Nissan backs the ground-breaking DeltaWing experimental racing car project


March 29, 2012

The Nissan Deltawing experimental race car

The Nissan Deltawing experimental race car

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By definition racing vehicles are these days developed within the confines of a formula to ensure a level of close competition. The formulas are changed every season or so but developments tend to be incremental rather than revolutionary. One experimental project that has been running outside of any formula and hopes to truly change the face of racing is the Delta Wing project designed by US-based Brit’ Ben Bowlby and supported by motorsport legends Don Panoz and Dan Gurney. Now the project has attracted a suitably hi-tech powerplant, some serious sponsorship, and its first race.

We first wrote about the DeltaWing over two years ago when the concept, with a rolling mock-up, was entered in a competition to design the IndyCar vehicle of the future. It’s unclear whether the conservative IndyCar organization still has any intention of embracing a radically new type of racing car but the partnership of Bowlby, Panoz and Gurney obviously felt the potential rewards justified development of the unusual composite chassis.

The 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 tires, specially created for the car by tire partner Michelin. With a rear-mounted engine, the car has a strong rearward weight bias, which makes it highly maneuverable, while its light weight and slippery shape make it far more efficient.

To take the project to the next stage, and perhaps a slightly different direction, global manufacturer Nissan has committed in a big way to providing engines and engineering development expertise. A race-prepared 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, featuring direct petrol injection and a turbocharger, will power “Nissan DeltaWing”, which is half the weight and has half the aerodynamic drag of a conventional racer.

Nissan is no stranger to endurance racing and indeed the Nissan DeltaWing’s first real race will be at Le Mans. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the organizers of the famous Le Mans 24 Hours has invited the car to run in this year’s race from "Garage 56" - the spot in the pit lane 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".

The new engine, badged DIG-T (Direct Injection Gasoline – Turbocharged), is expected to produce around 300 hp, sufficient to give Nissan DeltaWing lap times between LMP1 and LMP2 machines at Le Mans, despite having only half the power of those conventional prototypes. It features the same technology found in Nissan road cars, such as the Nissan Juke DIG-T.

Concept originator and designer Ben Bowlby commented: “Nissan has provided us with our first choice engine. It’s a spectacular piece. We’ve got the engine of our dreams: it’s the right weight, has the right power and it’s phenomenally efficient.”

The first two Nissan DeltaWing drivers to be confirmed are British Sportscar racer Marino Franchitti (brother of IndyCar star Dario) and Nissan’s reigning FIA GT1 World Champion Michael Krumm. The 2012 Le Mans 24 hour will be raced on the 16th to 17th of June and there is sure to be huge interest in this unique vehicle - and yes, it does go around corners - here's the video evidence.

Sources: Nissan, All American Racers

About the Author
Vincent Rice Vincent Rice has been an audio-visual design consultant for almost 30 years including six years with Warner Brothers Cinemas. He has designed several large retail installations in London and a dozen major nightclubs across the world from Belfast to Brno to Beruit. An accomplished musician and 3D computer graphics artist, Vince also writes for AV Magazine in the U.K. and the Loudscreen digital signage blog. All articles by Vincent Rice

@Nicholson: Maybe you have to reconsider. Formula-1, Nascar, Indycar, Touring-Cars, they all have open wheel wells for a reason. And they don't perform bad.


With open wheel wells? That's a laugh. The rules of aerodynamics being violated suggests that this is an unworthy effort.

Ross Nicholson

Even with the habit of open wheel wells, nobody would do such a project, nor NISSAN would welcome, if it was not very feasible. I was waiting for news like this, since the presentation of that innovative design.


love the "batmobile" look. Let's see on the "24 heures du Mans" race next june !


It would appear from the pictures that brake cooling might present a reliability problem. How has this question been addressed, please?? Ralph L. Seifer, Long Beach, California.


That narrow nose and wide-ass rear end spell trouble on just about any racetrack. Looks like an accident waiting to happen.


teeduke... you make some very rash statements in your post with absolutely no supporting information, or established expertise from which to substantiate your claims. Are you just a designated Internet hit goon, or what?

Chris Ostlind

They called it maneuverable I call it unstable.


This car is running backwards. Accepted practice is to have a three wheeler (which this essentially is) with the two wheels in front since when turning the the outside front wheel will be subject to the highest load . Learned this while racing soap box cars. This car is sacrificing turning dynamics for aero dynamics. Question is : which is more important on a car built for this kind of racing ?

stan lind

This looks very promising to me and I have been following it since it's beginning. Good luck to all involved, can't wait for the race! Thanks.


re; stan lind

So long as the weight is in the tripod and low either design works well. The Morgan 3 wheeler was notoriously unstable but then the incredibly poorly designed Reliant Robin came along. I think it was an eugenics experiment.


Obviously judging by some comments, Nissan has overlooked hiring you guys for their Engineering Department....Cause obviously you know better then the current Nissan Engineers!....

Randel Faarkin

Not gonna lie. looks a bit like a cock and balls....


@Randel, Besides Nissan, what about Panoz and Franchitti? Idiots all I say. I mean, what have they ever built? What races have they ever won? LeMans should be quite the eye-opener, yes?

Bruce H. Anderson

Can anyone say "Swamp Rat 32"?? Big Daddy, Don Garlitts did this in drag racing decades ago.

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