Action Express details its plans for Le Mans

Michael Levitt/Lumen

Action Express details its plans for Le Mans

Le Mans/WEC

Action Express details its plans for Le Mans


As Cadillac V-Series.R prototypes compete on two continents this weekend — in the GTP class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in Long Beach and in the Hypercar class of the FIA World Endurance Championship in the six-hour race at Portimao in Portugal — the Cadillac Racing teams are looking forward to the 24 Hour of Le Mans and working toward success in the world’s biggest endurance race.

For Action Express Racing, that will be a new experience. And while its No. 3 will see action in the six-hour race at Spa in two weeks’ time, Chip Ganassi Racing will run that car alongside its No. 2, with support and observation by key AXR personnel.

“We’re fortunate to have the opportunity with CGR at Spa,” said AXR director of operations Chris Mitchum, who will travel to Spa for the race. “We will be much more than an interested watching party. Bill Keuler, our crew chief, will work on the 3 car with the Ganassi group. We’ve all gotten to this one-team point where we know each other and work together well.

“Not being a WEC team nor competing in the WEC, there are a lot of nuances that we know we don’t understand. One of our biggest goals is to understand the tech and inspection process. Having Bill as a mechanic on the ground to go through that and having myself there to watch the bigger picture and understand the flow is important to understand what the WEC officials are looking for and how the other teams operate. We want to take in as much as we can, and this is the best we can do without actually operating a car there.”

That won’t be the only preparation for Le Mans, as the team will do an endurance test at Road America with drivers Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims and Jack Aitken — the victorious trio from the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

“CGR is doing an endurance test. We’re doing a two-day test at Road America with all three drivers with our WEC car, so that’s our Le Mans preparation. That will work out well,” Mitchum explained. “They’ll drive the car they’re going to drive at Le Mans, use the seat insert they use. We’ll work though all our test procedures, and GM has a tight list of things that need to get accomplished. I think in doing that, it’s the best preparation we can have with the landscape as it is.”

The logistics in conducting a multi-continent campaign, especially with the current supply chain issues and shortage of spares, is challenging, although Mitchum notes that the capabilities to move cars and equipment is much more advanced than the last time he looked at going to Le Mans 15 years ago. But the team still has to get the car from the Road America test to France, and much of the other equipment and spares are already on the way.

“We have some great partners that we’re utilizing. You end up dividing your thought process between what parts and pieces you can operate in IMSA without them here and what parts and pieces you need,” Mitchum said. “Our biggest challenge is how do we operate at the spares level we want, on two different continents effectively at the same time. You don’t want to just air freight everything; you have to be realistic. Our sea container with support pieces and parts that we need left when we landed here in Long Beach and then we’ll air freight our car just after Laguna.”

The team will still have a car in the U.S., the one it will race in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. But the team will have everything it needs to keep going should the worst happen.

“We will still take our primary car, a spare tub and all the spares we need so that we operate on our disaster-times-two plan the same as we would in IMSA as we would over in France. We’ve outfitted the inside of that sea container so if we need to do some fabrication work, we can use it as a workshop. There is not a stress level of how is it going to come together; it’s constant attention.”

Mitchum and the team are realistic in their expectations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. What they do expect is to learn as much as possible in order to be better when Action Express competes there again.