We’ve been reporting this since 2019: the Chevrolet Camaro as we know it will die after the 2024 model year. It’s due to be replaced by a soulless electric sedan that will represent absolutely nothing to anyone who cares about the things we love. Before that happens though, the Camaro will be given the chance of a lifetime in the world’s most prolific motorsport event. NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports just announced a cooperative venture to enter a modified Cup Series Camaro in the 100th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2023.
The plan was announced from Sebring International Raceway on the eve of the WEC’s 1000 miles of Sebring, and the IMSA Twelve Hours of Sebring due to run Friday and Saturday, respectively. The specially prepped Next-Gen NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Le Mans will be a collaborative effort between Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR, IMSA, Chevrolet, and Goodyear.
The car will fill the ACO’s famed Garage 56, reserved for showcases of innovative vehicles that fall outside of the race’s traditional class structure. Chad Knaus, Hendrick’s VP of Competition will oversee the project. Knaus has extensive experience as a NASCAR crew chief, having been part of all seven of Jimmie Johnson’s Cup Series championships. Knaus has also been plying his trade during IMSA endurance events as part of the No.48 Ally Cadillac program jointly run by Action Express and Hendrick Motorsports. It’s understood Action Express will assist Hendrick in running the Cup Series Camaro at Le Mans.
Further details will be announced in the coming months, but planning the conversion of a Camaro Cup chassis into an endurance race car is already underway. Modifications like functioning head and tail lights will be a must, along with air jacks to help facilitate pitstops. Easing driver swaps will need to be considered, along with fuelling, and fuel capacity, among other things. The Next-Gen Cup car has been heralded by many as a step towards a GT3-style platform that introduces NASCAR to the modern era of motorsports.
This isn’t the first time NASCAR has gone to Le Mans though. In 1976, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. organized the entry of two Grand National stock cars–a Dodge Charger, and Ford Torino–into the 24 Hour race. French media called them monsters. This isn’t even the Camaro’s first trip to La Sarthe either, the pony car was represented in the 1981 and 1982 races by Billy Hagen’s Stratagraph Racing. The ’81 car was a second-gen Camaro body draped over a tube frame outlaw chassis housing a 600 hp 393 small-block stroker motor, while in ’82 the second-gen was joined by a third-gen with a 358 cubic-inch V8. In case you’re curious, the third-gen finished 2nd in its class and 17th overall.
Due to Garage 56 rules, the Next-Gen Cup Series Camaro won’t be eligible to compete for the overall victory in 2023, but it will be officially scored as part of the race’s overall classification. 2023 will also mark the last trip to Le Mans for the Corvette C8.R which is due to be replaced in 2024 by the Corvette Z06 GT3.R.