Huge news on the motorsport front today – news that could have implications for several of the world's top motor racing series.
While news about Formula One focuses on just about everything but the sport (the Grand Prix of Canada will be run in Montreal this weekend but the focus of most of the reporting is whether or not the series should race in Bahrain this year) and the IndyCar Series prepares to race in Texas using cars that are 10 years old after rejecting a radical new design called the DeltaWing for use post-2012, it was announced today that the DeltaWing will go racing after all – in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans.
And a team thought to be gearing up for an entry in the IndyCar series, two-time American Le Mans Series champions Highcroft Racing, is going sports car racing.
Here is a partial text of the Highcroft Racing announcement this morning, issued two days in advance of this year's Le Mans 24:
“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 — who sold Mosport International Raceway to Canadian racing champion Ron Fellows and two partners last week — 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. . .
“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 (Ed. note: Or anywhere else, for that matter). The car features a slender nose with extremely narrow front track – minimizing the horsepower required to push the car to speeds of 200 miles an hour 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.”
I suggest the DeltaWing will come back to haunt IndyCar, which rejected the concept in favour of a bit of same-old, same-old from Dallara. IndyCar had the chance to turn the racing world on its ear and blew the opportunity.
Now, the car that could have revolutionized IndyCar racing will start to influence the future of sports car racing and the interest it elicits could have ramifications for F1 as well.
Once upon a time, world sports car racing was much bigger than formula car racing, only to lose momentum in the latter part of the 20th Century. This little piece of news today could start to close the gap.
Meantime, practice for the Canadian Grand Prix will start Friday at 10 a.m. and you can watch live streaming on www.speedtv.com. There will no commentary but you will hear the sounds of the cars. The third practice on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. will also be live-streamed.
There will be no TV available in Canada for the second practice session on Friday at 2 p.m. but you can watch qualifying Saturday on TSN at 1 p.m. and the race, of course, on Sunday on TSN at 12:55 p.m.
For a link to the live-streaming, click here.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans can be seen on SPEED channel, starting Saturday at 8:30 and going until 11:30 a. m., picking up again at 3:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. and then from 11 p.m. until the finish Sunday morning.
The IndyCar Series will be running twin 275-lap races at Texas Motor Speedway. They can be seen Saturday night on TSN beginning at 8 p.m.
By the way, the NASCAR Pocono 500 can be seen Sunday on TSN2, starting at noon.
One bit of IndyCar news of note:
Todd Malloy, son of Toronto Star Wheels contributor Gerry Malloy and the subject of my newspaper column last Saturday after he engineered Dan Wheldon’s car to Victory Lane in the Indianapolis 500, will be the race engineer at Texas this weekend for the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car driven by Alex Tagliani for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
He replaces Allen McDonald, who earlier this week returned to Andretti Autosport as director of engineering and race engineer for the No. 27 car driven by Mike Conway.
"We are very fortunate to have Todd with us this weekend," team manager Rob Edwards said. "Since he was part of the engineering group (Nos. 77, 98 and 99 teams) working together at Indy, it will help the transition.
“At the same time, Allen was part of the founding group of this team; so much of the continuity that has built up over the last 18 months will be lost. Instead of work happening intuitively, we will have to learn to work together as we go."
(Editor’s note: He sounds just a little annoyed, doesn’t he?)
McDonald was the chief race engineer for Tagliani, who won the pole for the Indy 500.