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ACO Launches Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup for 2016

Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup launched for 2016…

Photo: DPPI/GT Tour

Photo: DPPI/GT Tour

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.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John



  1. theunknownmotorsportfan

    October 18, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Interesting to see it happen maybe something to try and rival the successful Blancpain Endurance Series.

    Nice to see another endurance GT3 series rather than another sprint GT3 series.

    They should have also done a deal with the International GT Open as it also run Michelin tyres.

    Wonder what will happen next and whether it can gain popularity.

    Would need a stable footing similar to the European Le Mans Series to make it successful.

  2. Hugo

    October 18, 2015 at 8:59 am

    If ACO wanted GT3 they should have teamed up/partnered with SRO… this new series seems more like a “if you can’t join them…” kinda thing. Shame about all the politics going on there.

    Also: bronze drivers? Meh.

  3. slow

    October 18, 2015 at 9:26 am

    I don’t see why Europe needs this many GT3 enduro series,

    • Jason

      October 18, 2015 at 10:23 am

      True but at least I heard that GT3 will not be part of the ELMS anymore.

  4. stueyb83

    October 18, 2015 at 9:38 am

    A Le Mans GTE entry is an amazing dangling carrot.. but lets see how this plays out. GT3 was SRO’s baby from day dot and it seems a sizable snub to rival them with their own product..

    I still think Ratel hasn’t achieved everything he wants yet by a long shot.. let’s see if this forces his hand a little?

    A GT3 around Le Mans would be interesting, also.

  5. Daniel

    October 18, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Running as a support series to ELMS will be the key to its survival. The LeMans round is a huge bonus too.

    • slow

      October 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

      Key to GT3’s survival????? You mean the GT3 class that is represented around the world with championships on every continent outside of Africa? Which covers by far more territory then any of ACO class could ever dream of.

      • Matt

        October 18, 2015 at 5:21 pm

        No, the survival of this new series you dunce. Nobody is questioning GT3 just yet (although costs are starting to rise quite dramatically). Until the cars reach the price of a GTE spec vehicle GT3 will do well everywhere.

        • Anthony Thomas (@djfourmoney)

          October 18, 2015 at 6:25 pm

          The cost of GT3 is offset by the many series you can run with various drivers. Look at AF Corse that isn’t all support from Ferrari, they have had competitive cars since the start of this decade and before that.

          All the do is offer a professionally crewed Ferrari for a fixed price depending on the series. How come more GT3 teams haven’t done this is beyond me.

        • slow

          October 19, 2015 at 1:08 am

          Yeah, I’m sure a bunch of the GT3 guys are totally going to jump ship from their series to this one just because they can be a support race for the ELMS.. The same ELMS they used to be able to race within.

          This whole thing looks like a very poor attempt at a series to directly compete against the BES, which is a fight they’ll lose. Especially with how much the ACO has snubbed GT3 teams over the years.

          • AudiTT

            October 19, 2015 at 5:25 am

            This series has nothing to do with competition with BES. That series is oversubscribed, but is increasingly expensive and unsuitable for amateur drivers. Meanwhile many national series are struggling to fill their grid with full house GT3’s, hence a move to P3 & GT4.

            The entire GT3 market is changing, the days of it being a budget option is long gone, P3 now offers more bang per buck,performance wise at least.

          • Bakkster

            October 19, 2015 at 9:39 am

            Sure, it means a few less hours of running costs, and the chance for overall wins.

            It looks more to me like taking the GT3s out of direct competition from the GTEs (too much BoP work) to give both the ELMS and GT3 guys more room to race.

  6. coach ep

    October 18, 2015 at 10:06 am

    So far no clashed between BES and ELMS/Le Mans24 (as long as the ELMS round @ Spa on Sept. 25 won’t be brought forward a week when BES is at the Ring).

    • coach ep

      October 18, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Edit: sorry, ELMS Imola round clashes with BES @ Imola, May 15th.

    • Patricia

      October 18, 2015 at 11:27 am

      If Imola LMS is on May 15th, then it clashes with Silverstone Blancpain Endurance Series

      • Anthony Thomas (@djfourmoney)

        October 18, 2015 at 6:23 pm

        Correct, these series always clash with each other and it’s on purpose. 365 days in a year and you can’t keep competing motorsport off the same weekend?

        This ACO series bring nothing to the table. If they move GT3 out of the ELMS, they will shrink the ELMS field down by quite a bit. My guess is they believe it will be made up by LMP-3 cars.

        • coach ep

          October 18, 2015 at 6:38 pm

          The Le Mans support race is the big carrot and will guarantee ‘sufficient’ entrants, the ACO is aiming for 20 full seasonal ones for its first season with a max of 45 cars (GT3 + LM3) for LM. That isn’t too much asked. An additional GT3 series in Europe gives teams another possibility to make a bit of return on their investment by renting out their cars.

          Plus – like you said – the ACO doesn’t want huge fields anymore and with the expected boom in LMP3 entrants they decided to ‘move’ the GT3s to their own series. Maybe they also hope to boost their GTE entry by making it the only GT class in the ELMS (???).

        • AudiTT

          October 19, 2015 at 5:32 am

          The ELMS grid is expected to be 35-40 next season, focused on P2,P3 & GT3.

