Jimmie Johnson is not accustomed to racing in the rain, but he was compelled to do so while competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans’ nighttime hours this year.
As the race approached the early hours of the night, Johnson took the wheel of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
The Garage 56 entry enjoyed a smooth drive with no noteworthy problems or errors. But shortly after taking over his racing responsibilities, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series winner was met with a completely other obstacle. Rain started falling.
As it began to rain, a number of cars went off, and visibility became just as problematic as the slippery road. Johnson hasn’t raced in the rain very much, and never in conditions exactly like these. The veteran racer, 47, managed to keep the car on the track and intact despite everything.
“It was frightening, especially how it took place – there was a pop-up shower at the start of the lap and it was just pouring,” said Johnson. “I came around a corner on slicks and it was just a downpour. But we brought the car around and put wets on it to really try to understand how the wets would perform. We probably ran 2-3 too many laps on the wets and it really fell apart once the track started to dry. We put the slicks back on and we were the fastest GT-style car on the track and were running the guys down.”
Johnson ran 33 laps throughout the course of the two hours, 52 minutes-long stint. The timing of a safety car proved to be a slight setback for the HMS team as they try to outperform the whole GTE-Am field, but the car is still solidly inside the top-40 overall.
“We had some unfortunate luck with the safety car that put us down a lap and we’re trying to get that lap back now,” he explained. “I really think we have a shot at the GT overall with this car. So just need to catch the safety car right to put us back on the lead lap and off we go.
“I tried (to prepare for these conditions) in the sim, but they can’t simulate rain like it really is. The night time (sim) driving was pretty useful and worked out well, but the sim is easy because you can’t get hurt. You just hit reset and you’re back on the track. Real life, real fear, real consequences make a big difference.”
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Nascar, NASCAR Cup Series, Le Mans, NASCAR 2023, Jimmie Johnson, HMS, Hendrick Motorsports