CONCORD, N.C. – The Garage 56 program tested at Circuit of The Americas last week in what marked the first on-track shakedown of the second car built for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The two-day test at the 20-turn, 3.41-mile Austin, Texas, road course served as the last opportunity to work through the aero balance and chassis balance before finalizing things. The goal was to explore different setup options to help build the team’s toolbox for making changes once at Le Mans.
The Automobile Club de l’Quest (ACO) and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) were on site to do a pre-Le Mans technical inspection. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is part of the FIA World Endurance Championship and will be run on June 10-11.
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"This was the first time we weren’t Goodyear tire testing or endurance testing," Greg Ives told HendrickMotorsports.com. "We were able to work on short runs and balance of the car. I felt like it was a successful test. We made a lot of changes – most of the changes were good, but one or two were bad. You are always learning what effects the car and I felt like we were able to do that quite well there.
"We had all four drivers in at some point for either short or long runs and they were able to get the feel of the car and work on the balance that way. Came back to the DIL (Driver-in-the-loop simulator) and had Jenson (Button) correlate the track and the tires. He got to a point where he said, I think this is as close as we can get. Some of the things you can’t experience in the DIL, but all-in-all he was relatively pleased. He thought the car drove pretty well both at the track and in the simulator."
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The first day saw Mike Rockenfeller run the bulk of the day with driver/coach Jordan Taylor getting a few runs as well. On the second day, Jimmie Johnson and Button split the bulk of driving duty, but Rockenfeller and Taylor did get in a few runs, too. All told, the team ran 200 laps and 680 miles at the Austin, Texas, road course.
This session marked the third test since the star-studded driver lineup was announced on Jan. 28. The full driver lineup has also tested at Sebring International Raceway and Daytona International Speedway over the last two months. Team owner Rick Hendrick described the roster as one he "didn’t dream we would have."
The car - a modified version of the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car – was formally unveiled at Daytona last month. The systems and components of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 are mostly unchanged from the car that runs in the NASCAR Cup Series. However, this car will have headlights and taillights for nighttime racing, a larger fuel cell, carbon brake discs and Goodyear Eagle race tires that have been specially designed.
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"This project is about innovation and doing more creative things," Ives said. "There’s a lot of cool things that we have been able to incorporate in the car.
"The fun part of being innovative and if you have an idea, you can start it and follow it through."
Nearly a year ago at Sebring, Hendrick Motorsports announced, in collaboration with NASCAR, Chevrolet, IMSA and Goodyear, its intention to compete in the 2023 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the Garage 56 entry. Last month, the team received its official invite for the event and will sport the No. 24 – a nod to a storied car number in the history of both Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR. Garage 56 was introduced in 2012 as a special single-entry class for innovative cars. It allows for creativity without taking away a spot in the traditional starting grid.
Next up for the group is one more test at Sebring. This will mark the last test before the cars are sent over to Le Mans for the 24-hour endurance event.