Speed Chills View - The Rocket in the 56th Pit Box

Le Mans 24 hours and FIA WEC logos

When the ACO announced that there would be an extra pit box this year, and that they would fill it with a ‘car displaying new technologies’, everybody put money on it being another green car for petrol companies to put on their posters and wring eco-hands behind.

Deltawing_studio_full_length

Then they released a picture of it and everyone tore up their tickets, because it appeared that they’d let Batman fill the shiny new pit box with his stealth-fighter.

A few months further on and we have a much better idea of what the Deltawing is. Check out the official video; it looks like a rocket, and if the tests are to be believed it’ll go like one too.

But first the bad news: no matter how well it does, it can’t win. It won’t be classified; even the rubbish teams that only do one lap before the doors fall off will technically have beaten it, which seems a shame.

But it’s not really about how well it does in the race; it’s how well it stands up as a viable racing alternative. The innovative body shape might have been designed as an evolution for IndyCar racing, but its appearance at Le Mans fits the ‘prototype’ ethos extremely well, and allows for some great new engineering ideas.

It’s a real featherweight, coming in at 575kg, and packs 300bhp which they’ve squeezed from a tiny 4-cylinder, 1.6l Nissan power plant. This gives it a not-too-shabby 520bhp/tonne which isn’t to be sniffed at. In fact, that’s only slightly less than this year’s non-hybrid Audis.

Deltawing_studio_rear_shot

Then it gets madder. The rear tires are understandably pretty monstrous, but the front ones are so skinny that they seem to have been stolen from a bicycle. A source at Nissan admitted to me that he has no idea how it won’t just go straight on at the Hunaudieres chicanes.

That said, the second video is meant to allay people’s fears that it won’t turn, and it looks like it should be able to corner with the best of them. It’s also slippery in the air which will keep the fuel consumption down, and should please the environmentally-friendly bigwigs at Nissan.

One factor might be the hilariously named BLAT (Boundary Layer Adhesion Technology), which appears to work on the same wavelength as the ‘ground effect’ that the Lotus F1 team managed to utilise so well in the late 60s. This ‘upside-down-aeroplane-wing’ theory is usually heavily regulated in motorsports because it simply gives too much downforce, so expect the Deltawing to superglue itself to the tarmac.


It’s being run by Highcroft Racing who have had a fair amount of success in the American Le Mans Series, winning two championships since their inauguration in 2008. Their official line on the Deltawing is ‘Half the weight, half the horsepower, half the downforce - yet all the performance’. Having competed at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2010, they should have enough experience to get the most out of the Deltawing.

Designated driver for Le Mans this year is Marino Franchitti, younger brother of triple Indycar Series winner Dario, who describes it as a ‘novel science experiment’. 4-time Le Mans driver Michael Krumm from Germany will take the second spot, and Japanese Super GT winner Satoshi Motoyama will take the third.

Deltawing_snetterton_audi

Franchitti seems excited to be driving the Deltawing in as prestigious a race as the Le Mans 24 Hours, saying:

“You’re not in the confines of a rulebook so you can be a little more out there with your thinking, and we’re finding some very interesting solutions”.

That’s what makes the Deltawing so exciting. Racing has always been a hotbed for innovation; without it we wouldn’t have had disc brakes, aerodynamics or most of the bits in cars which stop people from dying. As one engineer in the video puts it, “It’s about guilt free, high performance motoring”. Let’s just hope it can stand up to 24 hours round La Sarthe.

UPDATE: At the recent 6 hours of Spa race we took time to gauge reaction from various teams about the Deltawing, and rumours are circulating that it’s not looking particularly fast or reliable. Stick with Speed Chills (on our blog, our Facebook page or our Twitter @SpeedChillsView) and we’ll update you as soon as we can find out more.