The DeltaWing car looks more like a land speed record challenger than a road racing vehicle, but that’s just what it is. Originally put forth as a contender for the Indy Racing League car replacement in 2012, it was just too radical a change for the powers that be to see it as a replacement for the Dallara chassis. In fact Dallara redesigned its Indy car and won the competition for the new Indy car design.
DeltaWing could have just given up at that point, but the designer Ben Bowlby didn’t see that as an option. He hooked up with Dan Partel and Bill LaFontaine to develop the concept car further. DeltaWing Racing engaged Chip Ganassi, Dan Gurney, Don Panoz, and Duncan Dayton in “Project 56”, their entry in the 2012 LeMans.
As I look at the DeltaWing I must admit it is difficult for me to picture it as a road course race car. The very narrow front end on the long wheel base just doesn’t intuitively strike me as the design element that will result in elegant cornering capabilities.
So let’s look at some of the design elements that could make it the evolutionary change that motorsports needs. It has a drag coefficient of 0.24. In order for it to exceed 220 miles per hour it only requires 325 brake horse power. Including the weight of the driver the car weighs in at 1030 pounds. It has minimized aerodynamic disruption from its wake and still produces gobs of downforce. All the wheels are shrouded to minimize aerodynamic disruption. Seventy-five percent of the weight is on the rear.
So it should be fast, economical, and fuel efficient. All of these are important characteristics for racing now and in the future.
But as I try to imagine the job of driving this car I encounter a mind block that is hard to overcome. When taking a corner the driver will have a vary narrow front end and a very wide rear track on a relatively long wheel base. How will the driver adapt to hitting an apex in a manner where he doesn’t drag the rear tires over the infield? How will the long wheelbase deal with track undulations?
In most race cars the driver is located close to the center of rotation of a car. With the DeltaWing the driver appears to be back too far and the narrow front end appears to be prone to massive understeer.
On race cars with wide front tracks you set up negative camber on the front. What is the setup for this configuration?
I remember the days of CanAm when the Shadow race car tried ultra small diameter front wheels and tires to lower the drag coefficient of the front of the car. Among a host of other problems the car couldn’t produce enough front braking within the confines of the front wheels.
I remember when Tyrel ran a F1 car with dual front suspensions for similar reasons. Even the great Sir Jackie Stewart couldn’t make a silk purse out of it.
Some of the greatest achievements in motor racing were radical approaches. Changing from a front engine to a mid-engine layout shook up the open-wheel racing world, especially Indy. Ground effects and down force were radical changes in body-chassis design that changed race car design forever.
I would like to think of myself as someone who looks to thinking “out of the box”. For the moment I have to admit that the DeltaWing is just too far out of the box for me. We should all pay attention to the 2012 LeMans race and be prepared to see our racing world go through a revolutionary change.