Next weekend's Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda will be the first race in North America for the Nissan DeltaWing. The good news is that it certainly won't be the last.
The American Le Mans Series and sanctioning body IMSA revealed today that the revolutionary new prototype would compete as a fully classified car in the 2013 ALMS season. As it did at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nissan DeltaWing is set to run unclassified at Road Atlanta as a factory-backed entry. The unique car features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodynamic drag but all of the performance of a typical Le Mans prototype.
“Nissan DeltaWing attracted enormous fan and media interest throughout the world as a result of it racing at Le Mans – and fan interest in seeing the DeltaWing race at Petit Le Mans is extremely strong,” said Scott Atherton, ALMS President and CEO. “There is no question DeltaWing is selling tickets as a result of it making its North American competition debut at Road Atlanta.”
The goal? IMSA will collect and analyze race data at Petit Le Mans to create the rules for DeltaWing to compete as a championship-contending car in the ALMS for customers. That is expected to come less than a year from the car's worldwide debut that occurred in June at Le Mans.
The 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans will provide a stark contrast for designer Ben Bowlby and the DeltaWing team – including drivers Gunnar Jeannette and Lucas Ordonez. The 2.54-mile Road Atlanta is dramatically shorter, tighter and features more elevation changes than the 8.5-mile Le Mans circuit.
“Seeing the car compete at Petit Le Mans will provide us with an important comparison to the current prototype competition,” said Scot Elkins, ALMS and IMSA COO. “The car has some significant advantages (lower weight) and major disadvantages (lower horsepower). The data gathered from Petit Le Mans will be very important for us to finalize the rules package and apply any performance balancing which may be required.”
What's certain is that those battles will continue beyond 2012. Don Panoz, ALMS founder and DeltaWing Racing Cars managing partner, is excited about the possibility of seeing more of the slender-nosed machines do battle into the future.
“We've certainly had a lot of inquires from teams interested in the car, but the big unknown for people has been whether or not the car could compete for a championship (in 2013),” Panoz said.
“We are still learning a great deal about the car, and the recent tests at Road Atlanta have proven to be very beneficial for the program,” he added. “Those lessons will be used for the updated 2013 car with a number of changes that will improve reliability and further enhance safety. The fans want to see it, the teams are very interested – I think the car is going to provide sports car racing with major boost for the future.”