Road to Le Mans with 45 entries

Road to Le Mans with 45 entries

10.05.2017: Thanks to its success in 2016, Road To Le Mans will again be held as a curtain-raiser to the Le Mans 24 Hours on 17 - 18 June. This

Thanks to its success in 2016, Road To Le Mans will again be held as a curtain-raiser to the Le Mans 24 Hours on 17 - 18 June. This year there will be a bigger field comprising 45 cars including 29 LM P3s and 16 GT3s.

Besides the increase in the number of entries allowed the main innovation for the second staging is the organisation of a second event on the programme, which gives the drivers an additional opportunity to race on the big Le Mans 24-Hours circuit.

Road To Le Mans organised by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest with the help of Le Mans Endurance Management is the second round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup, a championship reserved for cars in the LM P3 and GT3 categories.

 It will kick off at the end of this week on the Monza circuit in the second European Le Mans Series meeting. Based on the Michelin Le Mans Cup regulations, the drivers in the Road to Le Mans must learn the specific challenges posed by the Sarthe circuit, in particular the slow zone procedure, to find their marks in view of a future participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours. 

This, in fact, is the main aim of this event. Several drivers entered for the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours have made the great leap after taking part in the Road to Le Mans last year. Youngster Thomas Laurent is the perfect illustration of the principle of the endurance pyramid which the ACO was absolutely determined to put in place and develop. He won the 2015 KZ2 Kart World Cup on the Le Mans circuit, and then raced in the Asian Le Mans Series in the LM P3 category in 2016 winning the first Road To Le Mans the same year.

The driver from the Vendee department will be at the start of the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours in the LM P2 category, which is proof of the utility of the endurance pyramid to help drivers reach the upper categories in long-distance racing. Pierre Nicolet, Nigel Moore and Paul Lafargue also used Road To Le Mans as a stepping stone on their way to the upper level LM P2 category this year.

Quality and diversity are the key words of the second Road To Le Mans with teams and drivers coming from many different horizons.  Drivers representing fifteen nationalities will take to the track racing for teams from 12 different countries.

France will be well represented as will the United States, China, Belgium, England, Japan, Belorussia, Hong Kong, Sweden and Oman.  Two woman drivers will be at the start, both in GT3: Brit Flick Haigh with Optimum Racing and Déborah Mayer from France who will defend the colours of Kessel Racing.

Almost 10 teams present in June 2016 are back for the second event while Graff, Spirit of Race, United Autosports, Larbre Compétition and TF Sport will also compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The LM P3 category created by the ACO to help drivers and teams accede to endurance is a huge success with 29 prototypes entered representing four of the six chassis constructors allowed. The Ligier JS P3s dominate with 23 cars while the Norma M30, the Ginetta LM P3 and the ADESS-03 will do everything they can to make the best of the situation.

The Graff team is determined to make a big impact in the Sarthe and will have an advantage in terms of numbers as it has entered four Ligier JS P3s, while reigning European Le Mans Series LM P3 champion, United Autosports, will run three cars to defend its crown. Another French outfit, Duqueine Engineering, has done the same.  Alexandre Cougnaud, winner in June 2016, will lead M.Racing – YMR.

Muller’s team will run two different chassis with two Ligiers and a Norma. DKR Engineering from Luxembourg has entered two Norma M30s and the only ADESS-03 in the field, in which 70-year-old Yojiro Terada will make a headline-grabbing return to the Sarthe.

The veteran Japanese driver has raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours on 29 occasions and racked up four category victories! Backing him up will be local lad, Sylvain Boulay. The only Ginetta LM P3 in the event comes from the Asian Le Mans Series and is run by Japanese outfit, TKS.

Aston Martin, Audi, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are all entered for the GT3 category. Garage 59 will make its debut on the Le Mans track with a brace of McLaren 650 GT3s.

McLaren development driver Chris Goodwin, Alexander West’s team-mate, will be back in the Sarthe after his outing in the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours in the mythical F1 GTR. Rouen-based squad, IMSA Performance, is back on familiar territory with a pair of Porsche 911 GT3-Rs, one of which will be driven by Raymond Narac and Thierry Cornac.

 Ahmad Al Harthy will discover the big circuit in an Aston Martin Vantage GT3. He is from Oman and is coming to learn the track as he wants to be the first driver from his country to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The 45 teams and 90 drivers entered for the second Road To Le Mans will tackle the Sarthe circuit for the first time on Wednesday 14th June in the first free practice session between 20:30 and 21:30. The second one will take place on Thursday 15th June between 9:00 and 10:00 followed by two qualifying session from 13:30 to 13:50 and 14:05 to 14:25.

Both races will be run to the same format: 55 minutes with an obligatory pit stop lasting at least 2 minutes between the 22nd and 32nd minute. The start of the first heat will be given on Thursday 15th June at 17:30, and the second will be run on Saturday morning at 11:30 just before the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours. 


- ACO, photos by Romain SCHOLER


10.05.2017 / MaP

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