After a trying start to the season, plagued by gearbox problems, the DeltaWing faces a new challenge this weekend in Long Beach, as the car makes its long-anticipated street race debut.
Following partial season efforts the past two years, the radical prototype embarks on its first full season in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which includes the concrete canyons of Long Beach and Detroit.
“Coming here, this is a place you want to be racing,” team manager Tim Keene told Sportscar365. “It’s a premier event and to miss that would be a shame.
“There’s lots of people talking about the hairpin and are worried about the car not making it. But that’s not going to be an issue.
“You’re basically running around a concrete jungle with cars with a lot more brute force than you have. You’ve got to keep your nose clean and it’s up to the drivers to make good decisions on the track.”
The team is coming off a two-day test at Roebling Road in Savannah, Ga. last week, where further developments were made to the car, including a revised six-speed EMCO gearbox, following issues in the season-opener at Daytona.
The test was also used to simulate the bumps and the hairpin of the 1.968-mile Long Beach circuit, something that can’t be fully replicated, particularly due to the changing nature of the surface.
“We’re coming here with the same kind of setup we run at most places,” Keene said. “Sebring has a lot of concrete and things like that.
“It’s not going to be quite as bumpy as Sebring, I’m hoping. But [Long Beach] is built to run IndyCars on so it’s gotta be pretty reasonable for us.”
One of the other changes for Long Beach is on the engineering front, with Catherine Crawford replacing Alan Mugglestone, who has moved on to new opportunities in Europe.
Crawford is coming off a multi-year stint with Team Sahlen, while having also engineered Starworks Motorsport’s DP at the Twelve Hours of Sebring last month.
“She’s got some really good ideas and she’s a really strong engineer,” Keene said. “Plus she’s really close to home for us an I think that’s going to be a really positive thing for us.”
While the 100-minute race — the shortest TUDOR Championship event of the year — offers a different level of strategy, Keene said their typical advantage in fuel mileage has effectively been erased.
A pre-season Balance of Performance adjustment saw P class cars have an increase in fuel capacity by as much as 6 liters, but the DeltaWing remains at a 53-liter capacity as Keene said they are unable to increase its tank size.
He said reaching the 50-minute stint on Saturday could be a challenge without a yellow.
Nonetheless, the primary objective will be to have a trouble-free race, something the Katherine Legge and Memo Rojas-driven entry is still searching for this year, despite showing improved pace.
“Really we’re just trying to get to the point where we have a drama-free weekend and see where we end up,” Keene said.
“We’ve been playing catch up the whole time. Hopefully we can turn things around and have a good weekend.”