European Le Mans Series has just announced today that the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup will include LMP3 cars in 2017.
The series has had a mixed success this year with a two-hour format, where 2 drivers share the car. There has been between 11 and 13 starting cars for each of the weekends, which is a bit low on numbers, and it lacks a bit of the sportscar feeling compared to other kinds of racing.
The LMP3 cars will still be eligible for the European Le Mans Series, where the races will continue to be 4 hour races with up to 3 drivers per car. So the 3 categories – LMP2, LMP3 and GTE will still be present in the ELMS 2017.
ELMS has had a huge success throughout the 2016 season with a typical field of over 20 starting LMP3 cars for each round. The organizers probably hope that a lot of the ELMS teams will bring another car for the new Michelin Le Mans Cup series.
The series will more or less follow the ELMS season. However the season doesn’t start until Monza, and then Round 2 will be held at the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend, with a 60 minutes race Saturday morning under the title Road To Le Mans. After that, they will follow ELMS for the rest of the year.
Road to Le Mans had 37 cars entered this year with a mixed grid of LMP3 og GT3 cars. A lot of those were regular ELMS LMP3 cars, so we probably won’t get to see as many as that throughout the season. Having said that, OAK Automotive alone has produced close to 50 LMP3 cars! On top of that we have the 3 other constructors who still produce LMP3 cars, after Ginetta jumped out of it at the end of 2015.
Other than ELMS, we have seen LMP3 car in AsLME and a selection of other series across the world. From next year onward they will be in USA as well, where they can enter in the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda. Furthermore Creventic, who is behind the 24 Hours race in Dubai, has announced a series where LMP3 cars can also participate.
So there will be a huge demand on getting new cars – but there are still almost seven months until the season starts at Monza, so there is plenty of time to produce even more cars.