The Nissan DeltaWing program, an attempt to engineer a sleeker, more efficient race car for the 21st century, suffered a tough blow earlier this year when it was crashed out of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Its backers were hoping for some redemption at this weekend's Petit Le Mans race in Atlanta -- but had to rebuild their DeltaWing after it was crashed into yet again, sending the narrow-nosed car rolling across the track with the driver's helmet scraping on the tarmac. The video was enough for NASCAR's leading driver to express his doubts whether the DeltaWing should race at all.
Powered by a 300-hp Nissan four-cylinder, and riding on four-inch-wide front tires, the DeltaWing driven by Gunnar Jeannette had been running at competitive speeds with the prototype class during practice at Road Atlanta when a Porsche 911 GTC car struck it with a force the engineers later said measured 7Gs. Jeannette was not injured thanks to his roll bar.
After an all-night build session, the Highcroft Racing team behind the DeltaWing says they'll be ready to race, a preview for an expanded racing season next year. But the wreck only stirred up questions already circling the DeltaWing's suitability, with its lighter weight and needle-nose shape making it easier to tip on the track.
NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Brad Keselowski took to Twitter last night with his concerns, saying the DeltaWing was "not a race car" and "a strange experiment from car designers who don't get racing." He added: "I'm all about moving forward...the future of racing relies on drastically evolving the drivetrain...efficiency and reducing the aero dependency w/o compromising aesthetics to our respective fan base(s)." No one who's crashed at 200 mph as many times as Keselowski has would argue with the benefits of a steel safety cage, but the DeltaWing will need to keep its tires right side up this weekend to tamp down similar doubts.