The team’s new test car, according to Hendrick Motorsports VP of Competition Chad Knaus, is a closer representation of what an actual Le Mans racer might look like when it hits the track in earnest, with significant updates to the chassis, engine and suspension components since the original test mule, as well as the addition of mirrors. rear view.
Among the most obvious changes were the aerodynamic trim, with the addition of fixed snorkel planes and a more aggressive distributor and diffuser, all departures from the base NASCAR line on which the Camaro ZL1 is based.
“It’s definitely a baby,” Knauss said. “So we’re still trying to get it going and honestly, the way it went today (last Monday), I’m really happy with the car’s performance. We just have to start figuring out some of the faults.”
“It’s definitely a big step up. I mean, we have… where do I start?” Rockenfeller said after wrapping up his day’s work of piling the car around VIR’s 3.27-mile full track layout. “We have less weight, we have more downforce. The tires are the same, because we did an (initial) tire test in Atlanta, very similar. The power is a little bit different, so we increased it a little bit there as well in that area, and now we have paddle shifting, we have control on the Traction, and we have a new dash. I mean, everything is fundamentally different. So we’re very close to what we think is going to be the race car at Le Mans. But of course, it’s still a very long way to go.
“We’re going to improve speed and reliability for sure. So I would say that’s the difference. Between the current Trophy car, and this test car, again, it’s very similar, I would say, its weight, its power, its tire grip – it’s much faster. I mean, To give you a number, here, I think we’re about 10 seconds faster than I did in the Cup car, so it’s a lot faster.”
Getting to that speed took effort all around. The “electric gremlin” that Knauss imprinted on the faulty power distribution unit prevented the test car from making a continuous run during the morning hours. The early afternoon test was stopped, just before sunset, due to a fuel pump problem that the crew had worked on in the evening hours.
This drew the attention of the representatives in attendance, from Hendrick, Goodyear, NASCAR and Bosch among others, to jump and assist treats.
“I think it’s a big milestone for us. It doesn’t pass without its challenges, of course, but that’s why you came to the racetrack to test,” Knauss said. “But I think with all the people here and all the resources that were here at the VIR Today, it shows the importance of this program, and what a great commitment it was for everyone.”
“Well, this is the first step and over the next six months or so there will be a massive amount of iterations,” Knauss said. “Obviously, you always try to get more margin for yourself from a speed standpoint, so we want to continue trying to push the car and make it faster from a weight and performance standpoint. Downforce, get more aero efficiencies into the car, Goodyear has done a really good job starting in Putting some synthetic and composite textures together, and we’ll start to really incorporate that into what the frame is going to be like. So it’s been a lot of work from that point on.”
There is no doubt that significant resources are being mobilized to support the effort, as IMSA President John Dunant has been a key part of the administration effort behind the program and again in attending the test.
Photo by Zack Albert/NASCAR