Chip Ganassi Racing will utilize its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Cadillac V-Series.R for the 24 Hours of Le Mans as part of a chassis “re-rack” following the No. 3 car’s accident in last month’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
The factory Cadillac squad was due to keep its full-season GTP class car stateside but it will now be used for the French endurance classic in place of the brand-new chassis that debuted in Belgium according to CGR’s global director of operations Mike O’Gara.
Speaking with Sportscar365, O’Gara confirmed that Renger van der Zande’s massive crash at Eau Rouge in the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season was caused by an electrical fault and not driver error.
“What was discovered was that there’s an electrical connection issue that caused the steering to momentarily seize up,” he explained.
“The good news is that we’ve found the issue and we have a counter-measure in place now, so it’s not going to happen again.
“Obviously it’s unfortunate where it happened and when it happened and all of that.”
He added: “The silver lining is that Renger was fine, the tub survived despite it being a pretty massive-looking crash. Dallara did an awesome job with the tub itself.
“So there’s no structural damage to the tub, just some cosmetic.
“Us running there highlighted an issue we’ve now fixed. The more miles we put on these cars, the more we learn, the more we fix and the more reliable we make them.
“It’s horrible that it happened but it would be even worse if we hadn’t found anything.
“We did find the issue; it’s been resolved. The Portimao test car was updated, this car [in IMSA] was updated, so everything’s up to date and the issue is not going to happen again.”
O’Gara said the crashed Spa car will now become the team’s backup chassis as part of the change of plans.
“We’ll turn [the IMSA] car around after Laguna, get it ready for Le Mans and air freight it over and then it will come back for Watkins Glen,” he said.
“It’s not unfamiliar territory for us. It’s just we don’t like relying on airlines and maybe missing a flight. If you miss one flight, it could really wreak havoc.
“But I think we have a decent plan. We’ll have a week or so in the shop to get it ready to go.”
The new No. 3 car, which will be driven at Le Mans by van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon, is scheduled to be air-freighted to France on May 24 from Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
As for its return trip to the U.S., O’Gara said there are still multiple options at play to get the car back in time for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, which sees WeatherTech Championship teams unload ten days after Le Mans.
“We’ve done it a couple of different ways,” O’Gara said in reference to CGR’s previous Ford GT operation. “Typically we ship the cars back to Indy, turn them around quickly and then get them to The Glen.
“If there’s some delay with scrutineering at Le Mans, there’s a chance we can ship the car directly to New York and meet it there and do the turnaround at the track and then go for it.”
O’Gara said there were no plans to run two cars at its recent pre-Le Mans endurance test at Portimao, which saw van der Zande and Dixon join the full-season No. 2 WEC crew of Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook in their Cadillac Hypercar class entry.
Platform BoP Change for Le Mans “Would Help” Cadillac
Cadillac has joined fellow LMDh manufacturer Porsche in pushing for the FIA and ACO to make a platform Balance of Performance change to the Hypercar class ahead of Le Mans.
Toyota Gazoo Racing enters the race undefeated, with cars built to LMH technical regulations having swept the podiums in all rounds except for Porsche Penske Motorsport’s third-place result in the 6 Hours of Portimao.
“We’d like to be able to compete for an overall win and we’re going to do everything we can to do that. A platform change would certainly help us,” O’Gara said.
“I think we proved at Spa, that everyone had different tire strategies and all the stuff, but we proved with the 3 [car] until we had the incident that if you’re on the right tire and do the right strategy, we can run up there with those guys.
“But getting in front of those Toyotas is difficult. You have to count on them having a problem in order to get in front of them. It would be nice to get a little help there.”
O’Gara said he sees a different “mentality” between the BoP in WEC and the WeatherTech Championship.
“I think [in IMSA], people have their cards on the table a lot more and everybody’s just running,” he said. “These small adjustments, and we’ve had three different teams and three different manufacturers that won the first three races, that’s all great.
“Everyone here, it’s almost a more pre-BoP mentality. Everybody’s just going and racing and running.
“In WEC, no one’s quite sure what the plan is. It’s not that we’re not running hard but nobody really knows what the overall game plan is.
“We’re just doing everything we can for Le Mans. We feel like if we do everything right and minimize our mistakes and issues, we’re going to be right up front and be in with the best LMDh cars and maybe beat a few of the LMH cars as well.
“That’s what we’re going to try to do. And if in the meantime there’s some platform adjustment, then hopefully we can be right up there to compete for the win.”