LE MANS ORGANISER ACO BACKS NEW BRITISH LMP3 CATEGORY Prototype Cup handed LMP3 title and substantial £40,000 prize fund for maiden season
The nascent Prototype Cup series will be rebanded as the LMP3 Cup Championship ahead of its debut season this year, and will boast a £40,000 prize fund after gaining support from the Automobile Club de l’ouest.
Le Mans 24 Hours organiser and LMP3 regulator, the ACO, has agreed to endorse the UK class, allowing the use of the LMP3 title and adding a substantial prize fund.
The ACO will offer the eventual champion a fully paid-up package of entry fees for the full six-round Le Mans Cup contest in 2018, including free entry into the Road to Le Mans event that supports the 24 Hours in June. The package is worth around £40,000.
The LMP3 Cup Championship (latterly the Prototype Cup) has been founded by GT Cup Championship organiser Bute Motorsport and operates for homologated LMP3 machines from the six designated constructors – Ligier (Onroak Automotive), Ginetta, Riley Technologies, Adess AG, Dome and class newcomer Norma.
“It is very gratifying to see that the LMP3 formula developed by the ACO has grown so fast,” said Vincent Beaumesnil, ACO sporting director. “It now has a global footprint and the addition of a UK championship will only help to spread that wider.
“We have been in discussions with the organisers at Bute Motorsport for some time and are very happy that they will develop the championship to its fullest potential.”
Bute Motorsport’s director Hannah Wilson added: “This is a fantastic development for the championship. We have received good interest from teams and drivers alike so things are shaping up nicely. Having the support of the ACO is a fantastic endorsement for Bute and how we do business and will hopefully help us take the LMP3 Cup Championship to the next level.”
The series will continue to run with Motorsport Vision Racing and will hold six rounds this year – five at UK tracks and one at Spa-francorchamps. A pilot race at Snetterton last year attracted eight cars. Top teams including United Autosports, Douglas Motorsport, Graff Racing, Tockwith and the new Mectech/ RML partnership are all set to run cars.
Bold statements aren’t really my thing, but I’ll make an exception on this occasion; Enaam Ahmed should win the BRDC British F3 Championship this year. No, scratch that – he must win it.
That might seem particularly exacting, especially given the 2017 grid is still some way from being filled, but it’s the sort of target Ahmed needs to be setting himself if he’s to really kick on in his career.
Head to his website, and one of the main straplines you’ll see is “the karting world champion tipped to be the next Lewis Hamilton”. Of course, that’s no guarantee of future success at the top of the chain, but it was clear a couple of years ago that Ahmed had some talent in his pocket when he became the youngest driver to win the World and European KF3 junior karting titles in 2014.
His career in cars since then has been solid, if unspectacular – though that phrasing is probably a bit unfair when you consider that the majority of the frontrunners he’s competed with for the previous two seasons ( in MSA Formula and British F3) had previous experience of racing cars.
Fifth last year in British F3 with Douglas Motorsport marked a decent return for the teenager, but he did lead the championship after the opening round before tailing off. His haul from that first weekend was 81 points, but his next best throughout the year was 20 shy of that figure and his average across the seven rounds until the end of the season was just 38 (a figure skewed slightly by the cancellation of the third race at Silverstone).
Consistency, then, is an aspect of his driving that Ahmed needs to work on – but one that he’s aware needs improving.
“Last year, I might have had the speed to win the championship, but maybe not the consistency,” he says. “But I have a good opportunity this season with Carlin to right that wrong.”
And therein lies the key to why he has to be favourite this season: Carlin.
Ahmed switched to the crack junior single-seater squad for the Autumn Trophy and shone brightest in a cast of promising stars to claim the title ahead of the likes of German F4 champion Joey Mawson. Despite some uncertainty over the winter, he now has the chance to replicate that success in the full championship this year after his deal to join Carlin.
It’s easy to forget that Ahmed is still just 16 (he turns 17 next month), but he’s certainly not overawed by the pressure that comes with being a title favourite three months before the start of the season, and without most of his competitors having been announced. There’s no reason for him not to be able to replicate the form he showed to win the Autumn Trophy, and if he can do so Ahmed will be one of the hottest properties of 2017.