EAGLE DELTA WING FOR 2012 LE MANS
By Gordon Kirby
It’s a great pleasure to report that Ben Bowlby’s revolutionary Delta Wing will race in next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. The Delta Wing will be built in California by Dan Gurney’s legendary All American Racers and raced by ALMS champion Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft team. ALMS founder Dan Panoz is a consultant to the combine which calls itself ‘The Project 56 Group’. Starting next year the ACO has created an additional 56th starting position at Le Mans for technologically innovative cars to compete outside the conventional Le Mans classes and the Delta Wing will be the first car to occupy the great race’s 56th position.
“When the ACO management met the representative of the Delta Wing project everybody thought immediately that it would be a high quality project for Le Mans Experimental entry in 2012,” said Vincent Beaumesnil, the ACO’s Directeur Sports. “The interest in this project is based on the optimisation of all factors that have an impact on global energy consumption and efficiency of the car: weight, power, drag. The ACO want to give the opportunity to evaulate each technology and this project shows that ahead of hybrid, bio fuel or electric technology we can explore other ways to improve efficiency.”
And that’s what the Delta Wing is all about--improving efficiency, not only with its radical, wingless aerodynamic concept aimed at reducing conventional drag numbers by half, but also much less weight--the complete car will weigh just 475 kgs--and with only 300 horsepower required to make the car achieve 240 mph straightaway speeds and competitive lap times with the fastest Le Mans Prototypes.
A deal has yet to be struck with a motor manufacturer but it’s expected that the car will be powered by a 1.6 litre 4-cylinder turbo engine producing 300 hp at 8,000 rpm. Tyres will most likely come from Bridgestone--who built development tyres for last year’s full scale wind tunnel model--or Michelin.
“The car has a three-point layout with the narrow front and wide rear track as opposed to the rectangular layout of contemporary racing cars,” commented Delta Wing designer Ben Bowlby. “We need much less chassis torsional stiffness for handling performance so we don’t need to use such stiff and brittle materials in the chassis. We can use light, tough and energy-absorbing materials instead.
“We really have to applaud the ACO for having the foresight to create this opportunity for an entry like ours,” Bowlby added. “We believe this is a true automotive innovation which could be the catalyst for changing the way people look at not only racing car design, but automotive design as a whole.”
Dan Gurney is renowned as one of America’s most creative racing car builders and he’s delighted to bring the Eagle name back into business after more than ten years on the sidelines. “The Delta Wing weighs half as much as current cars,” Gurney observed. “It burns half as much fuel, uses much less tyre and goes the same speed because of the exceptional aerodynamics and low drag.
“After looking at the project and the technical aspects of the car I was asked if we would like to build it,” Dan added. “I didn’t hesitate for a moment. My response was absolutely yes. I have a lot of curiousity and when I first discussed this car with Ben Bowlby I listened closely and tried to shoot holes in what he was saying, but I quickly found I wasn’t able to. I believe the targets and predictions are valid.”
Duncan Dayton is a highly-respected historic racing competitor who’s scored ten wins over the years in Monaco’s historic weekend. Dayton’s Highcroft team won the ALMS championship the past two years, competed at Le Mans for the first time last year and finished a resounding second at Sebring this year.
“In my opinion the Delta Wing has the potential to be one of the most significant developments in motor racing in 50 years,” Dayton declared. “It is so new and exciting, and such an interesting departure from the traditional race car development path. It is highly relevant to the future.
“Given that the world is concentrating on efficiency and green technologies in an attempt to achieve sustainability, this project, in my opinion, will help promote the direction that is being adopted throughout the entire automotive industry.”
All American Racers starts work next month on the prototype Delta Wing and Highcroft will start testing the car later this year. We will be watching the project unfold with great interest.