Bridgestone's presence as the new tire partner with DeltaWing Racing Cars was confirmed with the new livery release of the DeltaWing powered by Elan. DeltaWing Racing Cars managing partner Dr. Don Panoz expands on the new relationship.
Q: How did the deal with your new tire partner, Bridgestone come about?
DP: “We have had discussions with Bridgestone, who were the original supporters of the DeltaWing, when it was being considered for IndyCar. Unfortunately IndyCar decided to go with the other supplier, Dallara, and the DeltaWing didn’t get it. But in Bridgestone’s effort to support it, they had made molds, made tire evaluations and construction evaluations and supplied the tires for the first show car.
“Bridgestone was involved with DeltaWing from the very beginning, and had considerable knowledge about it. Of course, they were the logical choice for us to consider.”
Q: How important is it to welcome another tire partner into the American Le Mans Series and what a positive that is for the sport, for competition, and then into the merged series?
DP: “Bridgestone had not been a supplier in the American Le Mans Series, before, in sports car racing. This is a good opportunity for the ALMS to highlight another tire source, and a good opportunity for Bridgestone to expose their product to sports car fans.”
Q: What will it be like for you to go back to Sebring with a team this year, rather than as the owner of the American Le Mans Series?
DP: “First of all, it’s a challenge, because the DeltaWing is something completely new. When you consider the performance of this car, it is the performance of a hybrid, but it doesn’t need batteries and an electric motor. It’s all based on aerodynamics. It’s certainly very green; it’s half the weight, half the fuel, half the tire wear, half the horsepower yet the same performance.
“This is a challenge that someone has to do. The partners on the DeltaWing Racing Cars have decided they would move forward and race the car, and in the meantime, start constructing a car that meets the 2014 rules, which we will show at Sebring, the coupe. I think that it’s going to be a very challenging effort.
“I’m just the managing partner of DeltaWing Racing Cars. As a consequence of that, I’ll be at the track, but it won’t be my team; it will be the partners’ team.”
Q: What are your hopes and expectations for the race and what you’re doing during the year?
DP: “We will be racing in LMP1. We’ve developed a new engine; Elan Power has developed a new engine for the car. We anticipate we will be able to compete, but I don’t think at this early stage, with a brand new engine and new technology car - and basically moving up a class after we were being ran last year at around LMP2 pace - I think we’ll make a credible showing.
“The challenge is the things we’ll be doing at Sebring, and what we find out, will be for the 2014-spec car, with the coupe top, which we hope to have running by Laguna Seca. It is, as with any new development, about continual progress and improvement to make the car more competitive.
“It’s suitable that the car can race at LMP1 this year. We look forward to the challenge of racing against the Audis, and the Dysons, and the Muscle Milks. Our expectations are how to find a lot of the new information for the new car.”
Q: How many old faces that have worked on previous Panoz programs will be involved?
DP: “We have a lot of experienced people who have worked us over the years, with the Panoz LMPs and the GTs. We had a good roster of people to call on with plenty of experience. Putting together this team and with a lot of the guys, it’s like a reunion. We’re all delighted to be working together.
“The fact that this car is so different and so unique is an incentive for these guys to prove how good they really are. Sure, when you do this with a new team, new car and all this stuff going forward, it’s a challenge. But I consider that with the staff we’ve accumulated that they look at this challenge to see how good they really are, and show everyone at Sebring they’re pretty good.”
Q: What are you hopes, goals, targets for the year?
DP: “I’d hope at Sebring we can show the car’s performance of an LMP1 car is equal to or better than the LMP2 class. That’s with the open-top car and same basic configurations we had at Petit and Le Mans last year.
“As the season goes forward, and we incorporate the new tub and new chassis with the new 2014 rules, and new engine, we think as with any new program that it will continue to improve in performance. As we get close to the latter part of the season, we’ll be capable of getting onto the podium.”