Intercontinental Le Mans Cup 6 Hours Of Zhuhai
ILMC: A TRULY INTERNATIONAL ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP
In this its second year, the ILMC (Intercontinental Le Mans Cup) sports car series has truly become international, not only from an event or manufacturer’s perspective, but also because of the drivers that come to race from all over the world. The start grids of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the ILMC’s main event, have shown a significant rise in globalization over the years. In the beginning, mainly European and some American drivers would attend this 24-hour race, the most famous sports car race of them all, yet in recent years drivers from Asia have also become regular participants.
Drivers from no less than 23 different nationalities participated in the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans, clear proof of international interest, and entries came from 12 different countries using race cars built in those countries. The FIA World Endurance Championship, as the ILMC will be called in 2012, will be an even further push for additional international involvement.
In 2010, when the Automobile Club de l’Ouest initiated the ILMC series, one of the main goals was to create a global series that touched as many continents as possible. That first year saw events in North America, Europe and Asia. Now the FIA is looking for additional opportunities on other continents like South America. Since the beginning of motorsports this continent has had a strong autosport heritage. Grand Prix were - and are - held both in Argentina and Brazil, countries that also gave us some of the most successful Formula 1 world champions: Juan Manuel Fangio, Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. But these countries are also important from an economic standpoint. Today Brazil is one of the world’s fastest growing economies with enormous potential, making it a very interesting market for the automotive industry.
Although South America is still seen as “up and coming” for endurance racing, currently, it is China’s growing interest in automobiles that has everyone talking. Over the past few years China has found its place on the international motorsports agenda, not only with the ILMC, but also with Formula 1 and touring car racing. “In 2010 Chevrolet sold more cars in China than in the United States,” said Jim Campbell, Vice-President of Chevrolet Motorsport. “Therefore it is important for us to be part of a racing series that visits this country.”
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, said “The 6-hour race at Zhuhai marks the close of a long, tough, but very successful season for Audi Sport. We won the most important race of the year – the Le Mans 24 Hours – with the Audi R18 TDI, the Spa 24 Hours with the R8 LMS and the DTM with the A4. We still have some unfinished business in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. That’s why I’m wishing for a race with fair sporting competition at the end of the season and a bit more fortune than we last had at Silverstone and Road Atlanta. It would be nice if we could close the year with a success in what has meanwhile become the world’s largest single market for Audi.”
Rolex Testimonee and Audi driver Tom Kristensen is also enthusiastic about the 6 Hours of Zhuhai. “I’m already looking forward to the last ILMC race in history. Last year I drove at Zhuhai for the first time. The crowd was incredibly enthusiastic and I’m looking forward to seeing the fans again. As their interest in our sport keeps growing, so does their knowledge and enthusiasm. China has meanwhile become the number one market for Audi in terms of deliveries, so it will definitely be a very exciting race for us.”
All the teams are saying the same thing: victory here in Zhuhai is of vital importance, regardless of the overall ILMC results. Current series standings lean heavily towards French teams, with Peugeot guaranteed to take the 2011 ILMC LM P1 Manufacturer and Team Titles (Team Peugeot Total), Nissan Signatech taking the LM P2 Team title and Larbe Competition also lined up for the LM GTE-Am title.
LM GTE-Pro is the only category with a Team title still undetermined, along with the Manufacturer title for the LM GTE (Pro and Am combined). Ferrari currently leads over BMW by 28-points in the Manufacturer classification, meaning the win could go to the Italian marque if just two of the Ferrari cars finish the Zhuhai race. BMW has no choice but to go for victory here in Zhuhai, promising intense competition for the remaining ILMC titles.
The 6 Hours of Zhuhai will run on 13 November at 11:00 local time. Practice and qualifying will be held on Friday, 11 November and Saturday, 12 November. Fans can watch the ILMC finale live online on Audi.tv. The broadcast from Zhuhai will start at 11:00 local time (04:00 CET) on November 13 and can be accessed at https://microsites.audi.com/lemans/. Eurosport will also broadcast the final stages of the race live from 08:30 to 10:00 (CET).
Following the finish of the 6 Hours of Zhuhai, the curtain will close on the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and reopen in 2012 as the FIA World Endurance Championship. More information will be presented about the new endurance series here in Zhuhai on Saturday 12th November at 12:30 (local time).