The Friday (23) was a day of announcements in the Automobile Club de l’Ouest camp, and between them the calendar of the 2017 European Le Mans Series was one of the main points, with some noticeable changes, along with the class structure for the LMP2 prototypes.
The 2017 calendar still comprises the six events from 2016 with almost the same calendar slots, but the first change is in the location of the Prologue pre-season test, leaving and Paul Ricard and from 2017 on being held at Monza, in Italy. The mythical Italian circuit was and is heavily used as a testing ground for teams of all categories in previous years, ranging from LMP1 to LMGTE and GT3, giving plenty of room to test low and high downforce setups.
The regular season sees two circuits being replaced but both rounds are still being held in the same countries. Monza replaces Imola in the calendar as the second round in the middle of May, returning to the ELMS after being part of the Le Mans Series in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 as the 1000 km of Monza, while Imola leaves the ELMS after being part of the calendar since 2013. Portugal still holds the season finale in late October, but Portimão will take the place of Estoril as the venue, also return after being a Le Mans Series 1000 km race venue in 2009 and 2010, while Estoril leaves the ELMS after being in the calendar since 2014.
The rest of the season remains pretty much the same, with Silverstone still opening the season in mid April, and after Monza the Red Bull Ring continues in late July after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Paul Ricard keeping its race in late August and Spa-Francorchamps staying in late September ahead of the season finale at Portugal. All races still keep the 4 hour length adopted in 2014.
2017 ELMS Calendar:
March 28th-29th – Prologue at Monza
April 14th-15th – Silverstone
May 12th-14th – Monza
July 21st-23rd – Red Bull Ring
August 25th-27th – Paul Ricard
September 22nd-24th – Spa-Francrochamps
October 20th-22nd – Portimão
Along with the calendar, another announcement was a separation in the LMP2 class structure, with the new 2017-spec prototypes aiming for overall wins while the current spec cars will have a separate podium but will not receive a season title or the invite for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
With the next generation of LMP2 machinery becoming 100 hp more powerful than the current generation, balancing them in the field became an issue to deal with, but with many major forces of the class already set to race with new prototypes, it would be too much of a hassle to dumb down the new ones of to give power to the soon to be grandfathered cars. Still, according to ACO's Gerard Neveu, the European Le Mans Series may have around 40 entries between its four classes in 2017.
PHOTO: European Le Mans Series