One of this year’s curtain raiser events for the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Road to Le Mans, will feature LMP3s competing in the ACO series (ELMS, AsLMS) and the GT3s from the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup. The inaugural race is scheduled for Saturday 18th June and has attracted a 39 car entry consisting of 22 LMP3s and 17 GT3s.
Scheduled for the morning of the 18th June and lasting around an hour, this new event gives drivers the chance cut their teeth on the full 24 Hour track in the Sarthe and counts towards the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup reserved for GT3 cars, round one of which took place last weekend at Imola supporting the European Le Mans Series.
In the LM P3 category The main contenders in the ELMS have entered starting with Anglo-American team United Autosport victorious in both the Silverstone and Imola rounds, which has entered two Ligier JS P3s.
The DC Racing squad, the reigning Asian Le Mans Series LM P3 Champion, will run a Ligier JS P3 driven by Alexandre Cougnaud and Thomas Laurent.
French teams make up the bulk of the prototype entries with three Ligier JS P3s for Duqueine Engineering and for Graff Racing. OAK Racing will run two cars, M Racing (Yvan Muller Racing) and N’Race will also be on the grid.
Although it is envisaged as a step to the 24 Hours the field is not entirely new-to-Le Mans- drivers as Jan Lammers, winner of the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours, will set the Orange flags waving when he returns to the Sarthe in the Racing Team Holland LMP3 with Bernhard van Oranje. Martin Brundle, another Le Mans 24-Hours winner, will be back in the Sarthe four years after his last outing and 26 years after his victory in a Jaguar driving one of the United Autosport Ligiers and Rui Aguas will uniquely be taking part in both the Road to Le Mans and the Le Mans 24 Hours the same weekend!
Race Performance, crowned in the Asian Le Mans Series, will field an LMP3 and the team is also taking part in the Le Mans 24 Hours in LMP2.
Unlike the ELMS, where the LMP3 field now consists only of Ligier JS P3s the Road to Le Mans will see three chassis manufacturers represented: Ligier JS P3, ADESS-03 and the Ginetta P3-15.
The same diversity can be found in GT3 with 17 driver line-ups entered in nine different models representing the great makes: Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche.
These GT3 cars will all go at it hammer and tongs in what will be the first official outing for GT3 machinery on the Le Mans 24-Hours circuit.
Regular Le Mans competitors Larbre Competition, running a Mercedes-AMG GT3 and AF Corse with four Ferraris including two of the new 488 GT3s will line up with the others for the R2LM race.
One to watch is the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 entered by TF Sport Racing, which won the opening round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup at Imola last weekend.
Teams from China, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands will take to the grid to test the waters of the Le Mans 24 Hours perhaps hoping to take part in the mythic endurance race one day.
The timetable consists of two free 1-hour practice sessions on Wednesday 15th June from 20h30 to 21h30, then on Thursday 16th June from 14h30 to 15h30. These will be followed by a qualifying session between 18h00 and 18h30. The start of Road to Le Mans will be given at 11h10 on Saturday 18th June.