INTERCONTINENTAL LE MANS CUP GRAND FINAL AT ZHUHAI CIRCUIT IN CHINA
The 1000 kilometers of Zhuhai, to be run on November 7 at the racetrack of Zhuhai, in the south east of China, will be the third and final race of this year's Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC). The ILMC was introduced this spring and includes the 1000 km of Silverstone, England, as well as the Petit Le Mans race (1000 miles of Atlanta) at Road Atlanta in the USA, making for a brand new series made up of three races run on three different continents.
At the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's annual press conference on the eve of this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, ACO president Jean-Claude Plassart introduced the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup: a new series that covers three different continents. This series is open for Le Mans prototype cars and GT's that are eligible for the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, the American and European Le Mans Series, and the Asian Le Mans Series. As official timepiece and time-keeping partner, Rolex is proud to be part of this exciting series that will include more races next season.
The race in China will be the next episode in the yearlong battle between Peugeot and Audi. The French team won both at Silverstone - where they clinched the European LMS title - and at Road Atlanta. Audi is looking for another win after their dominating victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last June. Both teams run diesel-powered sports prototype cars with an engine configuration that Audi introduced at Le Mans in 2006.
These diesel-powered prototypes will face a number of prototypes with 'regular' gas engines. Among the strongest of those teams this season was the Lola of Drayson Racing, which had some inspiring results at Sebring, Le Mans and Road Atlanta. Their top-driver is five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro, an experienced Italian who has since scaled down his racing activities and runs only a limited calendar. His former teammate, Tom Kristensen, eight-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, still runs a full season. The Danish driver and Rolex Testimonee is still the top driver for the Audi team, although a bout of bad luck has kept him from winning this year.
The Audi win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June was the ninth victory there for the manufacturer, based in Ingolstadt, Germany. Among its drivers that weekend was 26-year old Mike Rockenfeller, the German racer who made history for being only the fourth driver ever to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same year. Only Derek Bell, Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood, who won over twenty years ago, precede Rockenfeller's achievement. Rockenfeller is very proud of this achievement and the fact that he has earned two Rolex Cosmograph Daytonas, personalized timepieces given to the winners of these races. As tribute to his versatility, Rockenfeller won the GT Hybrid class driving a Porsche at the Petit Le Mans race.
In September, the Peugeot team had its revenge for failing to finish at their home race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, by winning the 1000-km race at Silverstone. The French/British driver duo Minassian/Davidson won ahead of the private Peugeot of Team Oreca, driven by Sarrazin and Lapierre. The best Audi finished third overall, two laps behind the winners. The strong GT2 class was won by Bruni and Melo in a Ferrari 430GT, but even their win did not hand the manufacturer title to the Italian brand. By finishing second, fifth and sixth, the Porsche teams scored enough points to give the German manufacturer a three-point margin. The race at Silverstone, run on the completely redone Northamptonshire track, was the first that counted towards the newly created Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
Three weeks later, at the 13th annual Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta - the final race of this year's American Le Mans Series (ALMS) championship - Peugeot won again. This time the works entries came home first and second: the team of Sarrazin/Lamy/Montagny finished ahead of Davidson/Gene/Wurz. The Audi team of McNish/Capello/Kristensen came third in this 1000-mile event run near Atlanta, the capital of Georgia. There was also an amazing North American racing debut of the all-new Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid, raced by Le Mans winners Rockenfeller/Dumas/Bernhard; an important debut, bearing in mind that Hybrid cars will be heavily promoted in next year's Le Mans championships. At Road Atlanta, Porsche proved that Hybrid cars can compete with the best GT cars. Although the Hybrid car ran in its own newly created class, it only managed five laps less than the fastest GT car overall, the American Corvette. The GT manufacturer's title was won by BMW, just one point ahead of Porsche.
The 1000 kilometers of Zhuhai will be run at the 4.3-kilometer track near the south Chinese beach resort of Macau, on November 7 at noon local time. Practice and qualifying will be held on Friday, November 5 and Saturday, November 6. There is an eight-hour time difference with Europe.
Rolex and motor sports:
Rolex is the Official Watch and Timekeeper for the brand new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Rolex has been Official Timekeeper for 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001 and Title Sponsor of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in North America since 1992. In 1965, Rolex added the name Daytona to the dial of its Cosmograph line in tribute to this great race at the International Speedway. The presence of the Rolex brand in automobile racing has grown steadily ever since.
Rolex supports the tradition of auto racing through events that celebrate design, speed and passion including the Goodwood Revival (UK), the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (USA), the Pebble Beach Tour D'Elegance presented by Rolex (USA), the Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance (USA) and The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering (USA).
Rolex affiliation also extends to two key figures in the sport: Sir Jackie Stewart from Scotland, one of the greatest drivers of his generation, and Danish driver Tom Kristensen, record eight-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.