This weekend Jenson Button starts at Le Mans and for the second time in his long sporting career he will try to unravel the secrets of the legendary circuit, which has not been presented to everyone.
The first attempt to become the 2009 world champion failed: five years ago, as part of the Russian SMP Racing team, Jenson made his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the engine of the BR1 car failed when less than an hour was left to complete.
Now Button is involved in another project, but also very unusual, if not exotic: Together with Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller, he will drive the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on the Sarte circuit, a NASCAR car modified by the Hendrick Motorsports team to meet the requirements of the daily marathon and the characteristics of these tracks.
Admittedly, in the tradition of American stock car racing, there are no doors, so drivers have to climb in through the window and get out accordingly at pit stops in the same way.
The weight of the car has been reduced to 1342 kg and it has AP Racing carbon brakes. Because this Camaro ZL1 has a more efficient front spoiler and rear diffuser, the total length has increased by 50 mm. The rear spoiler also became wider, the floor and even the rear window changed.
However, experts note that in terms of pressure, the car is still very noticeably inferior to sports cars from Porsche, Ferrari and Corvette, but it has a very powerful engine that develops almost 800 horsepower. So if this monster loses to the factory GT cars in the corners, it will be able to compensate with agility on long straights. But the question is how the stock car behaves in the rain, because at Le Mans the weather can be anything. The weather forecast for the weekend predicts rain and thunderstorms.
Perhaps one of the main differences from standard NASCAR vehicles is that this Camaro ZL1 does not have a manual transmission, but a modern Xtrac transmission with paddle shifters. It is also worth adding that Goodyear has developed both special slicks and wet weather tires for Le Mans. In addition, the car is equipped with an oversized fuel tank that can hold 120 liters of Total Excellium Racing 100 biofuel, certified by the race organizer, ACO Automobile Club.
And while the number 24 car enters the race outside the standings, in a separate “innovative” category, this doesn’t detract from the enthusiasm of Jenson and his partners.
“It was a crazy idea for someone at NASCAR to go to Le Mans and do a 24-hour race against sports prototypes and GTEs,” said Button. – So I became one of the riders on this project, along with Jimmy and Mike, they’re both very good friends of mine.
Jimmy has won seven NASCAR titles, “Rocky” Mike has won the DTM and Le Mans, so we have a great lineup. Our car has been upgraded, it has more aerodynamics to slightly increase the downforce, a more powerful engine and at the same time it is lighter. In general, driving it at Le Mans is a completely crazy idea!
Plus it’s so loud because of the side exhausts, so I think it’s going to be a fan favorite.
We are not in this race to win, but to finish and compete on an equal footing with GT cars. I think we can.
And if you want to get an idea of what it’s like to drive our car, here’s a video of a night training session at Le Mans, and even with a full pit stop!
Source: F1 News
I am Christopher Clyde, an experienced journalist and content writer with a passion for sports. I have been writing about Formula 1 news for the past five years and am currently employed as an author at athletistic.com, one of the top sports websites in the US.