Monday, December 14, 2009

ACO Plans to Unify Le Mans Prototype with Intercontinental Cup

While the 24 hour of Le Mans has long been the pinnacle event for defining sports car greatness, the organizers of famous day-long French auto race have been working hard to bring unified rules and even cars to across the world. The ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest or Automobile Club of the West of France) has been influential in sanctioning much of the world's sports car racing action. In cooperation with Don Panoz, the American Le Mans Series has enjoyed the ACO's backing since 1998 establishment of the racing calendar. The ACO later formulated a successful European-based tour known simply as the Le Mans Series and are currently engaged in effectively launching an Asian tour under the same rules format.

For 2010, the ACO is undertaking the first step into a bold, new move into establishing a world honour for prototype competitors. Called the Intercontinental Cup, this series within the three Le Mans series will consist of one race from each tour.

2010 Intercontinental Cup for Le Mans Prototypes

Le Mans Series Silverstone 1000 km event- September 13th
American Le Mans Series Petit Le Mans 1000 mile - October 2nd
Asian Le Mans Series Round Circuit Okayama 500 km- November (Rumored)

To be eligible for the Intercontinental Cup, the ACO attached some provisions to guarantee prototype teams will not cherry-pick the 3 races in the tour. Entrants will be required to run 5 races in every of the Le Series sports car series (the Le Mans 24 hour race can not be counted).

Shortly upon the announcement, Audi Sport Team Joest pledged their pair of R15 prototypes will campaign in quest for the inaugural Intercontinental Cup. 2009 Audi rival and 24-Hour of Le Mans successor Peugeot has yet to express a firm commitment to running their 908 HDi FAP the new prototype Cup for 2010. However, Peugeot does intend to compete once again for the 24-hour of Le Mans podium, defending last year's crown. Besides Audi and Peugeot, it is likely that those two auto makers will be the only 2010 Intercontinental Cup contenders. Though Acura Motorsports had made a dominating stand through the 2009 American Le Mans Series circuit, their commitment to the 2010 schedule was in doubt until Patron Highcroft Racing locked up plans to compete in the 2010 American Le Mans Series. With an Asian round in the Intercontinental Cup, it remains to be seen if this might reinvigorate the Honda-based brand's interest in a future with sport car prototypes. Entrants for the upcoming season must be affirmed by February of 2010.

With the inaugural Intercontinental Cup planned for only 3 races in 2010, the ACO has already mentioned a desire to expand the tour in 2011 and beyond to at least double the events.

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