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All Change in LMP3

LM P3 - 22/11/2019 - Jeff CARTER

In 2020 the new LMP3 cars will enter the Michelin Le Mans Cup. Since 2017 the LMP3 category has been an integral part of the series, with the LMP3 class also joining the GT3 category for the 2016 Road to Le Mans.

There has been a total of 22 Michelin Le Mans Cup races that the LMP3 class has been part of and we look at the stats from the past three seasons, and the 2016 RTLM, as we look forward to welcoming the new cars for the 2020 season next April.

There have been four chassis manufacturers who have featured on the MLMC grid, Ligier JS P3, Norma M30, Ginetta P3-15 and Adess 03. Only the Ligier and the Norma have taken a pole position or a podium finish in the Michelin Le Mans Cup.

In the 22 races, Ligier have secured 5 pole positions compared to 17 for Norma and while Norma have scored 14 wins to 8 for Ligier, Ligier have scored more total podium finishes - 35 compared to 31 for Norma.


A Look at Each Season

The 2017 Michelin Le Mans Cup consisted of six rounds at Monza, Le Mans, Red Bull Ring, Le Castellet, Spa-Francorchamps and Portimão, with 15 cars entered for the opening round in Italy. Just one Norma M30 was entered by DKR Engineering, competing against 14 Ligier JS P3s.  The championship was won by the no3 DKR Engineering Norma driver by Belgium’s Jean Glorieux and Spain’s Alex Toril.

In 2018 more teams switched to the Norma, with 6 of the 21 cars entered for the first round at Le Castellet being Norma M30s, with 14 Ligiers and 1 Ginetta. Norma held the upper hand with five pole positions from the seven races and four wins to three. Once again the DKR Engineering Norma was victorious, with Germany’s Jens Pettersen and young Dutchman Leonard Hoogenboom giving the team from Luxembourg their second title in a row.

Once again 21 cars were entered for the opening round of the 2019 season, with 9 Norma M30s against 12 Ligier JS P3s. Norma dominated with 6 poles from the seven races, 6 wins and 11 other podiums. Ligier only scored 1 pole, 1 win, 1 second and 2 third place finishes in 2019.  DKR Engineering made it three titles in three seasons as French driver François Kirmann and Germany’s Laurents Hörr took the drivers title.


Road to Le Mans

The Road to Le Mans event has been the Jewel in the Crown of the Michelin Le Mans Cup, allowing the teams and drivers to compete on the full 13.6km La Sarthe circuit on the morning of the world’s greatest motorsport event, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The 2016 season was the first for the Le Mans Cup and featured just the GT3 category for the five two-hour races held that year but for the single 55-minute Road to Le Mans race at La Sarthe, a LMP3 class was added, which attracted 18 entries.

The pole position went to the no2 United Autosports Ligier of 2016 ELMS LMP3 Champion Christian England and 1988 World Sportscar Champion Martin Brundle. However, the British teammates were beaten to the chequered flag by the no85 DC Racing Ligier of French duo Thomas Laurent and Alexandre Cougnaud.

In 2017, the LMP3 class scored championship points and following the success of the 2016 race the LMP3 grid swelled to 33, with two 55-minute races, one on Thursday and one on Saturday. The no2 United Autosports Ligier took the top spot in Thursday’s 55-minute encounter with American’s John Falb and Sean Rayhall standing on the top step of the podium.  Falb and Rayhall just missed out on the double in Saturday’s race when they finished 17 seconds behind the no3 DKR Engineering Norma of Alex Toril and Jean Glorieux.

In 2018 the grid size was up to a huge 42 LMP3 cars, with 27 Ligier JS P3s, 14 Norma M30s and 1 Ginetta P3-15. Thursday’s race was won by the no11 Eurointernational Ligier of Mikkel Jensen and Kay Van Berlo, while on Saturday the no25 Lanan Racing Norma of Michael Benham and Duncan Tappy took the chequered flag just 0.6 seconds ahead of the no33 United Autosports Ligier of John Falb and Sean Rayhall.

The size of the grid for the 2019 race dropped back but it was still a highly impressive 31 cars of Normas and Ligiers. The podiums for both races were a Norma lockout, with the no39 Graff Norma M30 of Adrien Chila and Nicolas Schatz taking the chequered flag in Thursday’s race, while the no3 DKR Engineering M30 of eventual champions François Kirmann and Laurents Hörr stood on the top step of the most famous podium in endurance on Saturday morning.


The Next Step Forward

The second generation LMP3 cars, which will race from 2020 to 2024, will be made by four chassis manufacturers – Ligier, Ginetta, Adess and Duqueine Automotive, which replaces Norma.

The cars will be powered by the Nissan VK56 engine, replacing the Nissan VK50 V8 used from 2015 to 2019,  though teams will be able to continue to use the existing engines, which will be adapted to deliver the same power as the VK56 until the older engines come to the end of their useful life.

The 2020 Michelin Le Mans Cup will begin in Spain when Round 1 will take place in Barcelona on Saturday 4 April. The series will feature two-hour races in Italy (Monza), France (Le Castellet), Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps) and Portugal (Portimão), as well as the two 55-minute races at Le Mans in June 2020.

Next race

Le Castellet Round

18 July

Results 2019
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