|The ACO announces the new series.|
Sunday, October 18, during the final round of the 2015 season of the European Le Mans Series in Estoril (Portugal), Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, and Gérard Neveu, European Le Mans Series CEO, with Pascal Couasnon, Michelin Motorsport Manager, announced the creation of a new GT3 Endurance series in 2016.
The Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup will be launched next season and will run on the European Le Mans Series meetings, completing the line-up of exciting race series for the race week-ends including ELMS, Formula Renault 2.0 and Renault Sport Trophy RS01.
The Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup is reserved for GT3 category cars and will take part on five ELMS rounds : Imola, Red Bull Ring, Le Castellet, Spa and Estoril. A sixth round will place at Le Mans in June as the opening race of the weekend at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In order to optimize the sporting program of these GT3 cars, an agreement has been reached with the French FFSA GT Tour promotor with endurance staying with ELMS and sprint with GT Tour. There will be 2-hour endurance races at each of the ELMS meetings and 1-hour sprint races on the GT Tour meetings.
The calendars of the two series have no clash in dates, which means the GT3 Teams will be able to enter both competitions, keeping the same car number and the same tire manufacturer, due to the fact that Michelin will be the title sponsor of the new ACO series.
In each 2-driver crew in the new endurance race series, a bronze category driver will be mandatory for each line-up. Apart from the race taking place on the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit, the track program in the ELMS meetings will be made up of two 1-hour free practice sessions, one 30-minute qualifying session and one 2-hour race.
Important to note, as this will be the case in ELMS, the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup will also present "prize money" to the champions at the end of the season.
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, 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 program 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 tire 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 program 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 tires that will contribute both to their enjoyment and their performance thanks to the quality of their overall package."