Jenson Button left with ‘a lot of work to do’ after first Le Mans Garage 56 test

Oliver Harden
Jenson Button at an Extreme E event. Dorset December 2021.

Jenson Button dressed for the cold weather at an Extreme E event. Dorset December 2021.

Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion, has been warned that his team have “a lot of work to do” as preparations for NASCAR’s 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours appearance begin.

Button was recently revealed as one of the drivers to race at the Le Mans centenary race in June in a joint initiative between NASCAR, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, Hendrick Motorsports, IMSA and Goodyear.

Alongside NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson and sportscar regular Mike Rockenfeller, Button will race a modified NASCAR at the Circuit de la Sarthe under Le Mans’ Garage 56 system, which is reserved for cars with unusual technology and design features.

Button conducted his first test in the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 this week, with project manager Chad Knaus admitting it is hard to ascertain where the car will be in the competitive order when it reaches Le Mans given the effect of the Balance of Performance system in endurance racing, revealing the target is to be on pace with GT machinery.

Per Autosport, he said: “It’s a bit of a moving target.

“We’re not too versed in the BoP side of life, so we don’t have a movement on that, we’re about getting ultimate performance out of the car, so that’s really going to end [in the overall competitive order] with where the BoP ends up.

“If we can get ourselves where we’re just a pinch below the GTE car and a little faster than what a GT3 car would be, that’s where we want to be.

“If we can get there, great. But we’ve got a lot of work to do.” recommends

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Following his first run in the car, Button described the challenges of adapting to the behaviour of an unfamiliar car, telling NASCAR’s official website: “For me, I’ve only done 20 laps, so it’s very difficult for me to talk about where the car is.

“But for me, it’s getting used to the position in the car. Obviously, there is body roll, it feels like it oversteers, but it’s not oversteering; it’s actually just the car itself taking a set. So the car runs like in the Cup Series, it runs very low at the rear, so on the banking, it’s like sitting on the ground.

“So it’s a lot to learn, but it’s a race car. And I can work with a race car.”

Per the same source, Knaus spoke of the thrill of working with Button, Johnson and Rockenfeller, all of whom have had success in their own right in motor racing.

“Obviously, they’re all very accomplished race car drivers, so that helps,” he added. “They all have a huge amount of respect for one another. Everybody understands what it is that we’re trying to achieve, what we’re trying to do and how important of a project it is.

“So there’s definitely a level of seriousness in what we’re doing, but these guys are very, very good at what they do. So they get along really well. And they understand what’s happening, and it’s been great.”

2023 will be Button’s second appearance at Le Mans after making his debut with the SMP Racing team in the 2018 event.

An engine problem saw the car fail to finish a race won by his former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso in his first visit for Toyota.