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Strong field of sports cars heading East to Zhuhai
No less than 27 Prototype and GT cars are on their way to China to participate in the 1000km of Zhuhai. On Sunday 7 November, the racetrack near the south Chinese beach resort of Zhuhai will host the third and final race of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC), a race series that was initiated this spring. Rolex is proud to be associated as the Official Watch and Timekeeper for the inaugural ILMC series.

Among the 27 entries for the 1000km of Zhuhai will be all the front runners of the three series that are included in this challenge one event from each, including the American, the European and the Asian Le Mans Series. Following their wins at the previous races in the ILMC at Silverstone in England and Petit Le Mans (Road Atlanta) in the USA, the French Peugeot entries are the ones to beat. They will be strongly challenged by the Audis, which earlier this year won the 24 hours of Le Mans. Both these manufactures will enter sports cars that run on diesel fuel. The other main competitors in the LMP1 class are the British Lola and Japanese entered Courage. These cars, however, run on gasoline fuel.

The cars entered in the LMP1 class are the fastest entries in the starting field. The diesel-powered cars, namely Peugeot and Audi, can have an engine capacity of 5,500-cm3 while the gasoline-powered cars can have a 6,000-cm3 engine – normally aspirated – or a 4,000-cm3 engine with turbo. Also the weight in these two categories differ, with the minimal weight for diesel-powered sport cars at 930 kg, while the gasoline-powered cars must have a minimal weight of 900 kg. To make both cars equally competitive, the fuel cell also differs: 81-liters for the diesel sports cars and 90-liters for the gasoline cars.

A second sports prototype class is called LMP2. In this category, the cars are slightly smaller, weigh less and have a smaller engine. The entrants in this class can have either an eight-cylinder engine with a maximal capacity of 3,400-cm3 – normally aspirated – or a six-cylinder 2,000-cm3 engine with turbo. Both these engines are fuelled by gasoline, diesel is not allowed in this class. All LMP2 sports cars, both in open as well as in closed configuration, must have a minimal weight of 825 kg and have a fuel capacity of 80-litres. For the Zhuhai race, several Lola’s as well as a Pescarolo are entered in this class.

In addition to these sports-prototype classes, there will also be a fierce competition among the GT entries. The GT class has two main categories: the GT1 and GT2. The cars in both these categories are based on road-legal Gran Turismo cars and differ mainly in their preparation. Although the engine capacities in both categories are the same, the power will be different because of the inlet restrictors used. Just like in the sports prototype classes, in these classes too there is a difference in weight, wheel size, fuel capacity and additionally, the material of the brakes. In the more exotic GT1 class, the fastest cars are the Aston Martin DBR9, the Lamborghini Murcielago R and the Saleen S7R. In the GT2 class, which has strong manufacturer involvement, participants include BMW M3, Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Jaguar XKRS and a large number of Porsches.

For the Zhuhai race there will also be an Experimental GT class, where Porsche will run its 911 Hybrid GT, which showed promising results in the Petit Le Mans At Road Atlanta. This experimental GT car will be driven by Joerg Bergmeister (GER), overall winner of the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona, and Patrick Long (USA). Finally, a number of Audi’s R8 will face a lone Aston Martin in the GTC class, a popular class in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

Peugeot will come to Zhuhai with two cars run by French drivers Sebastian Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud, and by Stéphane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny. The Sarrazin/ Montagny team, with the additional help of Pedro Lamy (POR), won the Petit Le Mans At Road Atlanta last month. Eight-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen (DEN) will share an Audi RS15 with Allan McNish (MCO), who himself has also twice won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The second Audi will be shared by three-time Le Mans winner Rinaldo Capello (ITA) and Romain Dumas (FRA), the latter having won this year’s Le Mans and Spa 24-hour races.

The final race of this year’s Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will start on Sunday 7 November at 13:00 local time. Practice and qualifying will be held on Friday 5 November and Saturday 6 November. There is an eight-hour time difference with Europe.

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