Earlier this year, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) announced the formation of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup that would feature races in Europe, North America and Asia for what is essentially a sports car racing world championship. For this year, the cup includes only three races, with the North American round being the Petit Le Mans in October.
Come 2011, the cup expands to seven races and will include the 24 Hours of Le Mans and both the Sebring and Petit Le Mans events in the U.S. Peugeot has already committed itself to competing for the 2010 cup and Audi has said it is considering participating. The other 2011 races will be at Spa in Belgium, Silverstone in England, Fuji in Japan and a circuit in China.
The ACO also announced that it would follow the American Le Mans Series and eliminate the GT1 class in 2011 in favor of GT2 as well as bringing in a new generation of LMP cars.
[Source: American Le Mans Series]
AS 2011 INTERCONTINENTAL CUP EVENTS
Two Series events part of seven-round global championship
The two premier events in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón will each be part of a new global sports car championship starting in 2011. The Automobile Club de l'Ouest – the governing body for the Le Mans 24 Hours – announced the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans as two rounds of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup for next season.
A year ago at the Le Mans 24 Hours, the ACO revealed its intention to create the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup for 2010. Thursday's announcement completed the full 2011 schedule which includes races in the American Le Mans Series, the European-based Le Mans Series and the Asian Le Mans Series - as well as Le Mans itself as a double-points event.
"This is fantastic news for the two highest-profile events on our calendar," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series. "Both the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans are firmly established among the world's greatest endurance races, and having them both as part of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will elevate their stature that much higher.
"The quantity and quality of the entries in this groundbreaking competition will bring together the best of the best from around the world in all classes," he added. "We stand with the ACO and the other Le Mans championships in support of this initiative which will expand world-class sports car racing on a truly global level."
Petit Le Mans is one of three events to hold Intercontinental Le Mans Cup events for 2010. It is set for September 29-October 2 at Road Atlanta. Originally conceived for LMP1 manufacturers, the ACO announced in March the inclusion of a championship for GT2 manufacturers and the addition of team championships for all four ACO-sanctioned classes.
The Sebring 12 Hours is America's greatest sports car race and considered by many to be the most demanding race in the world – including Le Mans. Sebring International Raceway, located in central Florida, is a 3.7 mile, 17-turn circuit. It is the oldest road course in North America, portions of which were originally a WWII B-17 training base.
"Sebring International Raceway is proud to have been selected as part of the prestigious Intercontinental Le Mans Cup," said Tres Stephenson, General Manager. "The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida has always attracted a stellar entry, but 2011 will no doubt be truly special. I know our fans and marketing partners will be elated to hear the news."
Petit Le Mans, the annual 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance classic at Road Atlanta, is the cornerstone event of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. The Road Atlanta facility is an hour northeast of Atlanta and is a 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course. It has played host to more Series events – 14 – than any other venue.
"We are thrilled that the International Le Mans Cup will include Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta for the second straight year in 2011," said Geoff Lee, President of Road Atlanta. "What's already the largest annual international sporting event in Georgia now offers our fans additional intrigue and excitement by attracting even more of Europe and Asia's elite sports cars and drivers."
Other venues that will play host to Intercontinental Le Mans Cup events in 2011 include Spa, Le Mans and Silverstone (Europe), and Fuji and a yet-to-be confirmed circuit in China (Asia).
LMP AND GT RULES FOR 2011
Also Thursday, the ACO announced that prototype cars that meet the 2010 regulations will be allowed to compete in all Le Mans-sanctioned races for 2011. In addressing the prototype rules for next season, the ACO called for a reduction in engine displacement and horsepower, putting the emphasis on fuel economy and energy efficiency.
"The ACO's decision to allow the current generation of LMP cars to compete alongside next-generation prototypes is one we fully endorse," Atherton said. "Allowing manufacturers to explore new automotive technologies and innovations in the design, construction and propulsion of sports cars is a cornerstone of both Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series. At the same time, we continue to embrace the true backbones of endurance racing - the independent teams that go head-to-head against the factory efforts on a regular basis. I believe this decision by the ACO will be enthusiastically received by all."
The GT future regulations also include the elimination of GT1 while renaming GT2 to GT Endurance (although the rules remain very consistent since 2009). GT Endurance will be divided into two sub-classes – GT Endurance PRO (professional category) and GT Endurance AM (for varying skill level of drivers and cars more than one year old).
A select group of Series drivers and teams will compete at the 78th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The world's greatest motor race is set for June 12-13 from the famed Circuit de la Sarthe in France. SPEED will broadcast the event live with flag-to-flag coverage available on radiolemans.com.
The next race for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón is the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix. The two-hour, 45-minute race is set for 2:05 p.m. MT on Sunday, July 11 from Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. SPEED will air the race same-day at 4 p.m. ET. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche – a production of Radio Show Limited – as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242. Visit the Series' schedule page for ticket and accommodation information. Live Timing and Scoring, track schedule, entry list and much, much more will be available on Racehub at americanlemans.com.
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