The Le Mans Garage 56 initiative has had a somewhat staccato history.
From the publicity blitz of the lightweight Nissan DeltaWing in 2012, the GreenGT – hydrogen fuel cell programme the following year failed to show (though that tech lives on in the H24 programme today).
2014 saw Nissan return with the ill-fated ZEOD RC, a full electric lap in practice came to naught after a gearbox failure in the very early part of the race.
2016 was the next time a project gained the approval of the ACO and this time it was the Frédéric Sausset-led SRT41 programme, based around an Onroak-Morgan LMP2 car adapted to cater for quadruple amputee Fred with a system that could be installed in just ten minutes.
The programme was designed to highlight the way in which disability could, and was, being catered for.
Sausset and co. became the first, and so far only Garage 56 programme to finish the race. He established an academy to coach and develop fellow physically impaired drivers and they were set to be back in an adapted ORECA 07 Gibson this year with a trio of disabled drivers. That 2020 effort was an early victim of the COVID19 crisis with plans underway to go again in 2021.
2017 should have seen a bio-methane-fuelled car from WR (Welter Racing) competing, the idea is to harvest human waste from the circuit to use as the base fuelling component.
The programme though ran out of finance to develop the engine. It’s that technology though that is a key part of the 2023 proposal from another all-French effort – VISION.
The nascent company is aiming for a Garage 56 entry in 2023, the centenary race, with a racing version of an all-French hypercar which the company intend to put into limited production (10-15 units) from 2024/25.
VISION currently has a team of 16 people working on the project, a young team with an average age of just 25, after starting their project around 4 years ago.
Now under the overall management of Thomas Castex there’s a strong message that the project intends to showcase French technology and know-how.
The proposed car is a Hypercar “I want no compromise, like with the Valkyrie,” says Castex, who also adds that the team has “A passion for Le Mans.”
The drive to refine the company’s concept has encompassed a number of familiar names with ex WR engineer Thibault Dejardin involved. PSA concept car creator, Thibault Granier and involvement too from racing driver and professional engineer Paul Loup Chatin.
The proposed engine is broadly inspired by the BioMethane unit that Welter had developed for the stillborn 2017 GGE 56 car.
Michelin has an interest in the project via R&D support too.
The key, as always, is finance, some 10-12 million Euros is the programme target to get the car on track but with discussions ongoing, Caltex is confident but realistic: “It is hard to be listened to, there are so many projects out there like ours”, he admits.
The outfit’s first creation, Vision 1789, has already been revealed, this the basis it is believed of the proposed Garage 56 effort.
There’s a way to go yet before this effort can be talked about as anything close to a racing certainty, but in these uncertain times, ambition is something to be treasured.
All VISION images copyright David Lord Photography/ Dailysportscar