This is the DeltaWing, a Nissan-powered race car that will run in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans as an experiment taking its first laps in the United States on Thursday. Its creators aren't chasing a victory so much as a validation that their ideas could make racing better. Think of it as a Batmobile for the race track.
Built by a consortium of racing firms and suppliers headed by designer Ben Bowlby and endurance-racing backer Don Panos, the DeltaWing was created as a possible alternative to IndyCars. When Indy racing decided to stick with a more traditional design, the DeltaWing's backers looked for other opportunities to prove their concept.
The rocket-shaped DeltaWing looks that way because it's built less like a traditional race car and more like a land-speed racer that can also turn. Weighing roughly half what a regular Le Mans race car might, with less aerodynamic drag due to its narrow profile, the DeltaWing's creators expect to run between the top two prototype classes at Le Mans -- even though the Nissan-supplied turbo four-cylinder engine will only produce 300 hp, about 200 hp less than the front-runners.
The driver sits nearly over the rear axle, creating a rear weight bias that makes the front of the car easier to turn. Cornering duties up front are handled by a pair of specially designed Michelin tires just four inches wide each. Ever since its reveal, racing wags have questioned whether such narrow tires could produce enough cornering force at speed to make the DeltaWing more than a toy. The video below -- and the DeltaWing's spot on the LeMans grid -- suggests the DeltaWing has much to teach the sport.