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A brand new prototype: Entry-level LMP3 class created for Le Mans

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) is the biggest motorsport sanctioning body in France, and it’s been governing, modifying, and championing race events since 1906. The ACO is the ruling body for everything from the French motorcycle Grand Prix to the FIA World Endurance Championship, but you may know it best for sanctioning the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Le Mans just took place last month, but already the ACO is making big changes for next year: a new division is headed for the Le Mans series and it’s called the Le Mans Prototype 3 class – or LMP3.

The LMP3 category will be for new teams that eventually want to compete in the top-flight Le Mans Prototype Class, but can’t run with the current champions of the LMP1 and LMP2 divisions yet: Audi, Porsche, and Toyota. According to the ACO, the prototype cars will give new teams the experience necessary to make their way up the ranks, and the cars will be easy to run, affordable, and have lower performance requirements than higher classes.

Any constructor can build an LMP3 entrant, but like all Le Mans categories, the car must adhere to certain regulations. The LMP3 cars will have the same width as the LMP1 and LMP2 cars (74.8 inches), but will be 15 centimeters shorter (177.1 inches).

Vehicles must also be built with a carbon fiber-based chassis featuring a closed cockpit, metal rollbar, and an elongated, shark fin-adorned body a la the Audi R 18. LMP3 racers must weigh between 1900 and 2000 pounds.

Engine are less of a free-for-all, as there will be one motor option: a 420-ish-horsepower V8 sold to each team by Oreca, a French racing group. Each team will have one unit per season, and it must last 10,000 kilometers (6,213 miles) without maintenance.

It will be interesting to see if technology from Le Mans’ new class will make its way onto production cars, as the electric turbocharging system from Audi’s R18 e-tron is doing on the Q7 SUV.

It’s hard to say at this point, because the LMP3 class won’t debut until the 2015 European and Asian Le Mans Series. More details on the engine are coming before July’s end, so we’ll keep you updated as we learn more.