|Nissan Nordic Europe|
VP, VEHICLE DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT, NISSAN EUROPE
The engineering link between Nissan and the DeltaWing project
What Nissan engine is used to power DeltaWing?
It is a pure-bred racing engine but structurally and conceptually it's very similar to our direct injection gasoline turbo (DIG-T) engine as used in road cars like Nissan Juke. It's a four cylinder 1.6-litre unit that, for DeltaWing, develops 300bhp and 312Nm of torque.
That doesn't sound like a huge power output for a racing car.
It is in line with the DeltaWing team's requirements given the weight of the car and its small frontal aspect. Four cylinder engines of this size can produce much higher outputs, of course, if you remember some of the engines in Formula 1 during the 1980s... but there are no plans for this engine to start generating 1500bhp!
What about the unit's economy?
We are not in a position at the moment to reveal specific economy figures, but clearly it will be far more efficient than a conventional racing engine of a larger capacity. One of the expected advantages of the DeltaWing concept is that the combination of a small and highly efficient turbo engine in an aerodynamically advanced package will provide a far greater range per tankful: less time in the pits refuelling means more time on track racing.
From an engineering standpoint what does Nissan hope to learn from DeltaWing?
One of our major areas of interest is to explore the performance, efficiency and durability envelope of the engine package with specific reference to our downsizing programme. We are using smaller capacity engines in our road cars, engines which deliver the same performance as larger ones but with greater efficiency in terms of fuel consumption and emissions. DeltaWing is a useful test bed and will enable us to explore the potential of Nissan's 1.6-litre engine for future applications
Aside from the engine, what else about DeltaWing has potential for road car applications?
We are very interested in the car's aero package. DeltaWing has a very small frontal area and the design uses a twin vortex underbody downforce system. Improving the aerodynamics of our road cars is one of our key activities in the quest to reduce CO2 levels.
Do racing car aerodynamics really have a road car application?
We are restricted by legislation and by the packaging requirements, of course, but we are focusing much more on improving the aerodynamic efficiency underneath the floor of the car. For example, as part of the Qashqai minor change (2010) we introduced a flat underfloor on the car which improved fuel consumption and emissions... it was one of the significant improvements particularly on the ‘eco' Pure Drive version. We are really interested in exploring how we can enhance that further and it will be fascinating to see how DeltaWing approaches the issue.
Can a small race team really help a multi-national like Nissan?
Breakthroughs often come from lots of detail fine-tuning. A race team has one package for a one-use condition and as a result it can move quickly. This means the engineers can be very focused and tune the aero performance of their car to give them a direct advantage over their rivals. We can tap into this focus and either adopt a breakthrough or adapt it to generate a version that fits in with the specific requirements of a road-going passenger car. With our higher performance vehicles we are interested in ensuring we have a very balanced rear lift situation. We will be looking at DeltaWing, searching for techniques we can apply to ensure vehicle stability at high speeds.
Is DeltaWing's transmission of interest to Nissan?
Yes. It's a five speed sequential ‘box built for racing, but, as on Nissan Juke, features torque vectoring technology to control the torque going to each wheel to enhance the cornering, stability and performance. We will be interested to see how this technology performs in a racing environment with particular regard to durability. It's early days, of course, but I am anticipating deep technical exchanges between NTCE and DeltaWing.
What is the feeling on the NTCE ‘shop floor' about the link with DeltaWing?
There are lots of motor sport enthusiasts within the R&D team at NTCE who passionately follow F1 and sports car racing. Some even compete themselves. Engineers are always curious about breakthrough technology and there is a great deal of interest in seeing how DeltaWing performs, with particular regard to the engine and the transmission in a race environment and also to the effects of the aero package.
What was your first impression when you saw DeltaWing?
It reminded me a bit of the six-wheel Tyrrell Grand Prix car (Tyrrell P34 from 1976). With four small wheels at the front, it was a way of reducing frontal area to get a better airflow and it won a Grand Prix before regulation changes made it obsolete. But it was a different: if you apply the same approach as everyone else you'll get a similar performance. The same applies to Renault in F1. Back when everyone had V8 Cosworth engine and Ferrari had its flat 12, Renault developed a small turbo engine. It took them a while to make it work and there were many public failures but you often learn more from your failures than from your successes. Once it was working, though, everyone else had to follow them.
Do you see analogies with DeltaWing?
DeltaWing is a similarly bold idea and it may run into difficulties at first... but there's no doubt in my mind that the concept should work. I believe that in three or four years time, the revolutionary aerodynamic shape and downsized engine will be what everyone is using.