Gulf 12 Hours promoter Andrea Ficarelli expects GT3 cars to still fight for the overall win, despite the addition of ACO-spec LMP3 machinery to this year’s event.
It was announced last month that December’s eighth edition of the Yas Marina enduro will feature LMP3 cars run to ACO technical specifications, following a deal struck with the Asian Le Mans Series.
Despite the LMP3 cars being faster in lap times, Ficarelli believes all-pro GT3 driver lineups, which are allowed this year, will have the upper edge on the Pro-Am and Am class prototypes.
“We still expect to have the GT3 cars on the top because they’ve been the cars that have been doing our race [since the beginning],” Ficarelli told Sportscar365.
“Conceptually they should be faster. What really makes the difference is the Bronze driver.
“The more time you give to Bronze drivers, the slower the car is, normally. If teams can race a car with no Bronze driver, and this can only happen in Pro, it can potentially be much faster.”
The race, split into two six-hour segments, will feature no fewer than six classes, with GT3-spec machinery eligible in GT Pro, GT Pro-Am and GT Am, LMP3 having Pro-Am and Am categories and GTX for GT4-based cars.
Ficarelli said only GT4 cars from mainstream manufacturers will be eligible in GTX, while Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo cars can compete in GT Pro-Am and GT Am.
One of the major changes to the regulations will be the elimination of the mandatory four additional pit stops for LMP3 cars, which impacted the overall results in last year’s race.
“For the first time, I think we’re the first people who are really trying to have a good mix between LMP3 and GT in an endurance race,” Ficarelli said.
“It will be interesting because I believe these two categories can stay together and can look like it’s more like Le Mans to see these cars racing at the same time.”
Ficarelli said he realistically expects a 30-car entry for the Dec. 14-16 race, with an initial entry list set to be released next month.
Both United Autosports and Kessel Racing have each committed to three-car entries for the event.