Over two years ago, a group of IndyCar team owners revealed a prototype called the DeltaWing that was aimed at changing the IndyCar racing scene forever. Some people scoffed at its design and wrote the car off as an experiment that would never pay off. Jump ahead to now, and the Nissan-backed DeltaWing has actually managed to complete its first race, and with respectable placement too.
The experimental DeltaWing entered and completed the 24-hour, 1,000-mile (1,609-km) Petit Le Mans in Atlanta, Georgia. The car was driven by American Gunnar Jeannette and Spaniard Lucas Ordoñez, who split duties during the grueling race.
Last time Nissan entered its odd-looking car into a race, it was forced out after six hours when it made contact with another prototype. Things actually looked worse this time for Nissan, as the team had to completely rebuild during testing after American driver Gunnar Jeannette rolled it over when he was struck by a GTC-class Porsche. It was a dramatic event, but the team ultimately got the car ready for race day, and from then on, it was relatively smooth sailing.
Because the car is an experiment, it had to start at the back of the grid, and was given the number 0. However, Jeannette (who started the race) managed to pass eight cars on the opening lap. When he handed the car over to Ordoñez, he had managed to move the Nissan into eighth out of the 42 car field.
When the dust cleared, the DeltaWing crossed the line in sixth position, but after a P2 car was excluded due to a driver exceeding the maximum drive time, the DeltaWing was granted fifth place overall.
So what makes this car remarkable enough that I felt compelled to spend five paragraphs recounting its harrowing tale? Essentially, because it is nothing like the conventional cars that run these types of races. It looks more like the Batmobile than a traditional IndyCar. It weighs half as much as most IndyCars and produces only half the aerodynamic drag. This means it can use a much smaller engine than the competition and therefore, produce much greater fuel efficiency.
In fact, the DeltaWing uses a 1.6L four-cylinder engine with direct petrol injection and a turbocharger. It produces a minuscule (at least in terms of IndyCars) 300 hp, which is about half of what most other cars push. It is a true testament to sound design that the car is able to do so well, even when it's lacking so much in terms of power.
The video below shows the experimental car is action during the Petit Le Mans.