Jenson Button will take part in the centenary running of Le Mans this year, as part of the Garage 56 line-up alongside NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson and former Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller.
A NASCAR challenger will be on the grid for the legendary 24-hour race with an all-star line-up to match, including the 2009 World Champion.
Button will be taking the wheel of a modified Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as part of the Garage 56 entry, which is set aside by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest each year for Le Mans to showcase the “technology of tomorrow and beyond”, be it through electrification, alternative fuels or otherwise.
The entry of the Camaro is a collaboration between Chevrolet, NASCAR, IMSA, Hendrick Motorsports and Goodyear as part of NASCAR’s mission to try and put the series on a global stage.
The driver line-up was announced with a press conference ahead of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and he spoke of his excitement at the prospect of taking part.
“Yeah, I mean, this was a total surprise – I was on the way to Disneyland then took the wrong road!” Button joked to reporters in Florida.
“So no, it’s really special to be here. And yeah, seriously, I’ve always thought of myself as a racing driver and I finished my F1 career and I looked for new challenges, and this is definitely an exciting challenge to work alongside these two.
“As you can see already, there’s some good banter here with Jimmie thinking or dreaming that he’s the youngest…
“I think it just shows that teamwork that we will need to go to Le Mans and to perform as we would like, so very excited to work with this all stars team and I think we can we can achieve something very special.”
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As for the car itself, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson added it will keep the core identity of a NASCAR challenger, and it will provide a unique spectacle at Le Mans in June.
“I think we’re going to have some more details come out in another announcement more specific to the car itself, but I can say that we’re taking every effort we can to really carry that NASCAR DNA over to Le Mans,” Johnson said.
“That is really the design and the intent for this programme. Even that big V8 engine, everybody in France is gonna love hearing that thing scream down the straightaways.”
Former McLaren, Honda and Brawn driver Button previously took part in the 2018 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours, partnering former Renault driver Vitaly Petrov for SMP Racing in LMP1, but was unable to finish after an engine issue late in the race.
The team will have to wait for an official invitation from the ACO to take part in Le Mans from February 23, with the centenary running around the Circuit de la Sarthe coming from 10-11 June 2023.