The unique DeltaWing Le Mans sports car that will make its debut at next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans will tackle the world's greatest endurance race on Michelin tires, the team announced, as it revealed its actual Le Mans racer for the first time. (Scroll down for video of the announcement.)
The Highcroft Racing-run entry was announced by the Automobile Club d'Ouest in June as the successful applicant to occupy “Garage 56” for 2012 – the additional entry reserved for new and unique automotive technologies. The racecar was unveiled Friday at Road Atlanta ahead of the final round of the American Le Mans Series – the 10 hour/1,000 mile Petit Le Mans. Highcroft's Duncan Dayton revealed the striking red DeltaWing concept with Scott Clark, Chief Operating Officer, Michelin Americas Small Tires.
Michelin is no stranger at working with Highcroft Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series. The Danbury, Conn.-based team pioneered the use of wide front tires on the LMP1-championship winning Acura ARX-02a in conjunction with Michelin in 2009.
The world's leading tire manufacturer was also a team partner in Highcroft's 2010 ALMS championship win as well as its second place run at this year's Twelve Hours of Sebring – a race where the Highcroft squad carried a livery promoting the French manufacturer's latest high-performance road tire, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport.
For the DeltaWing project, Michelin will design and develop unique tires for the car. The front tires on the DeltaWing are only 4in. wide while both front and rear tires will be fitted to 15in. rims (compared to 18in. on traditional LMP1 sports cars).
“To have Michelin on board for the Project 56 DeltaWing program is a real privilege for everyone involved,” Highcroft Racing founder, Duncan Dayton said. “Highcroft Racing has a had a great relationship with Michelin in the past through our Acura/HPD program and we worked very closely together in developing the large format front tire on the ARX-02a. With Michelin's direct input and incredible engineering expertise, we are thrilled to welcome them as a partner for the DeltaWing program.
“For our designer Ben Bowlby to be able to work with the Michelin engineers and have them design these unique tires for the DeltaWing is an amazing opportunity for us.”
Michelin and its partner teams have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the past 14 years in succession.
Designed by Bowlby, the DeltaWing car features half the weight, half the horsepower and half the aerodynamic drag of a traditional sports car. Targeting extreme automotive efficiency – gaining maximum performance for minimal use of natural resources – the Project 56 consortium behind the project will now aim for a similar reduction in the amount of tires required to contest the event.
“The initial announcement of the DeltaWing at Le Mans drew tremendous interest around the world, and not just from race fans,” said Nick Shorrock, director of competition, Michelin. “The car is very different. People look at this car, say, ‘How will this turn?' and they recognize that there are some very interesting ideas at work. We look forward to being part of the answer.”
The Project 56 consortium features Dayton's Highcroft Racing running the test and race program, Ben Bowlby and DeltaWing Racing Cars designing the unique entry, Dan Gurney's All-American Racers building the initial prototype and American Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz providing the unique lightweight R.E.A.M.S. bodywork material and acting as a key adviser.
“When you think of success at Le Mans from a tire manufacturer's perspective, Michelin is an absolute standout. They have won the race overall 14 times in a row so for us to be able to go to that track which has such unique requirements for a tire is a huge advantage,” Dayton said. “Michelin's ability and experience in running multiple stints – two, three, four or even five stints this year on the same set of tires is unique and their experience is something we are going to rely on heavily.”
Michelin has significantly extended the wear rate of its tires and reduced the number of tires used by its technical partner teams by over 20 percent in just the past three years.
“The DeltaWing is the ultimate efficient racecar with half the weight, half the aerodynamic drag and half the horsepower of a traditional LMP1 car. In developing our partnership with Michelin, we hope to use half the number of tires as well,” Dayton said.
Michelin is the first key technical partner announced as part of the new project. Construction of the new car is under way at All American Racers and Highcroft expect to test the DeltaWing for the first time later this year.