The ACO announced Sunday the launch of a new championship for 2016, confirming the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, which will run on European Le Mans Series weekends, as well as at Le Mans in June.
The six-round championship, which kicks off at the second ELMS round of the season at Imola in May, will feature two-hour races, with each driver lineup requiring at least one Bronze-rated driver.
Race weekends will feature a pair of one-hour practice sessions and a 30-minute qualifying session, aside from the Le Mans event, which will take place during the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend and will have a modified schedule.
The Le Mans event, run on the full 8.5 mile Circuit de la Sarthe, will be a one-hour race, which will also be open to full-season European and Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 cars.
“This new series is a logical step as part of the scheme adopted by the ACO for the development of endurance,” ACO President Pierre Fillon said.
“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.”
An agreement has been made with the promoters of the French FFSA GT Tour, to avoid any conflicts between its GT3-based sprint championship, and allowing teams to run both Michelin-shod championships, even with the same car numbers.
“Michelin has invested significantly in the development of its endurance racing tire range over the past several seasons,” said Michelin Motorsport manager Pascal Couasnon.
“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.”