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LMES gears up for Intercontinental Le Mans Cup 6 Hours of Zhuhai
The 6 Hours of Zhuhai, to run the 13 November in Zhuhai, China, will be the final race of this year’s Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC). The ILMC, which featured seven races for the 2011 season, was designed to test the limits for Le Mans-style endurance teams the world over. ILMC champions receive an automatic invitation to the following edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will be celebrating its 80th Anniversary in 2012.

One of the most fascinating races in the world

Created in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the oldest and the most prestigious endurance automobile race in the world. The race is organized by the Société Sportive Professionnelle de l’Automobile Club de l’Ouest (SSP-ACO) on the13.629-kilometre “Circuit de La Sarthe” in Le Mans, a city about 200 kilometers southwest of Paris, France. For over 80 years every June, a time when the days are the longest of the year and the nights the shortest, the best car brands and internationally renowned drivers have been coming together in Le Mans.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans begins on Saturday at 15:00, regardless of weather conditions, and over 60 teams, made up of three drivers each, participated in the 2011 edition. The drivers take turns behind the wheel for this race that reveals both the reliability of their machines, as well as the physical and mental stamina of the drivers. The winning team is the one that covers the greatest distance in 24 hours, often more than 5,000 kilometers.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the key event in the ILMC series. Although the series finale is to be held this November in Zhuhai, current series standings have already guaranteed Peugeot the 2011 ILMC LM P1 Manufacturer and Team Titles (Team Peugeot Total). Including the Oreca win at Sebring this past March, Peugeot has won every round of racing in the 2011 ILMC except the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Audi took 1st this year in spite of two serious accidents during the race.

Peugeot recently celebrated three consecutive wins in the ILMC Championship, the most recent of which sealed their overall victory at Petit Le Mans with drivers Sarrazin (FRA) / Montagny (FRA) / Wurz (AUT). For the 6-hour race in Zhuhai, the LM P1 category welcomes a nine-car field that, regardless of the current points standing, will do everything within their power to win on Chinese soil. The victory represents an important boost in China’s emerging automobile market, one which all are willing to fight for.

The LM P2 Team title was also decided following the 6th round of ILMC racing at Petit Le Mans, and only two of the three full-season teams will make the trip to China for the race at Zhuhai. French team Nissan Signatech has been crowned LM P2 Team Champions for 2011, and they will take on OAK Racing for the final race in Zhuhai, while Level 5 Motorsports will not take part in the ILMC season finale.

In the GTE categories, one of the Team titles has also already been declared: the LM GTE-Am title has been awarded to Larbe Competition, also the title winners in the 2010 ILMC (when the category was known as LM GT1). Six teams will race in the LM GTE-Am category in Zhuhai and seven cars are on the entry list for the LM GTE-Pro category. The latter is the only category with Championship titles still undetermined, along with the Manufacturer title for the LM GTE (Pro and Am combined).

In LM GTE it is Ferrari that currently leads over BMW by 28-points in the Manufacturer classification, meaning the win could go to the Italian marque if just two of the Ferrari cars finish the Zhuhai race. Ferrari won the LM GT2 Team title in the 2010 ILMC (this year known as LM GTE-Pro title) and already has four victories in the 2011 ILMC championship. The Manufacturer title, and a victory on Chinese soil, would only confirm the first successful racing season of the 458 Italia. The team title in LM GTE-Pro is still unpredictable and promises a fight to the finish at the finale of this year’s endurance championship.

The 6 Hours of Zhuhai will run on 13 November at 11:00 local time. Practice and qualifying will be held on Friday, 11 November and Saturday, 12 November.

Evolution of the ILMC for 2012:
the new FIA World Endurance Championship

Originally created in 2010, the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) was designed to represent the latest cornerstone in international endurance racing. As official timepiece and time-keeping partner, Rolex is proud to be part of this exciting series that has grown each year. For the 2012 racing season, the ILMC will be transformed into a new international series: the FIA World Endurance Championship.

This new international series will have its debut race at the 60th Anniversary of the 12 Hours of Sebring in March 2012 and is expected to include a minimum of six events. All races are to last between six to 12 hours, except for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will also be worth double points. As the key event in the endurance racing series, the 24 Hours of Le Mans represents the most grueling event in the championship. Since the early twenties, this 24-hour race has ranked among the most prestigious motorsport events in the world. Audi driver and Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen (DEN) has been dubbed “Mr. Le Mans” for having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a record eight times. Kristensen will race in Zhuhai for the 2011 ILMC finale in the Audi R18 Le Mans Prototype that debuted earlier this year.

For the 2012 series, FIA World Endurance Championship titles will be awarded to the champion manufacturer (reserved for the LMP1 category) and drivers. A World Cup will be awarded to the winning LM GTE Manufacturer (Pro and Am combined), as well as FIA Endurance Trophies for the winning teams in LM P2, LM GTE-Am, LM GTE-Pro and the best private team in LM P1. The full FIA World Endurance Championship calendar is to be announced before the end of the year. More details are expected shortly.
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