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DeltaWing and “Delta Dawn”…a comparison

Photo courtesy of DeltaWing Racing Cars LLC

(Sung to the tune of “Delta Dawn”[1] by Tanya Tucker)

DeltaWing, what’s that funny front end thing?
Could it be a sprint car style from days gone by?
And did I hear you say
You’ll be at LeMans some day,
Racing at that circuit in the sky

Yes, I understand that most of you have never heard the song “Delta Dawn”, and even if you have, you may not think there’s a connection to the DeltaWing other than a similar name.  And you may have noticed that I have NO skill as a songwriter.  One connection goes back to the early 70’s when Jack Stone, a Shirley, Indiana guy like myself, sang a boozy version of the song to a modified 1953 GMC panel truck that had carried a crew to the race for years and was on the verge of being retired (substitute GMC for Delta Dawn).  I don’t remember all of his lyrics, but they were both touching and funny.  The truck is pictured in the header of my blog.

But this is about the DeltaWing and the missed opportunity to change IndyCar from just another racing series.  Like the beautiful and jilted belle in the song, the DeltaWing thought she was being courted by IndyCar.  She thought she had a chance to move into the future with her beau.  But she was kicked to the curb and left to fend for herself after her suitor went back to his former girlfriend Dallara, a rich and sexy Italian.  And we will never know what could have been if only IndyCar was willing to take a risk.

Indy purists knee-jerk whenever true innovation happens.  When the roadsters ran the drive shaft down the side of the car and lowered the driver and center of gravity, it was a sea change.  Racing was different.  Years later, underpowered rear engine cars poked their noses in and racing changed.  We continue to wait for the NEXT BIG THING.  And it was right there in front of us.  Ben Bowlby, the technical director at Chip Ganassi Racing, had a genius moment.  He designed a car that created less turbulence for following cars, used the underbody to create downforce instead of wings, and employed a low horsepower motor to generate high speeds.[2]  That’s called innovation, folks.

We complain about passing and turbulence.  The DeltaWing addressed that.  We worry about cars getting airborne.  The DeltaWing moved most of the weight to the rear of the car and made it more difficult for the car to fly.  And the car would have been perfect for the four cylinder Global Racing Engine[3] if we really wanted to see multiple manufacturers.  But we don’t because Honda prefers a six cylinder.  The purists want things to stay the same.  That way they can continue to complain about the lack of innovation.  The team owners don’t really want change.  The top teams might lose their edges since development would have to be open or because Ganassi has Bowlby.  The politics of money and power ran DeltaWing out of town.  Her kind isn’t welcome around here.

And the fans are a strange brew, indeed.  We hate the look of the partially covered wheels, yet covering the wheels can make the racing safer.  Anybody notice the rear bumper on the Dallara?  We do want to prevent cars flying, don’t we?  We complain that the front wheels look funny.  We wonder if they will turn.  I think the engineers might have figured that out, don’t you?  Form follows function, yes?  And the front wheels could have been changed!  We cry about the lack of marques in the series, but we don’t want the four cylinder Global Racing Motor because it doesn’t have enough horsepower, even though adopting it would likely bring in a number of manufacturers.  We acknowledge that the cost of going racing could doom the series, and a car that BRINGS DOWN COSTS is disliked because it’s different.  We say we want innovation, but we really don’t like change.  The fans kept coming to Indy after the roadster disappeared, didn’t they?  We are Jekyll and Hyde.  We can’t even trust ourselves.

The vision of 33 DeltaWings rolling down for the start of the Indy 500 would be front page news all over the world.  How is that bad for IndyCar racing?  IndyCar would be the only series with a truly innovative design.  How is that not a positive?  IndyCar has taken the lead in safety for years.  Why not adopt a safer car?  The DeltaWing is exactly what we need.  But like a whiny child crying about his Christmas gifts, it’s not what we want.

Delta Dawn kept walking downtown, waiting for her mysterious dark haired man to come back.  At least DeltaWing found a new suitor.  She’s heading to the 24 Hours of LeMans this year with Ganassi Racing’s Ben Bowlby and Dan Gurney’s All American Racers.  Laissez les bon temps rouler, belle.


1 Here’s a link to a YouTube version of the song with lyrics provided.

2 All of this can be found at 

3 A little insight into the GRE from Speed and Marshall Pruett.

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4 thoughts on “DeltaWing and “Delta Dawn”…a comparison

  1. Ah yes, the elusive Global Racing Engine… Where is it now? The speed link is a year and a half old and i know from experience that very article is the most complete description of the GRE to be found on the internet. I doubt that thing will ever see the light of day. I was always a fan of limiting the fuel flow. Bring any engine you want, but you only get “X” gallons to finish the 500 miles. you could have even designed a structural cradle so the dream of using non structural stock blocks would have been a reality. I love dreaming about what could have been with the delta wing program but I think it will be more useful to motorsports as a whole at Le Mans.

  2. For the record, I am old enough to recall aussie Helen Reddy sing it with that clean, balanced twang sound…

    Dittos on the GRE philosophy from me. Maybe a version of ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’ is due next..

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