Fastest street-legal lap of Nurburgring is goal for reborn Delage

Famed French automaker resurrected with unveiling of D12 hypercar

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Former F12 champion Jacques Villeneuve is part of the team developing the new Delage D12 hypercar | Delage Automobiles photos

Nearly 70 years after French automaker Delage ended production, the brand is being reborn with production beginning in 2021 of the Delage D12 and a goal of posting the fastest lap of the Nurburgring Nordschleife by a street-legal car.

“We are thrilled to bring Delage back to life as one of the most exquisite and innovative hypercar brands in the world,” Laurent Tapie, chief executive of the new Delage Automobiles, is quoted in the company’s news release.

“It was the dream of the company’s original founder, Louis Delage, to create the D12. I am honored and proud to be making his dream a reality with this incredible hypercar,” Tapie continued. “The D12 will be a worthy modern successor to the engineering marvels that brought Delage its original fame.”

Plans call for no more than 30 of the Delage D12 vehicles to be produced. They will be powered by a naturally aspirated 7.6-liter V12 engine producing as much as 1,100 horsepower, the news release said, and will be priced at $2.3 million each.

Laurent, who has a professional background in business consulting, sports gambling, precious metals and finance, and is the son of French businessman, politician and actor Bernard Tapie, heads a team at Delage Automobiles that includes former Formula 1 world champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve, and Benoit Bagus, a two-time FIA touring car world champion who serves as technical director for the Delage rebirth.

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The original Automobiles Delage was founded in 1905 by Louis Delage and Augustin Legros, both of whom had worked at Peugeot. The company struggled to make a profit and reportedly was saved when Rene Thomas brought back the money he earned by winning the 1914 Indianapolis 500 in a Delage (with another finishing third in that race). 

Delage prospered by supplying the French army during World War I. In 1919, Delage’s cousin, Charles Planchon, joined the car company and was responsible for the design and engineering of the brand’s heralded touring and racing cars for the 1920s. 

Production ended in 1935 but resumed soon under new ownership and agreement that Delages would be produced by Delahaye, which ended production of both brands in the mid-1950s. Laurent Tapie announced Delage’s rebirth in 2019.

Laurent Tapie in the driver’s seat

“The D12 has an ultramodern design inspired by Formula 1 and fighter-jet planes,” according to the company’s news release, “The D12 is a two-seater but in a unique configuration: the driver and passenger sit in tandem, creating a central driving position. 

“Contractive suspension, which revolutionized Formula 1, carbon fiber wheels with brake cooling, an ultra-low ride and an eight-speed automatic gearbox make for unparalleled performance.”

“We want the feeling in the D12 to be the closest to the sensation of driving a Formula 1 car that has ever been experienced in a street legal car,” Tapie said.

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The D12 will be produced in two versions — GT and Club. The Club version will be lighter in weight and will have a 20-horsepower electric motor to assist with urban driving, parking and when the car is in reverse. The electric motor apparently also will assist with acceleration, Delage’s news release notes. “The GT will accelerate faster, but the Club will be the fastest to lap any track.”

The company adds, however, “Extreme performance does not sacrifice luxury or the most extreme personalization. The driving

position is customized for the driver as a Formula 1 race car is, ensuring a perfectly ergonomic, individualized experience. The carbon-fiber seat and steering-wheel handles, which are fighter-jet-style joysticks, are molded to the driver’s body and hands, along with customized configurations of the leg support and pedals. 

“With countless choices of colors and materials, and the world’s top audio system from Focal, every detail makes the D12 one-of-a-kind.”

For more information, visit the Delage Automobiles website, which is scheduled to go live sometime in September 2020. In the meantime, below are some vintage Delage cars.

A gallery of some vintage Delage: 1937 Delage D-8 120 drophead coupe
Bugatti
Alan Travis stands next to his 1909 Delage Type R Voiturette
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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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