The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a grueling race that grinds through its entrants, regardless of whether it rains enough to make prototypes pirouette. But the Garage 56 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 stock car wasn't one of them, as it crossed the finish line in good shape at the 24-hour mark. It's probably the hardest race the NASCAR Next Gen chassis will ever finish, and doing so required less powertrain prep than you'd expect. Let Russ O’Blenes, GM's director of performance and racing propulsion, explain.
O'Blenes told Racer that making the small block Chevy-based R07 V8 last a race almost five times the distance of the Daytona 500 required only light modification for Le Mans. He said that the 358 cubic-inch (5.9-liter) two-valve pushrod motor received tweaks mostly amounting to a lowered rev range for durability and removing the restrictor plate that NASCAR requires. That's it. Really.
From there, GM and its racing partners simulated the whole Le Mans weekend on the dyno, meaning 30 hours between practice, qualifying, and the race, complete with all heat cycles. Then, they repeated the test using the whole powertrain on another dyno for an additional 30 hours. With the engine good to go, it was loaded into a highly modified Next Gen chassis with a Camaro body, a paddle-shifted transmission, aggressive aero, and hundreds of pounds eliminated.
The Camaro ended up qualifying 37th—ahead of all GTE cars—and finishing 39th, the second-lowest of all cars to finish the race. But who cares? It wasn't a competitive entry, just an exhibition. No trophies to be had; just an excuse to send a stock car to Le Mans for the first time in almost half a century, not to mention a chance to send the Camaro out on a high note. Plus, no matter the result, the memes made it all worthwhile.
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