Goodyear and Le Mans: The collaboration behind NASCAR’s return to La Sarthe
Garage 56 brings NASCAR back to Le Mans for the first time in nearly 50 years.
When the French Tricolore is held aloft ahead of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, a very special car will be among the usual suspects. A Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will officially represent the Garage 56 entry.
The Garage 56 entry is a partnership between NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – each among the most successful teams, manufacturers and tires in the sport’s 75-year history - and reunites NASCAR with Le Mans for the first time in almost five decades. Goodyear is proud to be a key partner of this exciting program.
In 1976 two NASCAR cars entered the historic race, but while the Ford Torino and Dodge Charger of that era bear only a subtle resemblance to the modern crop of stock cars that includes the 2023 Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, both eras of NASCAR cars were gripped by Goodyear tires.
This almost five-decade span since NASCAR cars last raced at Le Mans demonstrates Goodyear’s extensive global experience in both NASCAR and endurance racing. Goodyear has been instrumental in returning NASCAR to the Circuit de la Sarthe, developing bespoke tires fit for the unique challenge.
NASCAR is the most popular American motorsport series, with multiple categories and races almost every weekend between February and November. Viewership figures peak at over 8 million, and this year the Daytona 500 experienced its highest viewing figure share in recent years at 15.16%1.
NASCAR vs Le Mans: The key differences for Goodyear
Compared to NASCAR, the scale of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is on another level. The Garage 56 entry could eclipse the distance of NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, seven times over should it complete more than 310 laps. In 2022, LMP2 winner Team JOTA covered 369 laps (5028 km) on Goodyear tires.
Additionally, changing weather conditions and maintaining the car for a full 24 hours means drivers have to navigate a full spectrum of visibility and temperatures. Like NASCAR, Le Mans features pitstops that can make or break a strong race result. Engineers will formulate different strategies during the race to maximize their position compared to competitors.
In 2022, NASCAR and Goodyear introduced 18-inch tires, bringing it in line with championships like the World Endurance Championship. A vast amount of research and planning went into the tire development process for NASCAR’s ovals and road courses. This gave a foundation for Garage 56’s development path, merging Goodyear’s decades of experience in NASCAR and endurance racing.
At Le Mans, LMP2 Goodyear tires are designed to last several hours across multiple fuel stops. LMP2 tires are designed with a harder compound to provide a longer duration for the teams to maximize their tires as part of their racing strategy. By regulation, NASCAR racing requires that Goodyear tires last around 160 kilometers to ensure drivers make tire changes during pitstops. Meanwhile, an LMP2 tire can complete up to four stints at Le Mans, the equivalent of 600 kilometers.
While pitstops are a natural part of racing at Le Mans, teams generally prefer to complete as few as possible while maintaining a competitive pace. This is because WEC regulations restrict teams to having only two personnel touching the car at once, resulting in a greater time penalty for changing two or four tires at a stop.
“The presence of the Garage 56 entry is the merger of two flagship Goodyear projects,” says Ben Crawley, Director of Motorsport EMEA, Goodyear. “The technical challenge of developing bespoke tires for the Garage 56 entry to tackle Le Mans combines two areas of excellence for Goodyear. Months of development and preparation have gone into this project. Many components are at the cutting edge of technology and we cannot wait to see the car on track and the Goodyear tire technology supporting its performance."
(1) Sports Media Watch: No crash, but caution flag out for Daytona 500 ratings https://www.sportsmediawatch.com/2023/02/daytona-500-ratings-viewership-decline-fox/
About The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
Goodyear is one of the world's largest tire companies. It employs about 74,000 people and manufactures its products in 57 facilities in 23 countries around the world. Its two Innovation Centers in Akron, Ohio, and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg, strive to develop state-of-the-art products and services that set the technology and performance standard for the industry. For more information about Goodyear and its products, go to www.goodyear.com/corporate.