Featured Image by Kevin Decherf on Flickr

The Michelin Le Mans Cup, better known as the MLMC in short, is a sports car endurance racing series organized by the Automobile Club L’ouest (ACO). The events of the series serve as a support races for the European Le Mans Series, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in the case of the ­Road to Le Mans, held during the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend.

The series was previously known as the Michelin GT3 Le Mans cup during its inaugural season, and barring the Le Mans round, where LMP3 was added, it ran exclusively on GT3 cars.

History

European Le Mans Series – GTC Category

The MLMC had its origins in the GTC category of the European Le Mans Series, which was first announced on the 4th of November 2011, as the lowest class in the series. This GTC class was set to replace the LMP1 category, which had been eliminated for the 2012 edition of the series, allowing for the series to retain a 5-class structure. The cars in the category would be taken from one-make manufacturer series, fitted with a light parts kit to their specifications, to adapt them to Endurance racing, and to balance their performances. At the time of its announcement, an excerpt from the press release, detailing the aims of the new category stated: “the aim of this new class is to offer to new teams and new drivers the opportunity to access the GT Endurance world at a European level for a limited budget.”

However, the 2012 full-season entry list saw just a single entry, the #70 RaceArt Porsche 997 GT3 Cup. According to Dailysportscar, did not attend the European Le Mans Series Official Test Days, held at Circuit Paul Ricard, but did attend the Blancpain Endurance Series tests, with no announcement being made regarding its ELMS programme. During the first round of the 2012 ELMS, the 6 Hours of Castellet, held at Paul Ricard, the car failed to turn up at the race despite being entered. Following the cancellation of the 2nd round of the series, originally set to be held at Zolder, due to low car counts, the decision was made to admit GT3 cars into the category. Despite this, no car was entered for the next round at Donnington Park, and following a lack of entries at the same round, the later rounds at the Brno Circuit and Autódromo Internacional do Algarve were cancelled. An arrangement with the American Le Mans Series was later reached to allow for teams to participate in the Petit Le Mans, with the ELMS bearing transport costs for the teams, with PLM ending off the season.

The 2013 ELMS saw an initial full season entry list with 5 GTC cars, comprising of 3 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s entered by AF Corse, 1 Audi R8 LMS by MOMO Megatron DF1, alongside a Lamborghini Gallardo LP600 GT3 by Kox Racing. However, of the 5 cars announced, only 1 car would actually complete the season, the #62 AF Corse entry; Kox Racing skipped the 1st round, while MOMO Megatron DF1 did not appear after the 2nd round of the season. The final championship standings showed 10 cars entered across the season, with later entries by SMP Racing, Ecurie Ecosse, Easyrace, DKR Engineering and Scuderia Villorba Corse.

The 2014 ELMS saw further growth in the category, with a total of 15 cars announced during the full season entry list, alongside increased variety of GT3 cars. 11 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s (AF Corse, SMP, SOFREV-ASP, Formula Racing and Team Ukraine), two McLaren MP4-12C GT3s (ART Grand Prix), alongside a single Porsche 911 GT3 R(Pro GT by Almeras) and BMW Z4 GT3 (Team Russia by Barwell). The final championship standings showed 18 cars entered across the season.

The 2015 ELMS saw a significant reduction in the number of cars in the category, with the initial entry list indicating a mere 6 cars, with 4 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s from AF Corse, alongside a single BMW Z4 GT3 from TDS Racing, and a Aston Martin Vantage GT3 from Massive Motorsport. The final championship standings showed 7 cars entered across the season. This would be the final time that the ELMS would run the GTC category..

On the 27th of November 2015, it was announced that the ELMS would axe the GTC category, to allow for further growth of the LMP3 category.

Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup (2016) /Michelin Le Mans Cup (2017-Present)

On 18th October 2015, the ACO announced the launch of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, which would run on European Le Mans Series weekends, as well as at Le Mans in June. The Championship would comprise of 6 rounds of two-hour long races, with each driver lineup requiring at least a single bronze-rated drive.

The race weekends would comprise of a pair of one-hour practice sessions and a 30-minute qualifying session in addition to the race, aside from the Le Mans event, which would take place during the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend and will feature a modified schedule. The Le Mans event would be an hour long race, run on the full Circuit de la Sarthe, and would also be open to full-season European and Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 cars. An agreement was also 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 in both championships, even with the same car numbers. Later, on the 27th of November, it was announced that the driver lineups in the GT3 cup would comprise of a single Bronze rated driver paired with a second driver who could be Bronze, Silver or Gold rated.

The 2016 season saw a 6-round calendar, which supported the ELMS at Imola, Spielberg, Paul Ricard, Spa, and Estoril, alongside the WEC at Le Mans. A total of 20 cars were entered throughout the season.

The 2017 season saw the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup renamed as the Michelin Le Mans Cup, with the addition of LMP3 to the class. The season saw a 6 race calendar with most rounds in the 2016 calendar being carried over bar Imola, which was replaced by Monza. 16 GT3 cars were entered across the season, alongside 28 LMP3 cars. In addition, a Promotion/Relegation System was also created for LMP3. It was announced that the last five placed cars in the final ELMS 2017 LMP3 team classification will not be given priority for entry to the 2018 ELMS season. However, these teams would instead be given priority to place an entry for the 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup. The first five cars in the final 2017 Michelin Le Mans Cup LMP3 team classification, will get priority to enter the ELMS in the LMP3 category for the 2018 season.

The 2018 season saw a 6-race calendar, with no races added; however, several races were rescheduled. Across the season, a total of 32 LMP3 cars were entered, alongside 10 GT3 cars.

The 2019 season saw a 6-race calendar, with the Red Bull Ring dropped for the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya. Across the season, a total of 22 LMP3 cars were entered, alongside 10 GT3 cars.

Categories

LMP3

#85 DC Racing – Ligier JS P3 – Nissan – Image by
Kevin Decherf
 on Flickr

Introduced in 2015, LMP3 is the third tier Prototype class found in ACO & IMSA competition. It is one of the most widely raced prototype classes globally, with the class having its own dedicated championships in various countries worldwide. The class replaces Formula Le Mans, which was also previously known as the Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC). 2020 marks the beginning of the 2nd generation rules cycle for the category.

Similar to LMP2, LMP3 is a tightly controlled formula, featuring only 4 licensed chassis manufacturers (Ligier, Ginetta, Duqueine and ADESS). In addition, a spec engine, the Nissan VK56 producing 455 horsepower, paired with a spec 6-speed gearbox. A cost cap of 239000€ is imposed on the price of a car.

Group GT3

#50 Larbre Competition – Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 – Image by Kevin Decherf on Flickr

GT3 is the most popular GT class in use today. It used by both major and national GT Championships globally, such as British GT Championshipm, and the Interncontinental GT Challenge. The class had originally designed as a Pro-Am class, although it is used today as both a Pro-Pro and Pro-Am class. In the Michelin Le Mans Cup, it is utilised as a Pro-Am class.

2020 MLMC Calendar

RndCircuitLengthDate
1Circuit Paul Ricard2 Hours18 July
2Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps2 Hours8 August
3Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya2 Hours29 August
4Circuit de La Sarthe2x 55 Minutes18 & 19 September
5Autodromo Nazionale Monza2 Hours10 October
6Algarve International Circuit2 Hours1 November

Titles

LMP3 Teams Championship
GT3 Teams Championship

LMP3 Drivers’ Championship
GT3 Drivers’ Championship

How to Watch?

The Michelin Le Mans Cup is available to watch live online on the Le Mans Cup YouTube Channel for free.

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