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Nissan to power revolutionary DeltaWing racer at Le Mans

By KBB.com Editors on March 14, 2012 2:43 PM
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The radical DeltaWing prototype created by designer Ben Bowlby continues to make strong progress as it prepares to mount an assault on the 24 hours of Le Mans this June. Latest news is that the original Project 56 Partners operation has officially added Nissan as a new team member. The automaker is providing race-spec version of its 1.6-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder DIG-T (Direct Injected Gasoline - Turbocharged) engine that will make around 300 horsepower in this application. That should be sufficient to let this superlight and ultrasleek competitor turn lap times somewhere between conventional LMP1 and LMP2 Le Mans Prototype category vehicles on race day.

The car, now dubbed the Nissan DeltaWing, will make its first public appearance in a shakedown run at Sebring later this week after having undergone preliminary evaluation in California. It will occupy Garage 56 at Le Mans -- a space reserved by the organizers for experimental entries that complement the event's 55 official race entries - and carry the number "0." Two drivers have been confirmed at this point, British Sportscar racer Marino Franchitti and Nissan's reigning FIA GT1 World Champion, Michael Krumm.

As when first presented as a possible next-generation IndyCar design, Bowlby's dramatic DeltaWing package has the potential to revolutionize racing should it prove successful. Beyond its staggered-track configuration, the DeltaWing can be on pace using barely half the power - and require half the fuel -- because it has literally half the aerodynamic drag and is targeted to weigh barely half of what its competition does.

Nissan sees this more-with-less approach as a natural complement to its own design philosophy. "As motor racing rulebooks have become tighter over time, racing cars look more and more similar and the technology used has had less and less relevance to road car development. Nissan DeltaWing aims to change that, and we were an obvious choice to become part of the project," said Andy Palmer, executive vice president, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. "Nissan DeltaWing embodies a vast number of highly-innovative ideas that we can learn from. At the same time, our engineering resources and commitment to fuel efficiency leadership via our PureDrive strategy will help develop DeltaWing into a testbed of innovation for Nissan.

Formed last year, Project 56 Partners is an operation that boasts many of the primo names in world motorsport. In addition to Nissan, its core members include visionary British designer Ben Bowlby, American motorsport entrepreneur Don Panoz, the All-American Racers organization of Dan Gurney that actually constructed the car, Duncan Dayton's two-time championship-winning Highcroft Racing team and Michelin Tires North America.

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