This is not a rocket ship. This is not the new Batmobile. This is not a life-sized pine car derby racer. This is not a concept car. No, this is the Nissan DeltaWing race car. This is the technological future of racing. Well, if it works.
Automotive evolution is boring. Cars get slightly bigger, slightly faster, slightly different ever year. The Nissan DeltaWing race car is a knife to the throat of gradual advancement. It is the antithesis of commonly held beliefs.
How does it work?
Developed first as a possible future Indy Car, the design put the rear wheels far out, the weight far back in the vehicle, and crammed the front wheels into a tiny aerodynamic nose.
IndyCar balked at the small front wheels and weird driver position. It was too futuristic. Too radical for a series that has basically just refined the same car for over 50 years. IndyCar passed.
Undeterred by the slight, DeltaWing's backers picked themselves up and rebuilt the car for the most important and demanding race in the world: The 24 Hours of Le Mans. To paraphrase High Fidelity, it's sort of like asking for $10, being rejected, and then asking for $1,000,000.
[gallery 5892843]Today, they announced they've got a new partner and a new design — with lights on its haunches so it can race at night. Nissan will provide the sponsorship and the engine for the even more radically different Nissan DeltaWing. It'll go nose-to-nose with the most expensive and advanced closed-wheel race cars in the world this June and it'll do it with an engine out of a tiny crossover.
The Nissan Juke is cute, but it's so obviously not a huge performer that Nissan dropped a GT-R drivetrain in it to create the Nissan Juke R. Yet a heavily massaged version of the car's 1.6-liter turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline four-cylinder engine is now the power source for the DeltaWing.
How will it compete?
Despite the small engine, the DeltaWing has a few advantages. The bizarre design takes out approximately half the weight of the vehicle and reduces its aerodynamic footprint by 50% compared to its competitors. You need less power when you weigh less and reduce drag.
Equally as important in a 24-hour race, the DeltaWing also uses about half as much fuel. Fewer pitstops mean more laps running. It's total performance should be somewhere between the LMP1 cars like the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro and the LMP1 vehicles like the ORECA O3.
Of course, the DeltaWing doesn't actually have any competitors. It'll be racing in the "Garage 56" spot, which is reserved for futuristic racers. It can't win any trophies, but if it makes it around the track for 24 hours it'll certainly win a lot of attention.
How will it turn?
This is the big question that plagues the project. Turning requires grip and grip requires tire surface area and the small Michelin-designed tires aren't gigantic.
DeltaWing's designers are hoping the fact that the engine, driver, and most of the mass are over the rear axle of the vehicle will work towards its maneuverability. The wheels only need to turn a small amount because they're out at the end of this huge, rear-biased vehicle.
There's now video of it turning at high speed and it appears this process works, although it must be freaky to drive something whose nose is so far ahead of you.
If the car finishes the 24 Hours of Le Mans and posts a respectable time this idea once too crazy for IndyCar might suddenly be a future too crazy to pass up.