WELCOME, N.C. (June 8th, 2023) – It’s here! The 24 Hours of Le Mans rolls off this weekend in France, and the long-awaited race is a special one for Richard Childress Racing and ECR Engines, as it represents the culmination of a year of hard work and preparation, and an opportunity to showcase ECR’s technical prowess on a global stage.
ECR Engines has been heavily involved with Chevrolet, NASCAR, IMSA, Goodyear Tire and Hendrick Motorsports in the Garage 56 initiative, a modified Next Gen stock car that will compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans June 10-11.
Drawing on a successful history in endurance racing, ECR Engines was selected to assist with the powertrain for Garage 56 and built the product based on the hardware and software used in previous endurance racing engines including the Daytona Prototype (DP) and Daytona Prototype International (DPi) eras.
“Without ECR Engines’ proven pedigree in endurance and sportscar racing, we would likely not have been involved in the Garage 56 program,” explained Matt Wiles, vice president and chief operating officer of ECR Engines. “With the partnership of Bosch, improvements were made to the legacy ECR software and controls algorithms, previously used in the DP and DPi era for Garage 56, taking proven strategies such as shifting (Automatic Gear Shifting) and traction control strategies. Similarly, ECR took certain hardware from our sports car engines and literally integrated them with the Cup engine to create the Garage 56 engine specification.”
Although the Garage 56 entry will be scored and listed on the official 24 Hours of Le Mans results this weekend, the car is not eligible for a podium or overall victory since it is considered an extra entry outside of the 55-car entry list. The goal instead is to showcase NASCAR Cup technology to the racing world, highlight ECR’s engineering capabilities, and to produce a unique endurance racing product in a compressed timeframe. According to Wiles, a successful race for the Garage 56 entry is racing 24 hours without incident and taking the checkered flag.
“Everyone at ECR wants to see the engine put fully through the paces at the Circuit of La Sarthe, including running wide open down the 3.7-mile Mulsanne Straight for 24 hours,” said Wiles.
The Garage 56 project is an unprecedented, collaborative effort highlighting creativity, innovation, and technological advances within the Next Gen Chevy. Publicly, ECR Engines has been a mostly quiet player in this initiative, but behind the scenes that has been far from the case.
“The Garage 56 project is another example of ECR executing superlatively on extremely short timeframes,” said Wiles. “The Garage 56 project was executed approximately one year from project initiation to the race. Because of the concept of the Garage 56 entry – to showcase the technology of NASCAR’s Next Gen car—we wanted the engine to be very representative of our current NASCAR engine product. From the outside, the Garage 56 engine looks extremely similar to our NASCAR Cup Series specification and utilizes some of those same components. However, we had to perform extensive internal modifications to make it suitable for sports car racing, including upgrading the induction system with individual throttle bodies (ITBs) to allow precision cylinder-specific fuel control for events and situations commonly encountered in sports car racing, such as traction control. Our Cup-based engine valvetrain designs were updated to achieve engine performance targets while meeting 30 hours target durability for Garage 56. Along with many vehicle integration details, other internal engine modifications included a bespoke cylinder head flow path (intake, exhaust ports, and combustion chamber) piston modifications, and oil system development.”
In parallel to supporting many vehicle-based track tests, including a full 24-hour race simulation at Sebring, ECR conducted four separate 30 hour simulated race dyno durability tests both in Welcome, North Carolina and at the GM Performance and Racing Center in Michigan to ensure a competitive, stable product at Le Mans.
“I’m extremely proud of the entire ECR team for contributing and executing the Garage 56 engine project whilst balancing the demands of our collective racing programs,” said Wiles.
The Garage 56 Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be driven by 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller in this weekend’s 100th anniversary running of the world-famous endurance race.