The Nissan DeltaWing may be listed on the results sheet as a retirement, but after being forced out of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the revolutionary car has undoubtedly won the hearts and minds of fans throughout the world.
Six hours and 15 minutes into the race, the Nissan DeltaWing with Satoshi Motoyama behind the wheel was pushed off the road by the Toyota prototype of Kazuki Nakajima and suffered a hard impact into the wall on the exit of the Porsche Curves.
Motoyama worked for more than 90 minutes to try to repair the car to get it back to the pits but the damage to both the right rear and front of the car was too severe.
The focal point of the DeltaWing is no doubt the very narrow nose with the wheels mounted side-by-side. The suspension was bolted to an extension of the carbon-fibre monocoque and consists of very short, unequal length double wishbones with coil springs and dampers but no anti-roll bar.
Powering designer Ben Bowlby’s innovative DeltaWing racer is a competition version of chief sponsor Nissan’s direct injection four-cylinder engine developed by RML in England. Displacing 1,600 cc, the turbocharged unit is officially rated at 300 bhp. This power is fed to the rear wheels through a five speed gearbox.
Another key element of the DeltaWing design is the highly efficient aerodynamics. Using a very narrow nose with arrow-shaped side-pods, the car produces only very little drag. Rear-view cameraswere initially specified but on the ACO’s insistence, conventional mirrors have been fitted, reportedly increasing drag by 8%. The necessary downforce is generated by ground-effect tunnels fitted under each of the two side-pods. These create low pressure area under the car, effectively sucking it to the ground.
Another essential aspect of the design was to keep the weight down to a minimum. Lightweight materials were used throughout and even the engine only weighs 91 kg. As a result the complete DeltaWing without fuel and driver tips the scales at just 475 kg. The very low weight and drag figures allow the car to run at the same speeds as much bigger engined machinery, while at the same time using less fuel and tires.