Road to Le Mans, one of the curtain-raisers to the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours, which combines the LM P3s in the ACO series and the GT3s in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, has attracted a big entry with a total of 39 cars. It is organised by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest in cooperation with Le Mans Endurance Management (promoter of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup Series), and the first running of this event is scheduled for Saturday 18th June in the late morning on the mythic 13,629-km Le Mans circuit.
All drivers dream of racing on the Le Mans 24 Hours circuit and Road to Le Mans gives them the opportunity to cut their teeth on the track in the Sarthe. This unique race that will last around an hour counts towards the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup reserved for GT3 cars. The first round took place last weekend at Imola in the context of the European Le Mans Series. 22 LM P3s, the prototypes that help access endurance, will join the 17 GT3s giving a field of 39 cars.
The first Road to Le Mans will enable a large number of the entrants to test the waters of the Le Mans 24 Hours. For this combined GT3-LM P3 event, quantity, quality and diversity are the key words that describe this unique race. Teams and drivers from all over the world will be on the track on late Saturday morning 18th June. The 39 driver line-ups combine youth and experience.
In the LM P3 category are the prototypes, introduced in 2015, which give access to the first step on the endurance pyramid put in place by the ACO: it has met with great success. However, the event does not count for any LM P3 championship. Only the prototypes competing in the ACO Series (the European Le Mans and Asian Le Mans Series) are allowed to start unless they have received an invitation from the organiser. The main contenders in the ELMS have entered starting with Anglo-American team United Autosport victorious in both the Silverstone and Imola rounds, which has entered two Ligier JS P3s. The DC Racing squad, the reigning Asian Le Mans Series LM P3 Champion, will run a Ligier JS P3 driven by Alexandre Cougnaud and Thomas Laurent, ACO driver and winner of the 2015 World Kart Cup on the Le Mans Karting International circuit. French teams are well represented with three Ligier JS P3s for Duqueine Engineering and for Graff Racing, which has taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hours on 12 occasions. OAK Racing with two cars, M Racing – Yvan Muller Racing and N’Race will also be on the grid. The fans massed around the circuit will be delighted to see the Dutchmen in the Racing Team Holland again including Jan Lammers, winner of the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours in a Jaguar, with Bernhard van Oranje. Martin Brundle, another Le Mans 24-Hours winner, will be back in the Sarthe four years after his last outing and 26 years after his victory in a Jaguar. Race Performance, crowned in the Asian Le Mans Series, will be present and the team is also taking part in the Le Mans 24 Hours in LM P2. LM P3 has attracted a varied field with three makes of chassis: Ligier JS P3, ADESS-03 and the Ginetta P3-15, although the French make crushes its rivals in terms of sheer numbers.
The same diversity can be found in GT3 with 17 driver line-ups entered in nine different models representing the great makes: Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche. These GT3 cars will all go at it hammer and tongs on their first outing on the Le Mans 24-Hours circuit. Two teams that will be at the start of the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours are also racing in Road to Le Mans: the Larbre Competition squad running a Mercedes-AMG GT3 and AF Corse with four Ferraris including two of the new 488 GT3s. Rui Aguas will enjoy the unique experience of taking part in the Le Mans 24 Hours and Road to Le Mans the same weekend! One to watch is the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 entered by TF Sport Racing, which won the opening round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup at Imola last weekend. Teams from China, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands will be at the start in this category. As in LM P3 many of the teams are coming to test the waters of the Le Mans 24 Hours hoping to take part in the mythic endurance race one day.
The timetable for the 39 cars is as follows: two free 1-hour practice sessions on Wednesday 15th June from 20h30 to 21h30, then on Thursday 16th June from 14h30 to 15h30 followed by a qualifying session between 18h00 and 18h30. The start of Road to Le Mans will be given at 11h10 on Saturday 18th June.