Sebring and Petit Lemans added to ACO Cup

The two premier events in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n will each be part of a new global sports car championship starting in 2011. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest – the governing body for the Le Mans 24 Hours – announced the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans as two rounds of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup for next season.

A year ago at the Le Mans 24 Hours, the ACO revealed its intention to create the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup for 2010. Thursday’s announcement completed the full 2011 schedule which includes races in the American Le Mans Series, the European-based Le Mans Series and the Asian Le Mans Series – as well as Le Mans itself as a double-points event.

“This is fantastic news for the two highest-profile events on our calendar," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series. “Both the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans are firmly established among the world’s greatest endurance races, and having them both as part of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will elevate their stature that much higher.

“The quantity and quality of the entries in this groundbreaking competition will bring together the best of the best from around the world in all classes," he added. “We stand with the ACO and the other Le Mans championships in support of this initiative which will expand world-class sports car racing on a truly global level."

Petit Le Mans is one of three events to hold Intercontinental Le Mans Cup events for 2010. It is set for September 29-October 2 at Road Atlanta. Originally conceived for LMP1 manufacturers, the ACO announced in March the inclusion of a championship for GT2 manufacturers and the addition of team championships for all four ACO-sanctioned classes.

The Sebring 12 Hours is America’s greatest sports car race and considered by many to be the most demanding race in the world – including Le Mans. Sebring International Raceway, located in central Florida, is a 3.7 mile, 17-turn circuit. It is the oldest road course in North America, portions of which were originally a WWII B-17 training base.

“Sebring International Raceway is proud to have been selected as part of the prestigious Intercontinental Le Mans Cup," said Tres Stephenson, General Manager. “The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida has always attracted a stellar entry, but 2011 will no doubt be truly special. I know our fans and marketing partners will be elated to hear the news."

Petit Le Mans, the annual 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance classic at Road Atlanta, is the cornerstone event of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n. The Road Atlanta facility is an hour northeast of Atlanta and is a 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course. It has played host to more Series events – 14 – than any other venue.

“We are thrilled that the International Le Mans Cup will include Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta for the second straight year in 2011," said Geoff Lee, President of Road Atlanta. “What’s already the largest annual international sporting event in Georgia now offers our fans additional intrigue and excitement by attracting even more of Europe and Asia’s elite sports cars and drivers."

Other venues that will play host to Intercontinental Le Mans Cup events in 2011 include Spa, Le Mans and Silverstone (Europe), and Fuji and a yet-to-be confirmed circuit in China (Asia).

Also Thursday, the ACO announced that prototype cars that meet the 2010 regulations will be allowed to compete in all Le Mans-sanctioned races for 2011. In addressing the prototype rules for next season, the ACO called for a reduction in engine displacement and horsepower, putting the emphasis on fuel economy and energy efficiency.

“The ACO’s decision to allow the current generation of LMP cars to compete alongside next-generation prototypes is one we fully endorse," Atherton said. “Allowing manufacturers to explore new automotive technologies and innovations in the design, construction and propulsion of sports cars is a cornerstone of both Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series. At the same time, we continue to embrace the true backbones of endurance racing – the independent teams that go head-to-head against the factory efforts on a regular basis. I believe this decision by the ACO will be enthusiastically received by all."

The GT future regulations also include the elimination of GT1 while renaming GT2 to GT Endurance (although the rules remain very consistent since 2009). GT Endurance will be divided into two sub-classes – GT Endurance PRO (professional category) and GT Endurance AM (for varying skill level of drivers and cars more than one year old).

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