|Nissan Nordic Europe|
Chairman, AAR, DeltaWing constructor
An American motor sport legend, Dan Gurney's racing career netted four Grand Prix victories (including the first ever GP wins for Porsche, Brabham and his own Eagle chassis). Having won Le Mans for Ford in 1967, Gurney started a motor sport tradition by becoming the first man to spray champagne from the podium.
What attracted you to the DeltaWing project?
It was the unusual aspect of it. DeltaWing uses proven physics that have been established for a long time... but it's never been done in the order Ben (Bowlby) has done it. It also appeared to be something that could very well have made a huge change in IndyCar racing. That got my attention.
Did you have any doubts it would work?
At first, yes, but talking to Ben was the major sales point as far as I was concerned. I did have doubts in my mind but Ben had good answers for every question I had. So after I failed to shoot any holes in his concept, I finally felt that he was right. At that point I knew the only way to get somewhere with the project was to build and demonstrate it. I've always loved a challenge!
You've witnessed a number of highly talented designers and innovative thinkers in your time. Is Ben as good as the greats like Colin Chapman and Jim Hall?
I would say yes, I would put him in that category. Like Colin Chapman, Ben loves to rise to a challenge and he's great on the engineering and conceptual side. But Ben maybe has a little more tenacity even than Colin. DeltaWing is a great story and there's much more to be told.
How did All American Racers get involved?
I had been following Ben's Indycar design with great interest for a long time and was intrigued, as an engineer, about its futuristic, innovative aspects and possibilities. Once the DeltaWing Indycar was voted down, I invited Ben to come to California to discuss whether there was a future for the car or not. After much discussion over dinner, we both agreed that outstanding salesmanship alone was never going to get the concept off the ground - someone was going to have to design and build a complete car to demonstrate the validity of the concept. After some soul-searching, my son Justin (AAR CEO), and I volunteered to have AAR step up to this challenge if we could find the funding element for the project. Once the 56 Garage project appeared on the horizon, AAR stepped on the throttle, built a design office on our premises and gave Ben and his design staff the green light, adding our own people and our own resources, hoping that funding would materialise in time. From day one of operations, we worked under deadline pressure and, during the last few months, there has been a building atmosphere of pandemonium at our shop, which equals the best times of AAR's pioneering racecar manufacturing days.
Le Mans is possibly the most public stage in the world. Heck of a place to choose for a debut.
Hah, well yeah. It could be a huge success or a huge debacle, but I'm really not worried. We've seen plenty of people come to Le Mans and go away with their tail between their legs, but I don't feel that's the way this is going to be. I feel very confident that it's going to reach all the targets that Ben and the rest of the team have set.
How has the ACO (organisers of Le Mans) reacted to the car?
Right from the beginning I was well aware that if the ACO and the FIA didn't get behind it, DeltaWing would get no further so I commend them for having an open mind and giving it more than just a chance. But pretty soon all the words are going to stop and then we'll see...
What is the target at Le Mans?
A trouble-free finish would be a great thing to do. The ACO is being prudent and diplomatic by allowing us to run outside the race, so that if DeltaWing performs very strongly it won't offend those who've spend big budgets to be there for the win. It's tough though: the racer in us wants to go out for a win! But our sincere intentions are to stay within the boundaries we've been given.
What about Nissan's involvement?
I am very pleased that an OEM has come aboard. It's a brave move for Nissan, but the world needs bravery. If it turns out to reach the targets they have set why, they'll be tickled pink. And so will the rest of us.