Nissan Deltawing development on track for Le Mans
By Mike Hanlon
April 18, 2012
Gizmag is essentially about new thought - new and better ways of doing things. Hence the DeltaWing Project which we detailed previously, is of greater fascination than most current auto racing projects because it the 1.6-litre Nissan DIG-T turbo-powered car is very different very hugely innovative. Racetrack testing is well underway and the car recently had its first serious outing in the wet at the U.K.'s Snetterton circuit.
The Nissan DeltaWing runs a small 1.6-liter Nissan DIG-T turbo engine with roughly half the power of a normal prototype, but it is also half the weight, and has almost half the aerodynamic drag of a traditional Le Mans sportscar. Visually, it is very different with front tires that are just four inches wide.
The team's goal is the Le Mans 24 Hour Race where being fast and consistent in the rain is one of the important criteria for being competitive.
Hence when the team went testing at Snetterton and was greeted with a rainy day, it was all smiles as the car reeled off some excellent times on the slippery track and dispelled any doubts about its ability to handle a damp surface.
Normally inclement weather which would see cars sitting it out in the pits was welcomed by the team as it had only conducted one brief wet track test prior to now, when it used a water truck to dampen Sebring racetrack in the United States. Mother nature is capable of putting a lot more water on a racetrack than a watertruck though, and hence as the weather went from wet to very wet, some rapid progress was made in the development of the wet tires for the car.
Scotsman Marino Franchitti and German Michael Krumm both tried the car in wet conditions and with tire partner Michelin on hand, lots of useful information was gleaned.
"The whole Nissan DeltaWing team is still on a massive learning curve. Testing in the States was a stable, predictable way of doing the initial groundwork but this exciting car is going to be racing in the French countryside," said Darren Cox, Nissan's European GM.
"Today, the whole team got a taste of the conditions they may well face on June 16/17, so it may not have been much fun in the Norfolk rain, but it's about the best thing that could have happened for a project and a car that will face an enormous challenge just to make the end of the race."
"The day allowed us to try the wet tires in a real world situation - we didn't have to wet the track at all, it was a proper wet, rainy day," said Franchitti. "The day has really given us some important data and provided Michelin with some clear direction for future development.
"The engine and gearbox were really strong - it was a proper testing day when we were really able to get down to business doing damper work, brake work - all in all, it was a very positive test and we're now very much looking forward to the next run."
Franchitti's co-driver Michael Krumm made some interesting comments regarding the handling of the car, noting, "everyone was wondering before the car ran whether it would turn - in fact it probably turned too well and we have made some improvements in that area.
"It is great to kick off the European testing, because Le Mans is looming fast. Sebring was obviously a lot warmer and sunnier, but the conditions we had today could be exactly like you face at Le Mans sometimes.
"Getting that wet weather running under our belt - working with Michelin on the tyres - we now know what to expect."
The Nissan DeltaWing will make its debut at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours two months from now.