Declaring it has "unfinished business" after being unceremoniously shoved out of the famous Le Mans 24 Hours in June, the team behind the Nissan DeltaWing has announced the unique car will return to action at next month's Petit Le Mans.
The pioneering, dart-shaped Nissan DeltaWing will race for the second time at next month's American Le Mans Series finale at Road Atlanta on Oct. 17-20. Led by Nissan Americas Vice-Chairman, Bill Krueger, the announcement took place Monday at Nissan's North American headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.
Designed and built with the aim of completing the Le Mans 24 Hours using half the fuel and half the tires of contemporary sports prototypes, the Nissan DeltaWing was forced to retire from the French endurance classic after six hours, following contact with another car.
Existing race commitments mean that all three of the Nissan DeltaWing Le Mans drivers – Satoshi Motoyama, Marino Franchitti and Michael Krumm – will be unavailable for Petit Le Mans, Nissan's original GT Academy champion, Spaniard Lucas Ordonez is set to race the car at Road Atlanta, along with American Le Mans Series 2011 PC class champion Gunnar Jeannette.
"Le Mans was a huge success for us – the car did everything we wanted it to do and more, proving that the pioneering technology we were testing in the world's most public laboratory works and is a viable option for the future sustainability of motorsport," said Darren Cox, general manager, Nissan in Europe. "The only thing that didn't go our way was the way the race ended for us, which was entirely out of our control. Because we'd proven the technology worked, it was hard to be too disappointed, but we were blown away by the level of support and goodwill that came our way from the fans so now we feel we owe it to them to race again.
"I'm very proud that Lucas will get his chance in the car – the GT Academy is a major innovation in motorsport that is making the elitist sport of motor racing genuinely accessible to everyone, including those who do not have access to big budgets and sponsorship. Lucas is living proof that the innovation works."
Ordonez is an LMP2 veteran with Nissan, having raced for the Signatech and Greaves Motorsport squads and ORECA 03 and Zytek chassis, respectively. The Spaniard is joined by Jeannette, ALMS PC class co-champion a year ago with CORE autosport.
The DeltaWing's appearance is also timely given the Sept. 5 merger announcement between ALMS and Grand-Am for 2014, as options are being explored to see the DeltaWing in action for the combined series.
"The DeltaWing can race in the 2013 American Le Mans Series and it is part of the merger agreement for ALMS and Grand-Am," said ALMS founder and DeltaWing partner Don Panoz. "Safety and performance standards have to be achieved, but it needs to be reviewed. For 2014, the new series would incorporate Daytona prototypes, Le Mans prototypes, and maybe even a DeltaWing.
"Petit Le Mans has built up a reputation as one of the largest sports car races in the world. Every section of the Nissan organization has supported this car and I think the fans will love getting to see what RACER magazine called a ‘gamechanger,'” he added.
As for Petit, Nissan DeltaWing's visionary creator, Ben Bowlby, said: "At Petit Le Mans, we will get the chance to show the U.S. fans just how cool this car is but also the chance to prove that it works on a much tighter, twistier road course, rather than the flat-out, 300kph, Le Mans-style racetrack. It's important for us to gain in lap experience, testing and driver feedback and really validate the whole concept."
ALMS President and COO heralded the news, noting that it adds to a lineup already bolstered by the addition of ELMS teams alongside ALMS regulars.
“Don Panoz, Ben Bowlby and the entire DeltaWing team expertly blended their talents into the development, testing and proof of performance with the DeltaWing's competition debut at Le Mans,” Atherton said. “We are truly fortunate to have this remarkable car make its American debut at Petit Le Mans. Adding the DeltaWing to our already world-class field of entries, including those from the European Le Mans Series, will make this a spectacular curtain call for our 14th season.”