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DeltaWing Racing's latest innovation to race in Petit Le Mans
1018DeltaWing
The DeltaWing Coupe car runs practice laps in the rain Thursday morning in preparation for Saturday’s Pettit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta in Braselton. - photo by Rick Dole Photography | For The Times

Petit Le Mans

What: American Le Mans Series event, 10 hours or 1,000 miles

When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday

Where: Road Atlanta, 5300 Winder Highway, Braselton

How much: $70 at gate

TV: 11 a.m., Fox Sports 2 (cable, satellite); tape replay, 4 p.m. Sunday, Fox Sports 1

Schedule

Friday

3:30-5 p.m. Race — NASCAR K&N Pro Series (90-minute race window)
5:10-5:40 p.m. — Car Corral Parade Laps (SRT) (100 cars maximum)

Saturday

9:15-9:40 a.m. — Warm up, ALMS (all classes)
10-11:30 a.m. — Pre-race activities and grid walk
11:30 a.m. — Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda for ALMS (Round 10), 1,000 Miles or 10 Hours

The future of racing is being shaped right here in Northeast Georgia. And, during the Petit Le Mans this weekend at Road Atlanta, one possible future will be on display.

DeltaWing Racing Cars, a Braselton-based group of investment partners in the process of developing some of the most futuristic, environmentally friendly race cars, is set to show off its latest creation, the DeltaWing Coupe.

“It is great for us because it is the home track,” team manager David Price said. “This is where it was built, where we operate from and it is always good to be at a home race wherever you are around the world.”

The DeltaWing Coupe is just the newest design from a race team that has set out to create the future of race cars.

While normal race cars are often heavy, turn a high rate of horse power and burn through fuel at a rapid pace, the DeltaWing Coupe is much different.

“It’s half the horse power, it’s half the weight, it’s half the fuel and it competes with the big cars,” Managing Partner Don Panoz said. “If you took that to the next stage, which we are looking into, you could have a car that performed like a hybrid that doesn’t need any batteries or electric motor.”

“In any racing car, you want to make it as efficient as possible,” Price added. “And this car is the most efficient that is available anywhere at the moment.

“It’s the way everyone wants to go, from race cars as well as road cars.”

The original DeltaWing was an open cockpit car conceptualized by Chip Ganassi Racing in hopes of becoming the new official car for the IndyCar Series, only to have the proposal turned down in July 2010. It made its first-ever racing appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2012, after the design licenses were purchased by DeltaWing Racing.

Later that year, the DeltaWing car made its North American race debut at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Despite being involved in a wreck the weekend of the event, the DeltaWing recovered and finished in fifth place overall after starting last in the 42-car field.

“Everybody that saw this car, all the so-called knowledgeable people in racing, said the car wouldn’t turn and it would fly,” Panoz said. “It didn’t do that.

“It really shows that this innovative technology, using lightweight materials and special aerodynamic forces, that’s the key to it.”

Now with the DeltaWing Coupe car, which made its first two racing appearances less than two months ago, the DeltaWing team is looking to once again turn some heads at Road Atlanta, the local backyard race track that will have national exposure this weekend.

Competing in the P1 classification, the DeltaWing Coupe will be driven by Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge, the only female driver in this weekend’s race.

With the car being unveiled only about six weeks ago, it is a longshot to claim a victory, Panoz said. But, during the Thursday morning practice session, which was conducted in wet weather, the DeltaWing Coupe was the fastest car on the race track, able to top out at speeds around 185 miles per hour.

“You always like to think you could win a race, but in reality, it will be very difficult for us to win this race,” Price said. “It is only the third time we’ve been out with this car and we are still developing it. It is the longest race we will have done, that’s for sure.”

Moving forward, the DeltaWing Coupe will compete next season in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which will be formed when the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series combine.

And, while the Coupe still does not comply with the international regulations of sports cars, the interest in the new form of race car is growing.

“A lot of people are interested in it now because Don has let it be known that we will build these for sale now,” Price said. “We are in the process of building cars for customers.

“It is not such a freak thing as it was a few years ago. It is being recognized.”

The DeltaWing Racing Team will also continue to improve and develop new cars that have the same philosophy of being lighter, use half the horse power and fuel, but can still compete in some of the top racing series in the world.

“We are going to race it as a sports car in the prototype class and then we are going to look at the possibility of doing a GT car and other cars that can race, maybe morphing into a road car,” Panoz said.

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