Some of the biggest names in American motorsport have joined forces for the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans to showcase a unique concept demonstrating extreme performance with half the weight and horsepower of a traditional racing car.
The Project 56 group brings together the design talents of DeltaWing Racing Cars LLC; the manufacturing capabilities of All American Racers - the company owned by 1967 Le Mans winner and American racing legend Dan Gurney; and back-to-back American Le Mans Series championship winning racing team, Highcroft Racing.
American Le Mans Series founder Dr. Don Panoz has also joined the project as a key advisor.
The group has received an invitation from Le Mans 24 Hour race organizers, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to contest the 2012 race as an additional 56th entry.
The 56th place on the grid is reserved for a technologically innovative car to participate “outside the classifications” – a vehicle showcasing new applications and unique technologies previously unseen in the world’s greatest endurance race.
While racing cars have traditionally strived for increased performance through gains in horsepower and aerodynamic downforce, the DeltaWing concept concentrates on exploiting efficiency gains found outside contemporary regulations to reduce fuel consumption without reducing performance.
The new and experimental car is targeting competitive performance with only half the horsepower of the outright contenders. It does this through halving the amount of aerodynamic drag of traditional racing cars as well as a similar reduction in weight.
The Project 56 Group is in discussion with engine partners to provide a 1.6-liter turbocharged power plant for the project – producing approximately 300 horsepower.
The car will be unlike any previously seen at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car features a slender nose with extremely narrow front track – minimizing the horsepower required to push the car to speeds of 200mph around the 8.5 mile circuit.
Eliminating the use of traditional wings, downforce for the DeltaWing is generated solely beneath the car by the contoured underbody.
The DeltaWing selection was revealed today at the ACO’s annual press conference coinciding with this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans event.
Construction of the new machine will begin next month at Gurney’s California facility. The Highcroft Racing team will begin track testing of the new car later this year.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest and most famous endurance race. First held in 1923, the event has attracted the world’s finest automotive manufacturers and drivers.
Highcroft contested the race for the first time in 2010 while Gurney won the race in 1967 aboard a Ford GT40 with AJ Foyt – famously spraying champagne on the podium for the first time to kick start a now world-renowned tradition.