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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Johnson: Le Mans night stint in the rain was "frightening"

Jimmie Johnson is not used to driving in the rain, but that's exactly what he had to do during the night hours of this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button

Johnson got back behind the wheel of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as the event entered the early night hours.

The Garage 56 entry had an uneventful race with no major issues or offs to speak of. But the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion was faced with an entirely new challenge right after taking over driving duties. It began to rain.

Several cars went off as the rain poured down with visibility becoming as much of an issue as the wet track was. Johnson's rain-racing experience is limited, and never under conditions quite like this. Despite all that, the 47-year-old veteran did a fine job keeping the car on the track, and in one piece.

"It was frightening, especially how it took place – there was a pop-up shower at the start of the lap and it was just pouring," said Johnson. "I came around a corner on slicks and it was just a downpour. But we brought the car around and put wets on it to really try to understand how the wets would perform. We probably ran 2-3 too many laps on the wets and it really fell apart once the track started to dry.  We put the slicks back on and we were the fastest GT-style car on the track and were running the guys down."

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The stint lasted two hours and 52 minutes with Johnson running 33 laps. The car remains solidly inside the top-40 overall, but the timing of a safety car proved to be a bit of a setback for the HMS team as they aim to best the entire GTE-Am field.

“We had some unfortunate luck with the safety car that put us down a lap and we’re trying to get that lap back now," he explained. "I really think we have a shot at the GT overall with this car. So just need to catch the safety car right to put us back on the lead lap and off we go.

“I tried (to prepare for these conditions) in the sim, but they can’t simulate rain like it really is. The night time (sim) driving was pretty useful and worked out well, but the sim is easy because you can’t get hurt. You just hit reset and you’re back on the track. Real life, real fear, real consequences make a big difference.”

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button

#24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, Jenson Button

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

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