The upcoming race debut of the Nissan powered DeltaWing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans completes a remarkable year of hard work and dedication by the team at DeltaWing Racing Cars.
But according to Managing Partner, Don Panoz, the assault on this year’s famous French enduro is not the finish line for 12 months of remarkable effort by the manufacturer and its partners including Nissan and Michelin, but the start of a unique future for the car’s design.
As founder of the American Le Mans Series, Panoz is looking to introduce the car into ALMS ranks in 2013 – providing American fans with the chance to see the unique concept that features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodynamic drag of a typical LMP car.
The Nissan powered DeltaWing will complete its first laps at Le Mans at the ACO’s annual test day on Sunday, June 3. The Project 56 consortium which created the project brings together Panoz; concept originator, Ben Bowlby; concept patron Chip Ganassi; Dan Gurney’s All American Racers who constructed the prototype and Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft Racing as the race entrant.
Q: How much are you looking forward to the car’s debut in France?
A:“The amount of effort that has gone into preparing the car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been truly remarkable and a real credit to everyone involved. The level of interest in the DeltaWing has been quite amazing and I am sure the car is going to attract a lot of attention in France.
“We are under no illusions about running at the front of the field nor actually making it to the finish. Getting to the end would be truly remarkable, but our goal will be to showcase what could be done. We will be there to showcase the possibilities for the future.
“Having a partner like Nissan has been fantastic and they are equally as excited about the next month. This project had a lot of doubters but people like Nissan and Michelin shared our vision for the future and they are all sharing in the exposure benefits which highlight everyone involved as companies who are prepared to question the status quo and look to the future."
Q: What is the future of the car for after the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
A: “We are currently in discussions with our partners regarding that but the challenging scenario is the fact that the car doesn’t conform to the current ACO rules so we would need to be invited by the WEC as an unclassified new technology car to undertake any additional races on the world stage.
“However, we’d also love to see the car compete in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila PatrÂ¢n and we’re working towards that goal."
Q: Only one DeltaWing exists at this stage, could we see more cars constructed in the future?
A:“That is certainly our plan. The guys at Dan Gurney’s All American Racers did a great job in constructing the prototype but ongoing cars will be built at Elan Motorsport Technologies here in Braselton, Georgia.
“We have a great pedigree of building cars here including the Indy 500-winning Panoz-G-Force chassis plus the entire field for Champ Car and Superleague Formula.
“The DeltaWing that will race at Le Mans will hopefully be the first of many cars to be constructed."
Q: Where could the car race in the future?
A: “As custodians of the American Le Mans Series, we’d love to see the car race in our series and we believe it would be a huge attraction.
“We have already had discussions with IMSA regarding a rules framework where the DeltaWing could run against either P1 or P2 cars in the ALMS.
“The secret will be to come up with a set of rules where the cars are competitive, without being overly dominant. We’d like to see additional competition in the P1 and P2 ranks and have teams face a tricky decision as to whether run a traditional prototype or a DeltaWing style car – we wouldn’t want a clear advantage for either.
“We want to see a diverse range of cars on the grid – it is certainly not our plan to replace all the current prototypes, but to supplement the competition that is already on track."
Q: Could the car race again at Le Mans in the future?
A: “That is a question for the ACO. There are new rules coming and as a constructor of these cars, we’d love the opportunity to return to France and actually compete for the podium rather than just under the Garage 56 opportunity.
“The ACO must be applauded for the Garage 56 concept and we have been thrilled with the chance to be a part of the race this year.
“Hopefully we can return in the future. The level of interest from the media, partners and fans has been incredible and we’d love to build on that.
“We’ll be talking with the ACO very soon about the future."
Q: Have you had teams contact you about running the car in the future?
A: “Once the car hit the track and people could see that it indeed does turn, the phone certainly started to ring.
“We’ve had the obvious questions – Are you building more cars? When would they be available? What is the rules structure going to be for 2013?
“The fans of the American Le Mans Series certainly want to see the car here and we think it would be a great addition to the championship.
“It is going to be a matter of balance – getting the car at the right weight and the right amount of horsepower.
“We hope to have a framework for the rules in place soon."
Q: Could the car race in other series as well?
A: “Anything is open to discussion P1, P2 or maybe even as a GT concept – there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
“The DeltaWing was born as a single-seater racing car originally and we’d love to bring that configuration to the track as well.
“Thanks to Chip Ganassi and Ben Bowlby, the car began its life as a single-seater and we’d love to see the original vision be brought to reality as well. We wouldn’t be ready to head to France with the sportscar version if not for Ben’s original IndyCar concept and Chip’s backing
“There are a lot single seater one-make championships throughout the world that to the casual fan all look remarkably similar. The hard-core fans can obviously tell the difference but the man on the street really doesn’t know the difference between an IndyCar, World Series by Renault, AutoGP, GP2, Formula 2, GP3, Superleague Formula or even F1.
“If you lined up a grid full of DeltaWing single seater cars, you would certainly know the difference."