          The trouble is you guys focus entirely on Blancpain, yet there are many sites that accept GT3. One of those is French GT, and this new ACO series will run in conjunction with that, meanwhile French GT (and VDV) will accept P3.

          The SRO GT3 series are really now focused on all pro & factory backed teams.

          • AudiTT

            October 19, 2015 at 5:34 am

            *that should be P2,P3 & GTE

        • Bakkster

          October 19, 2015 at 9:57 am

          Your mention of weekends is the important one, leaving just 52, not all of which are available due to weather (probably actually just 36 weeks). How many GT3 series are there just in Europe?

          6 ACO GT3
          12 Blancpain GT
          7 British GT
          7 French GT
          8 ADAC GT
          10 VLN races
          7 GT Open
          9 Dutch Supercar
          5 24h Series races

          That’s 71 race weekends, that won’t fit into 52 weeks, let alone 44 for weather. Of course there are going to be conflicts. The races that get avoided are the big events. Le Mans, Spa, and Nurburgring 24 hours for instance, the ones that guys actually want to enter as one-offs.

          The reason it’s not a big deal, is so few guys really want to run multiple championships aside from a one-off or two at the big events.

          • 7D3

            October 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm

            Car Manufactures: Hopefully

            Audi R8 LMS
            Ginetta G55 GT3*
            Nissan GTR Nismo GT3
            BMW Z4 GT3/ M6 GT3
            Glickenhaus SCG 003*
            Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia/ 488 GT3
            Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3
            Lamborghini Huracán GT3
            Bentley Continental GT3
            McLaren 650S GT3
            Chevrolet Callaway Corvette C7. R GT3*
            Lexus RC F GT3
            Dodge SRT Viper GT3 R
            Mercedes SLS AMG GT3/ AMG GT
            Porsche 911 GT3 R

      • coach ep

        October 18, 2015 at 6:30 pm

        yes, correct, my mistake.

  7. 7D3

    October 18, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    So Le Mans with this is going to be 2 classes with LMP3 and GT3?

    LMP3: Ligier, Ginetta, Adess, Dome, Riley
    GT3: Audi, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Nissan, Etc

    • Helmut

      October 20, 2015 at 7:17 am

      The Dome LMP3 won’t show up before 2017 according to Dome.

  8. Anthony Thomas (@djfourmoney)

    October 18, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    I don’t understand this move at all and it smells. It smells like the IRL did here in the US. There is no logical reason for it, they keep dangling potential entries to Le Mans and talk some BS about the next logical step from GT3 is GTE.

    But the requirements to have a Bronze driver does what exactly? Seems to me they have let Graham Goodwin talk too much as he’s a supporter of the theory that amateur/rich bloke are needed for any GT series to work, scientifically unproven of course.

    So let me get this straight, this series is basically like the European version of Pirelli World Challenge as it often partners with the Indy Car series being the secondary show to the big show, the ELMS in this case.

    Seems to me they want more GTE-Am entries and figure this is the best way to get it.

    The WEC is going to loose Labre to the Pro side of GTE from the Am side. They will lose Marc VDS after this weekend. ACO is only getting ONE new GTE car and it’s not available to the public yet and not even sure if it ever will be.

    I figure the BES Pro class will grow as the factories that build these new GT3 cars will want to make sure they are showcased properly. So I don’t see how ACO is going to benefit from this.

    • AudiTT

      October 19, 2015 at 5:51 am

      Amateur drivers are absolutely essential to GT racing, that’s clear for all to see. When GT racing had its revival, even the top GT1 cars, like the McLaren F1 GTR, where funded and Co driven by amateurs.

      As professionalism increased, the amateur element needed to be protected, otherwise your left with a handful of factory/all pro cars. The ELMS GTE grid is Pro/Am, as is (obviously) GTE-Am in the WEC. Both are hugely entertaining and helped to grow GTE grids across the world.

      With the P3 option, which will increasingly be adopted in national series, series that are currently GT3/4 only, there needs to be a series to protect the true amateur GT element, and encourage teams to move into GTE. You will see teams compete in, for example, French GT for sprints, and this ELMS support for endurance.

      People have short memories, GT3’s success was built on amateurs, factories dominating GT3, and pushing costs to GTE levels, is only going to hasten the swith to P3/GT4 in the national GT3 series, GT Open etc.

      • StueyB83

        October 19, 2015 at 8:00 am

        GT3 must stay a customer racing program and I actually think the manufacturers that form the committee have done a decent job in maintaining the formula and elevating it.

        OK in the more prestigious series, the factory team exist but its really a marketing exercise so that the amateurs will buy the car.

        GT3 would absolutely NOT be where it is today if it were manufacturer team focused, in fact it would probably be dead by now.

        No point having a short memory; GT1 died quickly once the arms race got too expensive, and the teams seldom got major sponsors that maintained the costs of an entire racing year.

        That is why wealthy am’s are important – and they have to get something out of it rather than sit around watching some guy you paid enjoy himself. Long gone are the days of Lord Hesketh and co..

    • Bakkster

      October 19, 2015 at 10:00 am

      How many GT racing series aren’t buoyed by silver/bronze drivers? I can’t think of any. There are certainly series that allow all-pro lineups, but they’re all funding themselves primarily on gentlemen.

      Even when they get OEM funding, those OEMs seem to only have the cash for these teams because it’s offset selling these cars to amateur drivers.

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