We reported last week about the two-day test at VIR of the NASCAR G56 Camaro ZL1 and now, thanks to NASCAR.com we can add a little further detail to the progress that the team made leading up to and during their latest outing.
The team’s new test car is, according to Hendrick Motorsports VP of Competition Chad Knaus, a closer representation of what the actual Le Mans racer might be when it hits the track in earnest, with significant updates to the chassis, engine and suspension components since the original test mule, plus the addition of rear-view mirrors.
Among the most visible changes were the aerodynamic pieces, with the addition of stabilizing dive planes and a more robust splitter and diffuser, all departures from the baseline Next-Gen NASCAR that the Camaro ZL1 is based upon.
“It’s definitely an infant,” said Knaus. “So we’re still trying to get it to go and honestly, the way it ran today (last Monday), I’m actually pleased with the performance of the car. We’ve just got to start working out some of the bugs.”
“It’s definitely a big step. I mean, we have… where do I start?” Rockenfeller said after wrapping up his day’s work of hustling the car around the 3.27-mile VIR full-course layout. “We have less weight, we have a bit more downforce. Tires are the same, because we did (initial) tire testing in Atlanta, so similar-ish. Power is a bit different, so we increased a little bit there as well in that area, now we have paddle-shift, we have traction control in, we have a new dash. I mean, everything is different, basically. So we are pretty close to what we think will be the race car in Le Mans. But of course, it’s still a very long way to go.
“We will improve in pace and reliability, definitely. So I would say that’s the difference. Between the current Cup car, and this test car, again, it’s pretty similar, I would say, its weight, its power, its tire grip – it’s just a lot faster. I mean, to give you a figure, around here, I think we are around 10 seconds faster than what I did in a Cup car, so it’s quite a lot faster.”
Reaching that speed took effort all around. An “electrical gremlin” that Knaus chalked up to a faulty power distribution module prevented the test car from making a sustained run during the morning hours. Afternoon testing was stopped early, just before sunset, by a fuel-pump issue that the crew worked on into the evening hours.
That drew the attention of the attending representatives, from Hendrick, Goodyear, NASCAR and Bosch among others, to jump in and lend a hand with remedies.
“I think it’s a huge milestone for us. It doesn’t go without its challenges, of course, but that’s why you come to the race track to test,” Knaus said. “But I think with all the people here and all the resources that have been here at VIR today, it shows the importance of this program, and what a big commitment it has been for everybody.”
“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 ourselves 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.”
There’s little doubt that significant resources are being mobilized in support of the effort, with IMSA President John Doonan a key part of the management effort behind the program and again in attendance at the test.
Pics Zack Albert/NASCAR