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DeltaWing Project Garage 56

Bradley Brownell October 13, 2011 All Things Hoon, Racing 29 Comments

Half the weight, half the aerodynamic drag, half the power, half the fuel burned.  Should be half as fast, right?

I recently had the opportunity to look over the “DeltaWing” prototype car in the paddock at Petit Le Mans.  Previously, I had dismissed this car as overzealous engineering mixed with a penchant for phallic aerodynamic principals.  However, the project has gained credence in my mind since the June announcement of it’s sportscar ambitions for 2012.

The DeltaWing was originally developed last winter as a potential replacement for the current generation IndyCar Dallara chassis.  IndyCar, in an effort to mix things up, put out a casting call for manufacturers to develop new directions for the 2012 chassis.  Dallara, Swift, and Lola mounted traditional challenging designs alongside the revolutionary DeltaWing concept.  Ultimately, IndyCar remained faithful to Dallara, who will supply chassis for the series in the foreseeable future.

After being unceremoniously dropped by the Indy series, the custodians of the chassis began talks with the ACO.  The Automobile Club de L’Oueste, governing body of the Le Mans 24 hour, also began a new project for 2012 called Garage 56.  Traditionally, the 24 heurs du Mans has been limited to 55 cars.  Garage 56 is an additional spot reserved for a team that makes engineering advances under “green movement” auspices.  At the 2011 Le Mans 24, the ACO announced that this spot is tentatively reserved for the Deltawing project, assuming the car is ready to compete.

As Aston Martin had already had its AMR-One chassis subjected to ACO crash testing standards, the Deltawing project purchased a small number of these chassis from Aston Martin.  The car will be assembled around the crash structure of an Aston Martin to reduce development costs and build time.

An intriguing combination of revolutionary aerodynamic principles, a focus on light weight, and development for fuel economy, the DeltaWing project is splitting racing fans into for and against camps.  Personally, I hope this project comes to fruition, if only to change the way teams think about how to build a racing car.  If fuel economy and massive reductions in drag are the way for petrol powered prototypes (say that ten times fast) to bring the fight to the diesels, then I am all for it.

Involved in the project are major names in American motor racing.  Designer Ben Bowlby teamed with Duncan Dayton’s 2 time ALMS championship winning Highcroft racing to prepare and run the car, while American legend Dan Gurney’s All American Racers (AAR) will be responsible for the construction, with resources and engineering also supplied by Georgia based Panoz engineering.  Working with less mass and less power, this car could be interesting, and if it is successful, could change the world of motor racing.  I can’t wait until next June when the world finds out if this car is different in a successful manner, like the Chapparal 2J or just-different-to-be-different Tyrrell P34.

  • P161911

    I knew I should have walked over to the support paddock! Looks like that's where this thing was hiding.

  • Almost Three-Wheel Thursday. So close.

    • pj134

      Quick! Write a friction drive Friday article for us!

      • I doubt that theme would gain much traction.

        • pj134

          You witty bastard.

  • tonyola

    When I first saw the lead picture, I thought "Three-wheeler with single wheel up front? In a race car? Uh-oh. Recipe for disaster!" Now I see that it has two front wheels. I still wonder about the handling, though.

    • I'm with you. I mean, you'd presume that, for the project to progress this far, they'd have checked out basics like driveability. It must, therefore, be absolutely fine.

      But looking at it gives me small-scale heeby-jeebies. Surely that front end lacks lateral grip?

      • I can't decide whether the chain of reasoning in your first paragraph demonstrates that you can't possibly be British or confirms that you most certainly are.

        • I like being an enigma!

        • pj134

          It confirms it. Right before the first Reliant Robin left the factory, an engineer asked,"Has anyone tried driving it? Does it handle alright?" and the response to him was, "We are a very large company and this car is already in production! Of course someone has driven it!"

          This was followed by that first Robin finishing production and promptly rolling onto it's roof.

          • Yes, but as soon as they recognized the error they promptly pulled it from production eight years later.

            Then reintroduced it eight years after that for another twelve-year run.

            Then let someone else have another go at it for a few months shortly after that.

            But, in their defense, they've probably stopped for good this time. Unless the former licensees in Greece or India want to make more.

      • brazilreporter

        Or I must be terrrible wrong (or my teachers were, must have someone to blame), but this will never handle as good as a race car with wider wheel base. They made the wheel base longer which will compensate some of the "Reliant tip-over effect"

        • In truth, I can't even quite work out how there's space for a steering system at all, unless those front tyres are motorcycle-narrow.

          • smokyburnout

            The front tires 4 inches wide.
            It's also got a very trick torque-vectoring diff, and… I'll let Ben Bowlby talk:
            "It's counterintuitive, but this isn't an understeer-limited layout. It has a very rearward weight distribution, so the appropriately small front tyres won't have to accelerate more mass than their corresponding ratio to initiate a turn. It will respond to steering inputs incredibly quickly and completely. And because the roll stiffness is entirely generated between the rear wheels, the characteristic is responsive turn-in with an oversteering tendency towards the limit." http://www.institutequarterly.com/IQ-ISSUE02-arti

      • With a CG that must be basically in plane with the wheel hubs, it'd be challenging to tip. Still, at the very best it's a tremendous handling compromise.

        • gearhead

          Their design has certainly stacked the deck against them.

          There are some very smart and creative people involved with this project, so it will be quite interesting to see what solutions they come up with.

  • mattc

    I am so glad that hopefully this will race. When this was in contention for the future Indycar chassis, I thought this is exactly what that series needs. (No offense to Honda/Dallara but the series was stagnant). I love the idea of something completely out of the box, and the Deltawing should find many fans at Lemans.

  • JayP

    Did they ever announce an engine for this car? I read where they were trying to be an All-American effort. (Not in the DG sense either.)
    Panoz relationship with Ford would make the Ecoboost 4 a perfect fit, right?

  • dukeisduke

    I was disappointed that IndyCar didn't go with the DeltaWing. Hopefully they can make a go of it in the ACO series.

  • Man i just want to see the trailer this thing rides in

  • dculberson

    Hey, looks like they could run this up the "backflip" rig right after the RZR.