In March, NASCAR announced that it plans to take its new standard Next Gen car, which debuted in the Cup series this season, at 24 Hours of Le Mans as the entrance to Garage 56 in 2023.
Garage 56 is the entrance that the Automobile Club de l’Ouest provides for “tomorrow’s technology and beyond” innovative technology.
The car involved in the race will be a modified next-generation Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 from Hendrick Motorsports, which currently drives four Cup Series teams. Chad Knaus, HMS Vice President of Competition, is Head of the Garage 56 Program.
“I was in Sebring when this (ad) happened. I didn’t warn, ”Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson said Tuesday.“ Honestly, I was a little disappointed that as a stakeholder and as a NASCAR partner, neither we nor Ford were warned about it.
“That weekend a few minutes later I had a dialogue with Steve Phelps (NASCAR President) and Steve O’Donnell (NASCAR Director-General) and Jim France (NASCAR Director-General), expressing my concern and dissatisfaction. The good news is that they have all responded and heard us.
“Between ourselves and Ford, we have expressed (NASCAR) some common views as to whether they are going to do it the way it is done in a fairly honest way.”
An unfair advantage?
Wilson said his concerns are similar to those Toyota driver Danny Hamlin expressed on social media immediately after the announcement, particularly regarding that Hendrick will be driving on road courses with a next-generation car.
“I would have preferred Jim France to take Gary Nelson and his Sports Car team to Le Mans and drive a Chevy. But of course you need the sexual appeal of Hendrick Motorsports – I understand, ”Wilson said.
“Unfortunately, they are active competitors in the sport and they are going to take some form of derivative car that we drive to Le Mans every Sunday. And it will take perhaps hundreds if not thousands of hours of testing.
“It’s hard on some level not to say they’ll come up with something. Now NASCAR has done a huge amount to allay concerns. ”
Wilson said France had assured him that while Toyota and Ford may not have been included in the original announcement, NASCAR ensures that the project remains transparent in the future.
“We will have the visibility of every test, every time this car is on the track that will be given to us together,” Wilson said. “We will have such visibility and transparency because that is what we were promised. And we will be invited to every test. “
Wilson, however, said he understands the benefits for the sport as a whole, if entering Le Mans could well bring it.
“Stepping back 30,000 feet from that, I’m absolutely a fan of what they do. This has the advantage that our sport can be at stake and presented to an international audience, ”he said.
“I would have preferred it to have been done a little differently.”
Bill France first brought standard cars to Le Mans on June 12, 1976 after reaching a deal with the event organizers.
Two NASCAR race cars – the Dodge Charger, owned and operated by Herschel McGriff, and the Ford Torino, owned by Juni Donlawi, driven by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson – competed in the newly created Grand International class.
A Ford Performance spokesman said the manufacturer prefers to negotiate with NASCAR privately.
Motorsport.com requested comment from NASCAR, but at the time of publication of this story they did not respond.