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Picture © JEP/ ELMS

All Change in LMP3

LM P3 - 17/12/2019 - Jeff CARTER

In 2020 the new generation of LMP3 cars will enter the European Le Mans Series. The LMP3 category has been a feature of the ELMS since 2015 and was introduced by the ACO in 2014.

There have been three chassis manufacturers who have featured on the ELMS grid, the Ligier JS P3, the Norma M30 and the Ginetta P3-15. All three manufacturers have taken a pole position and a podium finish, but only Ginetta and Ligier have won the coveted ELMS title.

In the five seasons that LMP3 has been part of the ELMS there have been 29 races, with Ligier being the most successful chassis manufacturer by far. 

Teams running the Ligier chassis have taken 13 pole positions, 22 wins and 42 other podium finishes since Ligier made its ELMS debut with Graff at Estoril at the end of the 2015 season.  Ginetta teams have scored 5 poles, 5 wins and 9 other podiums, all during the 2015 season, while Norma have 11 poles, 2 wins and 6 other podiums.

 

A Look at Each Season

2015

The debut season for the LMP3 class in 2015 attracted six teams, Team LNT winning the inaugural title with the Ginetta P3-15. British cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy and his teammate Charlie Robertson won the drivers crown, with Charlie claiming all five pole positions.  Together they scored four victories from the five races, with only a DNF recorded at Imola, a race won by the University of Bolton Ginetta of Morten Dons and 2018 LMP3 champion Rob Garofall.

In the first four races at Silverstone, Imola, Red Bull Ring and Paul Ricard, Ginetta were the only chassis on the track. However, in the final round at Estoril the Ligier JS P3 made its ELMS debut with French team Graff running a single entry for Eric Trouillet, Garry Findlay and Thomas Accary.  At the end of the four-hour race, Graff finished second behind the no2 Team LNT Ginetta of the 2015 Champions.

2016

The successful first season for LMP3 was followed by a bumper 19 car entry for the opening round of the 2016 season at Silverstone, with 18 Ligier JS-P3s and a single Ginetta P3-15.

The championship had expanded to six rounds with the addition of Spa-Francorchamps to the schedule, a season that saw Anglo-American team United Autosports take the first of two LMP3 titles. Alex Brundle, Christian England and Mike Guasch scored three wins, two further podiums and a pole position in the final round at Estoril to take the title.

The Ginetta only competed in the first two races of the 2016 season, with Ligier securing all 6 pole positions and all 18 podiums during the season. The grid grew larger, with 20 cars at Round 4 at Paul Ricard.  By the end of the year a total of 16 different teams had taken part in at least one ELMS race.

2017

Grid sizes were still on the large size in 2017, with 17 cars taking part in all six races that season. The first race at Silverstone saw the introduction of the Norma M30 chassis, the French manufacturer taking on the established Ligier JS-P3. At Silverstone two Norma M30s were on the grid and by round 4 at Paul Ricard this had grown to four cars.

The Ligier teams continued to dominate, taking 5 poles, 5 wins and 11 other podiums during the season. 

Norma took one victory at Monza when the no19 M Racing YMR M30 of Ricky Capo and Erwin Creed scored the debut ELMS LMP3 victory for the chassis. The debut pole for Norma followed at the Red Bull Ring when David Droux put the no7 Duqueine Engineering M30 at the head of the field.

The championship went to the no2 United Autosports Ligier of Sean Rayhall and John Falb, the Americans scoring two wins and three further podiums to secure United Autosports’ second title in a row.

2018

In 2018 the grid grew again with 18 cars at all races with the exception of Monza, which saw 19 cars take part. Ligier continued to form most of the grid with 14 JS P3s compared to 4 Norma M30s.

Norma took five of the six pole positions in the 2018 season with M Racing-YMR scoring two and Ultimate taking three. EuroInternational scored the only pole of Ligier that season during Round 4 at Silverstone. 

In the six races it was a different matter, with Ligier teams securing 16 of the 18 podium places and all 6 wins.

The 2018 LMP3 title went to the RLR MSport team with Job Van Uitert, John Farano and Rob Garofall taking 2 wins and a second place at Spa to secure the title.

2019

The 2019 grid was capped at 14 cars, with 9 Ligiers taking on the challenge from 5 Normas during the six races that saw Barcelona replace the Red Bull Ring on the schedule.

Norma teams once again dominated qualifying with the M30 taking 5 poles to 1 for Ligier.  In a repeat of the 2018 season Ligier came good during the races taking 14 of the 18 podium places, 5 wins and 9 other podiums.

The title race was between two teams using the Ligier JS-P3 chassis, Eurointernational and Inter Europol Competition. The championship went down to the final race in Portugal and ended in the favour of Eurointernational after an appeal by Inter Europol Competition against a 9-lap post-race penalty for not adhering to the minimum driving time was rejected by the court of appeal.

2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup LMP3 Champion Jens Petersen and Denmark’s Mikkel Jensen won the drivers title with three wins, a second place and one pole position.

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 Engineering, 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.

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