Juggling endurance racing logistics with Detroit, Le Mans and Watkins Glen

For sports car teams competing on the worldwide stage, June is a month where they’ll be spending about as much time running through airports as they will running cars.

With the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit, the Le Mans scrutineering and test day, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen happening on consecutive weekends, teams competing in both IMSA and at Le Mans have a hectic few weeks ahead of them.

Both Cadillac Racing teams that campaign the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be competing at Le Mans. The Chip Ganassi Racing squad adds a second Cadillac V-Series.R to its full-time World Endurance Championship entry, and Whelen Cadillac Racing goes to Le Mans as a one-off. In addition, Porsche Penske Motorsport adds a third Porsche 963 (No. 4) for three of its full-time IMSA drivers, Nick Tandy, Mathieu Jaminet and Felipe Nasr. The upside that this is all done with multiple cars; still, there’s a load of logistics to work out to move equipment and personnel around. It also means that several teams began their Watkins Glen prep immediately after Saturday’s 100-minute race ended.


“It actually started back at Sebring,” explains Chris Mitchum, director of operations for the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac V-Series.R. “Unfortunately, the wreck that we had at Sebring took a car out of service for a length of time, so it changed up where things would normally be even with the bounty of races we have coming up. We have our IMSA primary chassis that will stay in the U.S. and is planned to be the primary car for the duration of IMSA races.

Whelen Cadillac Racing rolled out its Le Mans chassis at Laguna Seca earlier in the year. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

“Sebring put a need for a spare car to be on the road for the IMSA program, so our Le Mans car has been our spare car for Long Beach and Laguna. We rolled out and shook down our Le Mans car at Laguna Seca after the Long Beach race. That chassis left the U.S. on May 20 in air freight and our sea freight left prior to Long Beach, and that has our spares, parts and pieces. The Cadillac program’s spare chassis air freights to Le Mans on May 30 because it wouldn’t be needed until after the test day on June 9.”

The Whelen Cadillac Racing crew prepped the car that Pipo Derani and Jack Aitken (who will be joined by Felipe Drugovich in the No. 311 for Le Mans) just raced at Detroit onsite Saturday evening and Sunday to be ready for Watkins Glen. The crew hopped a redeye to Paris Sunday night for two weeks in France. Then it’s straight to New York on the Wednesday after Le Mans for the Six Hour. For those keeping score at home, that’s 32 days on the road. To make that move flawlessly takes a lot of advanced preparation, and two of everything.

“With the schedule, what is different from what we did last year is that nothing that you use in Le Mans outside of the things you can carry can be counted on to be used for Watkins Glen. Everything has to be a true duplicate, whereas last year for our first outing we had a duplicate approach. The biggest difference was we were able to ship a spare car to Le Mans and still get it back in time for our next IMSA race,” says Mitchum.

With the Chip Ganassi Racing squad already having an operation in place in Germany for its WEC Hypercar program, the logistics become a bit easier. The Le Mans chassis was shaken down at Putnam Park on May 16 before being put on an airplane headed to France. Also on the plane were tools and spares. Unlike the No. 31 squad, the crew for the No. 01 left Detroit Saturday night to go back to Indianapolis for its pre-Glen prep on Sunday and Monday.

“We want it ready in case there are any travel delays from France,” says Mike O’Gara, director of operations for CGR’s sports car team. “We’ll fly a few truck drivers back early so they can roll Tuesday to Watkins Glen.

Ganassi’s European operation streamlines things for the factory-backed squad. Jakob Ebrey/Motorsport Images

“We’ll just stagger personnel so they can turn around the Detroit car for Watkins Glen. The depth of the Chip Ganassi Racing team really helps in these situations. Having shop-based people who work on this program that can stay back at the home base and continue working on sub-assemblies, gearboxes, brakes, etc., for the rest of the season is a big help. That same group also builds all the gearboxes, uprights, brakes and stuff for the WEC team as well. We have a plan and a backup, so we should be OK.”

The team’s second car will run as No. 3 at Le Mans, with Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon handling the driving duties. They’ll join the WEC regular No. 2 squad of Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, with the addition of Alex Palou.

Several other teams are doubling up, but have fewer logistical issues because they have full European operations, such as United Autosports, Heart of Racing and Inception Racing. In addition to whole teams adding in Le Mans to their schedule, 31 IMSA full-season drivers will be participating. And since Watkins Glen is part of the Michelin Endurance Cup, more than 50 drivers could be doing Le Mans and the Glen back-to-back

Story originally appeared on Racer