The testing continues for NASCAR’s planned trip to the 100th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year. The Hendrick Motorsports Garage 56 Camaro was out testing at Virginia International Raceway as the team works to dial in the car’s performance and finalize the required modifications. Under Garage 56, the modified Cup Series Camaro is free from the ACO’s traditional class structure, it’s also free from the NASCAR rulebook.
The VIR test was only the Garage 56 Camaro’s second outing, following a two-day test at Road Atlanta in late August. The car has progressed significantly since August, to the point it’s actually a totally different car. The Camaro run at VIR is a much closer representation of what the team will end up taking to La Sarthe next summer.
There have been significant improvements to the Dallara-built chassis, plus engine, transmission, and suspension upgrades to raise the car’s competitiveness relative to the WEC machinery it will share the track with. Aero improvements included dive planes on the front and rear fenders, a larger front splitter, and an upgraded rear diffuser. There were also significant upgrades to the electronics with new traction control mapping and a new dash added. Being freed from the NASCAR spec system the team can likely improve their ability to capture and process data along with being able to add new controls and maps.
“No, it’s definitely an infant,” said Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports VP of Competition as quoted by NASCAR. “So we’re still trying to get it to go and honestly, the way it ran today, I’m actually pleased with the performance of the car. We’ve just got to start to work out some of the bugs.”
A faulty power distribution module prevented the Garage 56 Camaro from making any sustained runs in the morning at VIR before a fuel-pump issue effectively ended their day in the afternoon as mechanics worked on the problem through the evening.
“Well, this is a first step and over the course of the next six months or so there’s going to be a huge amount of iterations,” Knaus said. “Obviously, always trying to get yourself more margin from a pace standpoint, so we want to continue to try to push and make the car faster from a weight and performance standpoint. Downforce, get some more aero efficiencies put into the car, Goodyear has done a really good job of starting to get some construction and compound combinations put together, and we’ll start to get that really rolled up into what the tire is going to be. So an awful lot of work from this point forward.”
This isn’t the first time NASCAR has gone to Le Mans though. In 1976, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. organized the entry of two Grand National stock cars–a Dodge Charger, and a Ford Torino–into the 24 Hour race. French media called them monsters. This isn’t even the Camaro’s first trip to La Sarthe either, the pony car was represented in the 1981 and 1982 races by Billy Hagen’s Stratagraph Racing. The ’81 car was a second-gen Camaro body draped over a tube frame outlaw chassis housing a 600 hp 393 small-block stroker motor, while in ’82 the second-gen was joined by a third-gen with a 358 cubic-inch V8. In case you’re curious, the third-gen finished 2nd in its class and 17th overall.