Le Mans, France - The Automobile Club de l'Ouest, founder of the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours and world governing body of endurance racing, has created a new entry-level category called simply LM P3 (Le Mans Prototype 3), which will slot in below the current LM P1 and LM P2 classes as part of the Asian Le Mans Series and European Le Mans Series continental championships in 2015.
The aim of these Regional series (there's also an American Le Mans Series in North America) is to enable teams, drivers and constructors to learn the specific aspects of endurance racing before moving up to the World Endurance Championship, which includes, of course, Les 24 Heures du Mans.
The LM P3 is a modern, simple, safe car that looks a lot like the prestigious LM P2s and LM P1s, albeit slightly smaller (it's about 150mm shorter but the same width) and the ACO estimates it will be about two seconds a lap quicker than a Le Mans GTE car on a normal circuit.
The class is open to any chassis manufacturer who can meet the requirements for a closed car within the specified dimensions with a carbon-fibre monocoque tub and a metal roll-bar that will pass a mandatory International Automobile Federation crash test.
It must have a centre fin on the engine cover, cooling slots on top of the wheel arches and it may not weigh less than 870kg or more than 900kg.
All cars in the class will use a standard engine - a V8 of about 313kW (exactly which V8 will be confirmed before the end of July) - and a prescribed engine management system by Magneti Marelli. The engine and electronics will be supplied by Oreca, which will provide a back-up service to help the teams at all the circuits.
Each car will be allowed just one engine per season, and each engine must last at least 10 000 racing kilometres without a major stripdown. A number of other common parts - probably the transaxle and possibly brakes and dampers - will also be specified with an eye to keeping costs down, and the LM P3s will run similar tyres to those used in the Porsche Cup.
According to the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the complete car should cost about €195 000 (R2.75 million) - with the engine costing about €60 000 (R850 000) and the rolling chassis about €135 000 (R1.9 million). Running costs for a full season of the European Le Mans Series (provided you don't crash it too badly) should be €350 000-€400 000 (R5-R6 million).