Monday 19 October 2015

The ACO launches a new endurance GT3 cup for 2016

At a press conference Sunday in Estoril, Pierre Fillion, president of the ACO and Gérard Neveu, CEO of ELMS, together with Pascal Couasnon, Michelin Motorsport Manager, announced the creation of a new GT3 series in 2016. The Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup will be launched next season and is reserved exclusively for GT3 cars. With prize money at the end of the season and an invite for the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours granted to the overall winner, this newly found cup is offering a straight entry to Le Mans.

The new championship will join the ELMS meetings from Imola on and have a sixth round at Le Mans, ahead of the 24 hours. The sporting programme in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans cup will be optimised in conjunction with the French GT Tour promotor. At the ELMS meetings, there will be 2 hour endurance races, the GT Tour meetings will have 1 hour sprint races.  There will be no clash in dates between both series, so the teams will be able to join both championships. The organisation of the new series will be managed by the same team who organises the ELMS, giving it a very good structural platform.

Gérard Neveu explained the goal of this new championship is to enlarge the endurance family and give new teams & drivers a taste of endurance racing & the Le Mans spirit.  The goal is to offer the best possible program for teams and drivers at a reasonable cost. The Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup will form the base of the endurance pyramid, giving teams the chance to have a taste of the passion for endurance racing and a platform offering a gateway into GTE, ELMS & further on possible to WEC and the Le Mans 24 Hours, similar with LMP3 to LMP2 and ELMS to WEC.

The race format will be a 2 hour endurance race, with 2 practice sessions of 35' & 25' beforehand. The championship will be open for all GT3 cars, with a minimum of 2 drivers of which one has to be bronze qualified. No decision has been made yet about the qualification of the other driver(s) as the sporting regulations are still in development and the organisation would like to further discuss this with participating teams. At this time, the objective is to have around 20 cars/teams on track by the start of the season.  The race ahead of the Le Mans 24 hours will be open to a maximum of 45 cars.  Having the race at Le Mans will be of great value for the championship, as this will give the teams and drivers a unique chance to race at the legendary circuit in the unique Le Mans atmosphere.

With the introduction of this new series, the GTC category will not compete in the European Le Mans Series anymore.  ELMS raceweekend will be packed with action in 2016 with the ELMS itself, Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, Formula Renault 2.0 and Renault Sport Trophy.

Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO, said: “This new series is a logical step as part of the scheme adopted by the ACO for the development of endurance.  In addition to the WEC on the world stage, or the ELMS at European level, and the Asian Le Mans Series in Asia, with this new series the ACO adds another piece to its portfolio of competitions and strengthens its position as promoter of Championships and Endurance races.  It will be for the best teams and drivers in GT3, a true gateway to access the GTE world and therefore to have the opportunity to join the family of the 24 hours of Le Mans. The ACO also welcomes the strong involvement of Michelin in this new series, strengthening further the links between the world-renowned French manufacturer and Le Mans.”

Gérard Neveu, CEO of the European Le Mans Series, said: “The Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup enhances the ELMS programme for the 2016 season. In the same meeting, motorsport fans will be able to enjoy single seat racing with the Formula Renault 2.0, mono series with the RS01 and with the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, all of this coming in addition to the main race of the weekend, the European Le Mans Series.

“This new series represents an excellent path for gentlemen drivers who want to progress in the world of endurance. Like we have always done in ELMS, we will do all we can so that the dream becomes reality for these gentlemen drivers. We are extremely pleased by the very strong interest that has already been shown by many GT teams for this new series. We look forward to seeing you in 2016 for a season that promises to be superb.”

Pascal Couasnon, Director, Michelin Motorsport: “Michelin has invested significantly in the development of its endurance racing tyre range over the past several seasons. It consequently seemed natural to share this expertise with the GT3 teams and, indirectly, with the manufacturers of GT3 cars. Through our involvement in the Le Mans 24 Hours and in the championships the Automobile Club de l’Ouest promotes, we already have close ties with the ACO, so it was a perfectly logical step to extend our partnership and thereby accompany the spectacular growth endurance racing has enjoyed in recent years. Michelin is very keen to be a part of this new challenge, especially as it will allow us to combine an endurance racing programme with a season of sprint racing within the framework of the GT Tour. We will provide the drivers who participate in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup with tyres that will contribute both to their enjoyment and their performance thanks to the quality of their overall package.”

Kristof Vermeulen.