A record 29 cars will compete in the Michelin Le Mans Cup next weekend in Le Castellet (France). Among them, there are some surprises on the entry list.
Not six but seven GTs will be competing in this season’s inaugural race, as Stile F Squadra Corse will be lining up a Ferrari F458 Italia GT3. The San Marino team raced in the Ferrari Challenge series last season. Former Blancpain GT drivers Martin Grab and Yoshiki Ohmura will share the wheel of that car.
All the other GTs (five Ferrari F488s and one Porsche 911 GT3 R) and their drivers were revealed by the ACO last March.
Meanwhile, mouthwatering grid of 22 cars will form the LMP3 category. Yet two of the cars announced last March will not be attending the event in Le Castellet: the #9 Cool Racing and the #55 Spirit Of Race Ligier JS3s. The good news is that the Italian team RGP Motorsport will join the grid, with drivers Ioannis Inglesis and Marco Cencetti at the wheel of a Ligier JSP3. Inglesis is a rookie in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, and Cencetti competed with SVC Sport Management in last season’s Cup.
All of the teams have finalised their driver line-ups, with former VdeV CN Series driver Damien Delafosse joining the #65 Graff Ligier JSP3 crew and Luca Magnoni sharing the wheel of the #96 TKS Ginetta with Japanese driver Shinyo Sana.
A few drivers listed by the ACO in March will not make it to the Le Castellet grid. In the #4 Brookspeed International Ligier JSP3, Frenchman Nico Rondet will replace Jordan Sanders. Rondet has had an impressive career. He finished third in the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge last season and also won the 2001 Barber Pro Series Championship.
In the #32 United Autosport, Mahaveer Raghunathan will be subbing for Colin Braun. Raghunathan drove in the single-seater Auto GP / Boss GP Championship over the past two seasons.
“I am excited to race in the first round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup with a top team like United Autosports,” he said. “I look forward to work with Naj who has a lot of experience in the prototype cars. I tested the Ligier JS P3 last year and found it suited my driving style. I am thankful to Richard [Dean] and Naj for giving me this opportunity and I am looking forward to helping the team win at Paul Ricard, which is one of my favourite circuits. I have fond memories of my podium finish there in 2017 in the Auto GP car.”
Nismo Blancpain GT driver Ricardo Sanchez will be sitting in for Andy Cummings in the #44 SPV Racing Ligier JSP3.
The race will take place on 14 April 2018 at 4 pm (UK time).