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by Jay Traugott
An unconventional race car project loses its main sponsor despite surprising the critics. This year it returns under Mazda power.
Nobody took it seriously until the DeltaWing racing prototype actually managed to keep pace at Le Mans last year (before crashing out). And this year it finished the Petit Le Mans in fifth place.
It's that kind of innovation that a major automaker would be eager to get behind as Nissan did, and the success to spur it on. But reports from the motor racing sphere now indicate that Nissan is withdrawing its support from the program. So just call it DeltaWing, minus the Nissan name, from now on.
The Japanese automaker stated that it "had a blast with DeltaWing and will always have a major soft spot for that car and wishes Dr. Don Panoz and all the other partners in the DeltaWing all the best for the future." The question is now what's going to happen to the project as a whole? SpeedTV mentions that Panoz and his crew will continue to develop the car and will likely replace the Nissan 1.6-liter engine with a new 1.9-liter unit from Mazda that will reportedly be lighter and will feature direct injection and twin turbos with a total output of around 345 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque.
Expect to see the improved DeltaWing (minus the Nissan name) debut this season at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March, after which there are supposed plans to enclose the cockpit in time for Laguna Seca in May, effectively turning it into a coupe. If everything goes smoothly, Panoz has plans to bring the DeltaWing coupe to other racing series in the near future.