While competitors and fans of GT racing gather this weekend in Estoril, Portugal for the final round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series and Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup seasons, plans are already well underway for 2017.
Recognising that many competitors wish to remain within the framework of development and competition founded and promoted by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), from 2017 the Michelin Le Mans Cup will be open to both GT3 cars and LMP3 prototypes together. There will be two different classifications, separate podiums and titles on offer, and full details will be published in the coming weeks. For GT3 and LMP3 entrants this move is a logical step, and provides access towards the increasingly higher levels of competition in LMGTE and LMP2.
The Road To Le Mans model, which ran with great success this year, will now be transformed into an endurance version (2-hour race) for the entire Michelin Le Mans Cup season.
The already published 2017 calendar will feature five rounds alongside the European Le Mans Series at Monza, Red Bull Ring, Le Castellet, Spa-Francorchamps and Portimão. In addition, competitors have as their second round of the championship in June at the high profile Road to Le Mans event, the curtain-raiser to the main event – the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The three categories of competition in the European Le Mans Series, LMP2, LMP3 and LMGTE, will remain, but the addition of the new arena for LMP3 offers more flexibility in terms of calendars, budgets and levels of competition for teams and drivers. No big changes to the 2017 sporting regulations are expected, and these regulations will be available soon.
The prize money will of course be maintained for the two categories GT3 and LMP3.
At the end of the season, the first LMP3 cars in the Michelin Le Mans Cup will receive an invitation to join the European Le Mans Series the following season, while the lowest placed LMP3 cars in the ELMS classification will be transferred to the Michelin Le Mans Cup.
President of the ACO, Pierre Fillon commented: “It has been very satisfying to see this first season of the new championship come to fruition, and to know that it corresponds fully with the Spirit of Le Mans. There has been a high level of sporting success, and 2016 has formed a good basis on which to grow and develop this first step on the endurance ladder. The final results are a demonstration of the performance, enthusiasm and commitment to these European Le Mans Series and Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup events.”
Gérard Neveu, CEO of the European Le Mans Series and Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup added: “In Europe there is a growing demand for LMP3 cars and we have recognised this by extending the options for entrants and providing the perfect stage for them on which to compete. We should not forget that this prototype category was created and developed by the ACO and it is the first step on this fantastic adventure that is endurance racing. 2017 promises to be even better, but first we must celebrate the end of the 2016 season!
Pascal Couasnon, Director of Michelin Motorsport: “It’s really good news to see the Michelin Le Mans Cup grid getting bigger and offering even better opportunities for the GT3 and LMP3 teams in endurance racing. Michelin is delighted to continue to be a major partner in this discipline.”
Provisional Michelin Le Mans Cup 2017 Calendar
13 May: Monza (Italy)
17 June: Road to Le Mans (France)
22 July: Red Bull Ring (Austria)
26 August: Le Castellet (France)
23 September: Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium)
21 October: Portimão (Portugal)