This weekend, the eagerly awaited Prototype Cup will hold its first race at Snetterton.
The series will begin officially in 2017 (calendar TBC) but this inaugural event gives promoter Bute Motorsport the opportunity to run a dress rehearsal at one of its GT Cup meetings.
Two types of prototype are allowed in the Prototype Cup, but LMP3 is expected to be the star of the show.
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s newest sportscar formula has enjoyed an expeditious rise since its inception in 2015, partly because of its low running costs and partly because of its accessibility to amateur and gentleman racers.
As per the regulations, FIA-approved CN prototypes are also allowed (the kind seen often in the V de V Series), although at Snetterton the grid will be charged by the popular Nissan-powered Ligier LMP3s built by Onroak.
One of the big scoops made by the Prototype Cup has been its acquisition of support from United Autosports.
The recently crowned European LMP3 champion has become a leading figure in the promotion of the class on a national level, and is currently Onroak’s chief UK agent.
That means most LMP3 cars sold in the UK are sold by United, so the Prototype Cup will benefit from a healthy array of entries as long as the Ligier remains a popular choice.
The Prototype Cup’s rival series, introduced to the Britcar bill in 2016, has the backing of Ginetta, which manufactures the G57 model (not LMP3-homologated).
Both competitions are in their early days at the moment, but it will be interesting to see how the they shape up in terms of entries considering their respective links to a major prototype seller.
Having United Autosports on board can only be a good thing for the Prototype Cup. As one of the leading figures in LMP3 customer racing, its power to lure in prospective teams provides encouragement ahead of the series’ projected launch next year at Silverstone.
“I’m really excited about the first Prototype Cup event,” said United Autosports managing director Richard Dean.
“We have put a lot of work into making the weekend a success and I hope all the teams enjoy themselves and enjoy racing the Ligier JSP3 cars.”
“I think it’s a great idea to have this first event to test the water – there has been a lot of interest from drivers and teams about the Ligiers and the Prototype Cup.”
“We are working closely with Bute Motorsport – the series organisers – and are hopeful of a great calendar for 2017 that compliments the ELMS calendar.”
The entry list for this weekend’s race features nine cars.
United Autosports will enter four Ligiers, including a Gulf-liveried car driven by Shaun Lynn. Richard Meins was originally penciled in to share with Lynn, but business commitments have forced him to pull out of the weekend.
Some of United’s European Le Mans Series drivers will also make an appearance at Snetterton, with Wayne Boyd – currently fifth in the championship – set to share a car with Jay Palmer.
American duo Guy Cosmo and Patrick Byrne are the third entry, while Jacques Duyver and Charlie Hollings pair up in the fourth car.
Renowned Formula 3 outfit West-Tec is a notable addition to the field, with European LMP3 champion Christian England sharing with Radical works driver Colin Noble in one confirmed car.
West-Tec team boss Craig Bennett told The Checkered Flag.co.uk that it is planning to run that car (possibly two) in the Prototype Cup next year, with a view to entering the European Le Mans Series as well.
Another top national team, Douglas Motorsport, has also pledged its allegiance to the Cup. Wayne Douglas’ squad currently has cars in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup, Ginetta Junior and British Formula 3 Championship, and is now exploring prototype avenues.
Mike Newbould, who is the team’s Ginetta GT4 driver, will co-drive a Ligier with British F3 race winner Thomas Randle at Snetterton.
Another interesting addition to this weekend’s grid is the Tockwith Motorsports-entered Ligier driven by Philip Hanson and Nigel Moore.
The British pair – known for their Britcar GT exploits – joined the European Le Mans Series halfway through 2016 and have been hugely competitive in their first two races, narrowly missing out on victory in both.
Despite the single figure grid, this weekend’s action promises to be close with each entry boasting a competitive lineup capable of challenging at the front.
The Race Weekend
A list of regulations was sent out to teams last week outlining the format of the Snetterton weekend.
Sunday’s 60 minute race will be a two-driver affair, with one half of each pairing being an amateur of FIA bronze rated competitor.
The second driver can either be of the same classification, or rated silver by the FIA. In the Prototype Cup, the highest rated driver must always drive the second stint and must not take hold of the car before the 30 minute mark.
All pit stops must be made within a 12 minute window starting at the 28th minute of the race.
The inaugural race will be in conjunction with Bute Motorsport and MSVR, with a number of other series sharing the weekend bill.
In addition to the GT Cup championship finale, the F3 Cup, Radical SR1 Cup and JMT Monoposto series will take to the 3 mile circuit.
Prototype Cup Snetterton 300 Schedule
Free Practice (20 minutes) – Saturday, October 8 @ 10:05-10:25
Qualifying (10 minutes) – Saturday, October 8 @ 14:20-14:40
Warm Up (10 minutes) – Sunday, October 9 @ 10:25-10:35
Race (60 minutes) – Sunday, October 9 @ 14:00-15:00
Prototype Cup Entry List
United Autosports Ligier JSP3-Nissan –
Richard Meins/Shaun Lynn
United Autosports Ligier JSP3-Nissan – Wayne Boyd/Jay Palmer
United Autosports Ligier JSP3-Nissan – Jacques Duyver/Charlie Hollings
United Autosports Ligier JSP3-Nissan – Guy Cosmo/Patrick Byrne
Tockwith Motorsports Ligier JSP3-Nissan – Philip Hanson/Nigel Moore
Team West-Tec Ligier JSP3-Nissan – Christian England/Colin Noble
Team West-Tec Ligier JSP3-Nissan – TBC/TBC
Douglas Motorsport Ligier JSP3-Nissan – Thomas Randle/Mike Newbould
Douglas Motorsport Ligier JSP3-Nissan – TBC/TBC