MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi will be amongst the 116 drivers who will compete in the two 55-minute Road to Le Mans races at the 100th Anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans event next month.
The nine-time Motorcycle Grand Prix World Champion will race a BMW M4 GT3 prepared and run by 2021 FIA WEC and European Le Mans Series LMP2 Champions Team WRT, the Belgian team entering two cars for the 8th edition of the Road to Le Mans.
Four-time World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller will also be on the grid, competing as the driver/owner of the M Racing prepared no69 Ligier-Nissan in LMP3.
The Michelin Le Mans Cup regulars will be out in force, with the 42 cars being joined by 16 additional entries for the two races on the full 13.6km La Sarthe circuit, which will form part of the support race schedule for this special celebration of the first 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1923.
The LMP3 entry is headed by the championship leaders after Round 1 in Barcelona, the no16 Team Virage Ligier of Julien Gerbi and Gillian Henrion. The LMP3 grid will feature 38 cars, 32 Ligier JS P320s and 6 Duqueine M30-D8s, with 76 drivers and 21 teams representing 22 different nations.
The LMP3 entry also features 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Guy Smith, who is racing alongside Jim McGuire at La Sarthe, 20 years after he won the world’s most famous race with Bentley.
Since the first Road to Le Mans event in 2016 there have been 13 races, with six winning LMP3 teams - United Autosports, DKR Engineering, Graff Racing, Cool Racing, Nielsen Racing and Racing Spirit of Leman - and two winning drivers – Tony Wells and Colin Noble - on the grid for the 2023 event.
The GT3 grid will feature the 12 MLMC regulars and 8 additional cars. The grid will feature a mouth-watering selection of the very best GT3 machinery available to the teams, with the Aston Martin Vantage, the Porsche 911, Lamborghini Huracan, Audi R8, Ferrari 296, Honda NSX, BMW M4 and Mercedes AMG.
The current Michelin Le Mans Cup GT3 Championship leaders after Round 1 in Spain is the no10 Racing Spirit of Leman Aston Martin Vantage of French duo Arnold Robin and Valentin Hasse-Clot.
Another well-known name can be found on the GT3 grid, with multiple 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Jan Magnussen, father of the Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen, competing in the no88 GMB Motorsport Honda NSX alongside fellow Dane Lars Pedersen this season. Several winning teams and drivers from the previous 13 Road to Le Mans races will be on the grid, including AF Corse, Iron Lynx, GMB Motorsport, Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Kristian Poulsen.
Pierre Fillon, Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) President: "This year, Road to Le Mans will host a record grid. These two races will offer spectators great battles on the track. I am also very happy to welcome a champion like Valentino Rossi, who will make his debut on the legendary circuit of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I wish him the same success he has had on two wheels!"
Frédéric Lequien, Le Mans Endurance Management (LMEM) CEO: "Once again the Road to Le Mans has attracted a large entry with star names running alongside the series regulars and to have Valentino Rossi on the grid is a massive boost for the event. It also demonstrates the importance of the Michelin Le Mans Cup in endurance racing. I would like to wish everyone taking part in the 2023 Road to Le Mans the very best of luck in this very special anniversary year for Le Mans."
The two 55-minute races will take place on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 June, with qualifying on Thursday morning.