Picture © Jakob Ebrey Photography
LMC - 14/03/2019 - Jeff CARTER
The Road to Le Mans was first held in 2016 and was unique because it was the only Le Mans Cup event held that season that involved both GT3 and LMP3 competitors. The rest of the six round series was open to just GT3 entrants.
The 2016 race was a single 55-minute encounter on Saturday morning, with 37 cars – 18 LMP3 and 19 GT3 – taking part. The reason the race at Le Mans was reduced from the standard 2-hours seen at the other events to 55 minutes was due to the fact that there was no refuelling during the Road to Le Mans. An LMP3 car could last 55 minutes safely on one tank of fuel.
The 13-lap race saw eventual 2016 Le Mans Cup GT3 Driver Champions Viktor Shaitar and Aleksey Basov take their first win of the season in the no57 AF Corse Ferrari F488. The Russians finished just 11 seconds ahead of the no55 McLaren 650S of Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Hiroshi Hamaguchi and 13.4 seconds ahead of Egidio Perfetti and Klaus Bachler in the pole sitting no88 Porsche 911, which took the final podium position.
While the LMP3 category wasn’t part of the Michelin Le Mans Cup in 2016, the Road to Le Mans event was the blue print for the 2017 season. It also saw FIA WEC LMP1 driver Thomas Laurent take his first Le Mans Prototype victory, with future ELMS LMP3 champions Christian England and John Falb also on the Le Mans podium.
With LMP3 joining GT3 on the Michelin Le Mans Cup grid for every race in 2017, the Road to Le Mans event was expanded to two races. A 55-minute race on Thursday afternoon was to be followed by a second on Saturday morning ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans at 3pm.
The 2017 races saw reigning and future champions take the honours. In LMP3, eventual ELMS champions John Falb and Sean Rayhall took the win in Thursday’s race and then finish second on Saturday, finishing 17 seconds behind the DKR Engineering Norma of Jean Glorieux and Alex Toril, who went on to win the 2017 MLMC LMP3 title.
Both GT3 victories went to 2016 Michelin Le Mans Cup team champions TF Sport, with Ahmad Al Harthy and Tom Jackson standing on the top step of the Le Mans podium not once but twice.
Last season the Road to Le Mans once again proved to be a big hit with the drivers, the teams and the fans. A mammoth 50 car grid provided some great entertainment, with 17-year-old Dutch driver Kay Van Berlo taking the win at Le Mans in the no11 Euroinernational Ligier alongside Mikkel Jensen, with John Falb and Sean Rayhall in second place for United Autosports.
It was a Ferrari podium lockout in GT3 with the no71 AF Corse F488 of Piergiuseppe Perazzini and Marco Cioci finishing ahead of the two Kessel Racing Ferraris.
The Saturday showcase race saw Lanan Racing score their first Le Mans Cup victory with British duo Michael Benham and Duncan Tappy enjoying the experience of the Le Mans podium. John Falb and Sean Rayhall were second once again, meaning that John Falb had scored an incredible five podiums from five Road to Le Mans starts. In 2019 John Falb will be making his debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he will race for Algarve Pro Racing in LMP2.
The Road to Le Mans will be Round 3 of the 2019 Michelin Le Mans Cup with race one on Thursday 13 June and race two on Saturday 15 June just ahead of the 87th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Before the big event the Michelin Le Mans Cup will have two 2-hour races at Le Castellet in April and Monza in May.