Norma Announced As LMP3 Manufacturer By ACO

The Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO) has announced that French-based Norma Auto Concept will become an Official Manufacturer for the LMP3 category.

Norma, whose factory is located in Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre in the south west of France, was founded in 1986 and has specialised in prototypes. It has sold more than 400 examples of its Norma M20. Norma joins Ginetta, Onroak with its Ligier brand, Riley/Ave, ADESS and Dome as a manufacturer of chassis for the fast-growing LMP3 class.

Norma has participated three times at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its Judd-engined LMP2 M200. In 2012 it finished 29th overall and 12th in class with a car entered by Extreme Limite ARIC.

“We are extremely delighted about the decision taken by the ACO,” said Norbert Santos, Founder of Norma Automotive Concept. “Since its launch we were convinced that Norma really has a place in this category which has already met with huge success. When the ACO took the decision to limit the number of manufacturers last year, we already actively launched our first studies. Since then, we have not stopped and today the time and patience taken has proved right.”

The launch of the LMP3 category in 2015 has proved to be very popular. 20 examples have been entered for the first round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series at Silverstone. All but one are Ligier JS P3s. This is seen as an opportunity by Santos.

“The design of the next Norma LMP3 is already very advanced,” he said. “It benefits from a number of technological solutions that, I am convinced, will enable us to get the performance that we set for ourselves. And for Norma, it’s only victories that count.”

Norma intend to present the first chassis this summer and aims to have at least Norma LMP3 racing before the end of the year.

Sir Chris Hoy Joins Algarve Pro Racing For Le Mans

Sir Chris Hoy, eleven-time world champion and most decorated Olympic cyclist of all time has signed with Portuguese-based Algarve Pro Racing for the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Hoy will drive a Nissan-powered Ligier JS P2 in the French classic and at the opening two rounds of the European Le Mans Series. He completes a driver line–up which includes Frenchman Andrea Pizzitola and 2015-16 Asian Le Mans Series runner-up, Michael Munemann.

“In motorsports terms, it’s everything,” said Hoy, following the announcement. “The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the pinnacle for me. It’s what I’ve been working for over the past three years. To get the news that I have a seat for Le Mans is amazing. I still can’t quite believe it.”

Hoy retired from cycling in 2013, the year after the London Olympics saw him crowned as the most successful British Olympian ever. He then focused on motorsport, entering the British GT Championship in 2014 in a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.

Hoy found support from Nissan who put him through its intensive driver development programme. Hoy graduated to the European Le Mans Series in 2015 in a Team LNT Ginetta LM P3, clinching the drivers title with co-driver Charlie Robertson.

“The time from my racing debut to getting a Le Mans drive has been short but many GT Academy athletes have done the journey even quicker,” said Hoy. “It’s incredible what can be achieved with the right support and the right people around. It has been a continued series of new challenges. But the LM P2 car I’m going to race at Le Mans is the easiest and most intuitive car I’ve driven.

The first round of the European Le Mans Series takes place at Silverstone on April 16.

Krohn Racing Top Time Sheets At ELMS Test

The European Le Mans Series held its annual pre-season Test at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet on March 22 and 23.

In LMP2, 13 of the 15 full season entries were present for the test, the missing cars being the #1 Greaves Motorsport Gibson 015S – Nissan and the #21 DragonSpeed ORECA 05-Nissan.

In LM P3 21 cars were provisionally entered for the test, the majority being Ligier JS P3s which will form the bulk of the grid in the LM P3 class in 2016. In LM GTE 7 of the nine full season entries were scheduled to appear.

Day One of the Test on March 22 consisted of three sessions. The morning session began at 09:00 and lasted for four hours, prior to a one hour lunch break during which on-track car-to-car photography took place. A further four hour afternoon session concluded with a one hour break after which a two hour night session, beginning at 19h00 took place.

Two further test sessions were run on March 23 with a four hour session beginning at 09h00 and a final three hour session at 14h00.

After Day 1 the #40 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 topped the time-sheets with a 1:48.100 set by Oliver Pla in the morning session. The #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing ORECA 05-Nissan was second quickest with a 1:48.297 set in the afternoon by Pierre Thiriet. SMP Racing, with the #32 BR 01-Nissan, set a 1:48.745 with Stefan Coletti driving in the final session of the day.

In LM P3 fastest lap honours went to Alex Brundle in the #2 United Autosports’ Ligier JS P3 with a 1:53.364 set in the morning. Dino Lunardi in the #19 Duqueine Engineering set a 1:54.191 in the morning, choosing not to run in the afternoon, and Peter Kox in the #21 Kox Racing entry closed out the top three with a 1:54.511.

Marco Cioci led the LM GTE field on Day One with a 1:57.304 in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia, set in the morning, with his team-mate Matt Griffin close behind in #55 car with a 1:57.592. JMW Motorsports chose not to run in the morning session but Andrea Bertolini set a 1:57.622 in the afternoon.

On Day Two Memo Rojas moved the #41 Greaves Motorsport Ligier JS P2 up to the third in the overall classification with a 1:48.596. Elsewhere Harry Tincknell set the fastest time of the test, at 1:49.004, for the venerable #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S. United Autosports time set on the Tuesday was not bettered in LM P3 on Day Two. In LM GTE however Marco Cioci improvged the #51 AF Corse’s time with a 1:57.252.

“It’s been very good,” said Memo Rojas on Tuesday night following his first experience of the Greaves Motorsports Ligier JS P2. “Obviously it is the first official test, I am very happy to be here. I’m getting acquainted with the new team, the new car, a new circuit; everything is new with many differences between America and here. The way of racing, the way the team works but it is very professional and interesting to me. I’m really looking forward to racing in the ELMS.”

