Race organiser the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has confirmed that acceptance of the entry from Hendrick Motorsports for the grid slot – reserved for what it describes as an “innovative car” – is dependent on the Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 running an energy-recovery system.
That would give NASCAR the chance to test the hybrid technology on its Next Gen machine in competition ahead of its introduction in the premier Cup Series, which could happen as early as 2024.
ACO president Pierre Fillon told Autosport at the launch of the project at this weekend’s ‘Super Sebring’ IMSA SportsCar Championship and World Endurance Championship double-header: “It has to have a hybrid system.
“Garage 56 is for a car dedicated to innovative technology; it needs to be something innovative.
“When Jim [France, NASCAR boss] told me there would be a new generation of car in NASCAR using a hybrid system and that he had this crazy idea to enter a NASCAR in Garage 56 in 2023, I was immediately enthusiastic.”
NASCAR and Chevrolet, however, have remained tight lipped about the technology to be employed in the Next Gen Camaro under development for the Garage 56 slot. The official press statement said only that “technical elements of the car will be announced at a later date”.
Top NASCAR and Chevrolet executives refused to elaborate on that at the press conference at Sebring on Thursday.
NASCAR president Steve Phelps stated as recently as last November that he the latest generation of Cup car could incorporate hybrid technology as early as 2024.
There has been no confirmation of the plan nor that it would be an off-the-shelf system used by all manufacturers, but it is known that Dallara has designed the one-make Next Gen chassis to incorporate a motor generator unit.
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Photo by: NASCAR Media
Fillon expressed confidence that the Hendrick Camaro would land the Garage 56 grid spot for next year.
“We have to convince the selection committee for 2023, but I am sure with the high-level team behind this project they will take care of this,” he explained. “I am very confident.”
Fillon explained that the other criteria that need to be met by the Camaro concerned safety and the speed of the car. He revealed that work with FIA had already begun to ensure the tube-frame Next Gen chassis fulfils the necessary crash test requirements.
The desire is for the car to lap at the same speed as GTE Am machinery, which would mean it being able to lap the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe in somewhere around 3m50s.
The NASCAR machine would be the fifth car to take the innovative car slot at Le Mans, which was given the Garage 56 name back in 2012 because it was an additional entry at a time when 55 cars started the French enduro.
The lightweight Nissan DeltaWing of 2012 was the first Garage 56 racer in 2012 and was followed by the Japanese manufacturer’s hybrid Zeod in ’14 and two projects for disabled drivers using hand controls masterminded by quadruple amputee Frederic Sausset in 2016 and ’21.