Nissan DeltaWing completes first race with a solid finish


October 25, 2012

The Nissan DeltaWing

The Nissan DeltaWing

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Over two years ago, a group of IndyCar team owners revealed a prototype called the DeltaWing that was aimed at changing the IndyCar racing scene forever. Some people scoffed at its design and wrote the car off as an experiment that would never pay off. Jump ahead to now, and the Nissan-backed DeltaWing has actually managed to complete its first race, and with respectable placement too.

The experimental DeltaWing entered and completed the 24-hour, 1,000-mile (1,609-km) Petit Le Mans in Atlanta, Georgia. The car was driven by American Gunnar Jeannette and Spaniard Lucas Ordoñez, who split duties during the grueling race.

Last time Nissan entered its odd-looking car into a race, it was forced out after six hours when it made contact with another prototype. Things actually looked worse this time for Nissan, as the team had to completely rebuild during testing after American driver Gunnar Jeannette rolled it over when he was struck by a GTC-class Porsche. It was a dramatic event, but the team ultimately got the car ready for race day, and from then on, it was relatively smooth sailing.

Because the car is an experiment, it had to start at the back of the grid, and was given the number 0. However, Jeannette (who started the race) managed to pass eight cars on the opening lap. When he handed the car over to Ordoñez, he had managed to move the Nissan into eighth out of the 42 car field.

When the dust cleared, the DeltaWing crossed the line in sixth position, but after a P2 car was excluded due to a driver exceeding the maximum drive time, the DeltaWing was granted fifth place overall.

So what makes this car remarkable enough that I felt compelled to spend five paragraphs recounting its harrowing tale? Essentially, because it is nothing like the conventional cars that run these types of races. It looks more like the Batmobile than a traditional IndyCar. It weighs half as much as most IndyCars and produces only half the aerodynamic drag. This means it can use a much smaller engine than the competition and therefore, produce much greater fuel efficiency.

In fact, the DeltaWing uses a 1.6L four-cylinder engine with direct petrol injection and a turbocharger. It produces a minuscule (at least in terms of IndyCars) 300 hp, which is about half of what most other cars push. It is a true testament to sound design that the car is able to do so well, even when it's lacking so much in terms of power.

The video below shows the experimental car is action during the Petit Le Mans.

Source: Nissan

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Dave LeClair Dave is an avid follower of all things mobile, gaming, and any kind of new technology he can get his hands on. Ever since he first played an NES as a child, he's been an absolute tech and gaming junkie. All articles by Dave LeClair

It is impressive that they were able to cut the weight in half but how specific are the requirements they have to meet for entry? I suppose it does have 4 wheels and (mostly) meet the length and width of the other cars.

The question I have now is I wonder how badly it messes with the aerodynamics of the car if you turn it around into a Y configuration like a Can am Spyder. My guess is it should be more stable in corners like the Can-Am (in comparison to other trikes which are prone to roll over) and while it might not have the same coefecient drag as the deltawing the aerodynamics would be better than the rest of the rectangle configuration vehicles.

I have no idea how it would impact tire wear though. The DeltaWing config seems like it works for that.


It's the pre-Tumbler bat-mobile!

Beisswenger Design

Lower drag is the holy grail - nice work. Does it need to have a certain length to width ratio to achieve this? What about the application of this config to passenger cars and, in particular, electric and/or hybrid?


the theory says that delta trikes are less stable while cornering than tadpoles, needless to say 4-wheelers. thanks nissan for new evidence to the contrary!


As one of the earlier non-naysayers, I say YAY Nissan.

Bruce H. Anderson

As an EV trike and reverse trike with extremely low CG builder/driver I'm still skepitcal on this unit because in cornering it's the width of the front that matters for traction. Maybe they make up enough in the straights to make up for losing speed in the curves.

While neither of my 3wheeler are likely to roll, in fact almost impossible on the RT, the trike has less cornering ability that the RT does by a large amount.

I too go for the lightweight, low drag route to high performance, EV range but the aero drag comes mostly to frontal area which the Delta still has, just in the rear.

We'll just have to see if it really works by comparing it to a similar weight, power, aero with 2 normal width front axle/wheels. An Indy car or F-1 against it would be a more fair comparison.


add a little "Gordon Murray" to this mix, and there will be no stopping this car.

Michiel Mitchell

Yes it may be faster due to more aerodynamic design but there may be a reason other manufacturers dont use the same kind of chassis. The reason may be that seems more unstable than conventional racecars so gaining speed but sacrificing stability.


With these concepts in mind and Ultra Light construction materials involved through-out, will this Asian engineered 'miracle' prototype an economical commuter to save hard pressed American 'burb dwellers long enough to get out of the massive debt they have incurred, or will Feds actions as money printers extra-odinaire force the purchasing power of the U.S. Dollar and therefore U.S. paychecks so low they can no longer afford gasoline for their commute?

Bruce Miller

A low center of gravity has made up for the instability in design but promoting less wind resistance. With an engine and wings, anything can be made to fly. The design remains at the basis, unstable and technology and research cannot be carried forward on a similar platform, because even though it can be done, it's in the wrong direction. This same thing could be made to fly, entirely possible, but not the right direction. One solution for cornering and making It viable is that. During turns, the engine power in the inner back wheel is eliminated.

Dawar Saify

The passive stability of a wheeled vehicle depends on the majority of the weight being inside the perimeter defined by the tires and the majority of the weight being low having done this it does not matter if your three wheeler needs a front end alinement or not you have a stable vehicle.


I bet the FIA is already having secret meetings on how to ban it from competition, just like they banned more or less than 4 wheels, all wheel drive, gas turbines, cars with fans that pulled air from under the car to increase downforce...

If there's a better idea that provides an extreme racing advantage, you can bet the FIA, or any other motorsport rules making outfit, will ban it.

Often they ban things before anyone even starts work on a prototype. F1 banned using a motor/alternator to provide extra kick out of turns before any team even tried it. Such systems went on to be used in some production vehicles as a cheap way to make a "hybrid".

Gregg Eshelman

Incredible. It seems like fuel efficiency, less power but better car characteristics does mean something in a race like this.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret

This for me, is reminiscent of the first time that Dan Gurney showed up at Indy in an F-1 type car with the engine behind him. Most people today cannot remember anything else, but Indy was so steeped in tradition back then that unequal right and left suspensions were the latest and greatest inovation that those front engine, rear drive roadsters had been using.

Paul Gracey

Reminds me of "whacky races" – Dastardly's car (the "mean machine") :-)

Ariel Dahan

The reason may be that seems more unstable than conventional racecars so gaining speed but sacrificing stability.

as long as the time is lesser than the others, Time is the essence.

so as in the old days race cars need to have capacity of > 10litres, then folks build them with high revs smaller displacement engines.

Jimbo Jim

This car has four wheels, if you look at the pictures you will see this. Great design though, amazing what you can do with a 1.6 Liter 4 cyl. engine and great aerodynamics.

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