The first round of the European Le Mans Series will be held at Silverstone on April 16.

ELMS Campaign For Beechdean AMR With Howard, Adam And MacDowall

Beechdean Aston Martin Racing has announced that it will contest the full 2016 European Le Mans Series with its factory Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE. Jonny Adam will be teaming back up with team owner and driver Andrew Howard and former Aston Martin Racing GTE driver Alex McDowall for the team’s first full season in the ELMS.

“The goal has always been to race at the highest level we can,” said Howard. “The ELMS Championship was the next logical step after doing GT3 for so long. It is great to have Alex’s experience in the team and we are looking forward to the competition.”

The trio enjoyed their first taste of ELMS success last year when they finished second in the LMGTE class at the final round of the season at Estoril.

“I am thrilled our plan to race in the full season ELMS has come to fruition,” said Alex MacDowall. “Andrew and Jonny have proven time and time again that they are force to be reckoned with, and I hope we can continue what has already been a winning formula”

Jonny Adam, who will also be racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Aston Martin Racing in GTE Pro said: “Alex is a great addition to the partnership. His knowledge and experience is brilliant and I am looking forward to working with him. We ended the 2015 season with a good result, in a strong position – so I am hoping this year we can only improve.”

2016 will be a busy year for Beechdean AMR, following its announcement last week that Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn will defend its 2015 British GT title in GT3. Beechdean AMR will also field two Aston Martin Vantages in the GT4 class.

The first round of the European Le Mans Series will take place at Silverstone on the 16th of April.

FALKEN Motorsports To Campaign New Porsche in VLN and Nürburgring 24

FALKEN Motorsports has announced that it will contest the 2016 VLN Endurance Championship and Nürburgring 24h-Race in a new Porsche 911 GT3R (991). It is confident that its driver line-up of Wolf Henzler, Peter Dumbreck, Martin Ragginger and Alexandre Imperatori will be challenging for podium places at each of this season’s outings.

The FALKEN Porsche 911 GT3R (991) is both longer and lighter than its predecessor. The new car’s wheelbase is 8.3 cm longer and, by using advanced lightening techniques in building the bodywork and chassis, is around 60 kg lighter than the previous 911 GT3R. After initial testing in December, furthers test were held in Portugal in mid-February where second-generation FALKEN tyres were put through their paces.

The drivers are confident that the new car will be competitive. “A lighter car with longer wheelbase and a few extra horsepower already sounds pretty good to me,” said Peter Dumbreck. “It’s not only the tyres that have advanced since the first round of tests; the new car has undergone a whole host of improvements. It’s now easier to drive, the brakes are firmer and the aerodynamics whilst cornering are improved.”

Martin Ragginger is also enthusiastic about the team’s prospects. “Right from the start, the car impressed me. The new aerodynamics improve cornering speeds, the engine packs a great punch and the brakes are stronger. FALKEN provided us with such a huge range of tyres to test that we’ll be able to put together the perfect package of tyres and car.”

“We tested the car over 2,300km under conditions that matched what we can expect from the Nürburgring in spring,” said Wolf Henzler. “This Porsche is streets ahead of its predecessor and FALKEN’s new-generation tyres will enable us to take a further leap towards victory.”

Further testing will take place at the Nürburgring in Mid-March before the first round of the VLN Championship takes place on the 2nd of April.

Stephane Ratel Announces Increased Manufacturer Interest in British GT

The 2016 British GT Championship was launched today at Media Day at Snetterton. Both Benjamin Franassovice, Championship Manager, and Stephane Ratel, SRO Motorsport Group Founder and CEO spoke about their satisfaction at the way the series has developed.
“Entry wise we’ve progressed quantities there,” said Franassovice. “The diversity is also there. We have some new machinery joining us in both classes. We‘re very excited. We have the Lamborghini returning to us with Barwell. We also have the Bentley GT3 car joining us with Team Parker. We have the return of Audi with Optimum Racing [and we’re] very happy about that and McLaren with Black Bull Ecurie Ecosse. We will have 15 to 16 cars in GT3.”

Franassovice continued: “In GT4 more new models are arriving. We have Ebor with the Maserati which sounds great out there. We have Porsche coming in with the Cayman. We have, just announced today, the McLaren GT4 which is extremely nice so we’re very excited to have this car in British GT and be the first [series] to race it. Overall we are looking good and we can’t wait for the first event at Brands Hatch.”

Stephane Ratel also expressed how pleased he was at the healthy 2016 grid: “Things are going quite well in British GT at the moment really thanks to Benjamin and the SRO team who are really doing a fantastic job. I think the British GT Championship is an amazing example of stability and success.

“We’ve been promoting it for many years and apart from a little dive for two or three years when the economy was in trouble it’s recovered and as is a very good series which has strong principles. The first one is that it’s a Pro-Am series where really a non-professional driver really has a chance to win and usually wins and I think that is the number one characteristic of this series.”

Ratel explained why GT4 grids are also increasing. “The British GT series has helped develop the GT4 category more than any other series in Europe and I think the presence of the McLaren’s new GT4 cars, which we believe will be followed by other manufacturers which are now looking at the GT4 categories, shows that we were on the right way and we were very happy. We see in Europe that a number of GT3 championships do suffer because it is maybe becoming more and more of an international category. So GT4 is the perfect second division and we are very happy with the success it has in the UK.”

The first round of the British GT Championship will be held at Brands Hatch on the 17th of April.

"When you're racing, it's life. Anything that happens before or after is…. just waiting. " Steve McQueen – "Le Mans" – 1971