Innovation is the name of the game for prototype racing, and the team behind Delta Wing Racing have almost cornered the revolutionary design market with their unique racing machine. Developed by Don Panoz, in cooperation with Nissan/Renault for the 2012 Le Mans Racing season, the racecar is lighter, smaller, and more maneuverable than it's larger cousins. Unlike the original Panoz designed prototype cars, the rear engined, rear wheel driven design of the DeltaWing utilizes a totally original steering, propulsion, and driver compartment set-up, and it just might be the epitome of #thefuture.
This is the second generation of the automobile, and the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the first 24 hour endurance race for the DeltaWing coupe. In the end, the revolutionary prototype traversed its longest distance so far, logging 288 laps and 1,035 miles in 16 hours before transmission failure ended their pursuit for the coveted Rolex Daytona, at least until 2015!
"First of all, the crew did a terrific job to keep the car going," stated driver Katherine Legge. "This is the longest we’ve ever gone and when I was out on the track, the car was great. Very balanced, very good in traffic. It’s hard not to finish but we know that we are heading in the right direction and it’s just a matter of continuing what we’re doing."
Season-long DeltaWing drivers Katherine Legge and Andy Meyrick logged two double stints each, with Gabby Chaves and Alexander Rossi each taking one double stint during the night.
"Everyone has dealt with the challenge of our first 24 hour race together as a team with a terrific spirit," added Andy Meyrick. "The car ran very well, so it was disappointing not to finish, especially given how hard the team worked. This is a very different race from the other 24 hour races, mostly due to the sheer number of cars. You literally could do a double stint and not get a single clean lap. It’s tough on the driver, because you’re constantly in traffic, but it’s especially nice to have ‘sorting out’ periods where you can get the engine cool and heat up the tires."
While Meyrick enjoyed two relatively uneventful stints, the three other drivers had to deal with mechanical problems that caused the DeltaWing coupe to make several trips to the garage area for repairs.
"I’m pleased that after all the issues we had, the crew was so persistent in getting the car fixed, so hat’s off to them," commented Gabby Chaves. "They worked all night to get the DeltaWing back on track. But if you look at the past results, the team knows what they need to do and are taking steps forward. That’s the positive."
The team's steadfast refusal to give up allowed each of the four drivers to experience the machine’s full potential during their racing stints. Running at a pace close to the leaders for much of the race, the DeltaWing coupe ran its quickest on lap 100, with a fast time of 1:40.975.
"My sports car racing experience is very limited but this was very different from Le Mans," concluded Formula One test driver Alexander Rossi. "It’s a lot more difficult, just because the track is so much shorter and you have cars around you that are a lot heavier and more aggressive. So from that respect, it is harder, which surprised me. This race is so draining – at Le Mans, you have so many straights that you can reset and take a breath. But here, you have to be mentally on all the time, because you’re always passing cars in a short distance. But it was a privilege to take part in it, though it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to finish. But I think the car made it longer than it has in the past, so that’s a positive."
Next up for the DeltaWing Racing Cars team is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 12 – 15 from Sebring International Raceway, race two of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Stay tuned to this column for continuing coverage surrounding the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend, as well as interviews and behind-the-scenes access to some of the sports greatest teams, while in March, this examiner travels to the 12 hours for even more endurance racing action!
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