting some serious backing. Hopefully I'll be at LM to cheer them on this year.
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