After starting the season in Zhuhai, China, the Asian Le Mans Series heads to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ for Round 2 of the season at Fuji International Speedway.
In the hotly contested LMP2 class, which this year features six cars, Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota Sport will be looking to take a second win. In China, the #8 ORECA 05 crew of Thomas Laurent, Harrison Newey and Stephane Richelmi proved to be the class of the field, cruising to victory ahead of LMP2 debutant BBT’s Ligier.
And after an impressive performance to start the season, Laurent should once again be one to watch this weekend too. The young Frenchman (named FIA WEC Rookie of the Year in 2017) will be hungry for a win after finishing second in the WEC LMP2 Drivers Championship, the WEC season finale earlier this month going the way of Vaillante Rebellion.
In China, the #8 ORECA 05 crew of Thomas Laurent, Harrison Newey and Stephane Richelmi proved to be the class of the field, cruising to victory ahead of LMP2 debutant BBT’s Ligier
BBT too will head into sunday’s race motivated, the long-time GT Asia team impressing in its LMP2 debut, Anthony Liu and Davide Rizzo getting to grips with prototype racing remarkably quickly. They’ll be joined once again by 2016 Daytona and Sebring winner Pipo Derani, who will look to help his teammates gun for the win.
Elsewhere in the class, there’s a new line-up to look out for. After racing with Alex Au and Keiko Ihara in the season opener, Eurasia Motorsport’s Ligier JSP2 will be driven by Japanese racer Yoshiharu Mori, former F1 test driver and GT regular Marko Asmer and reigning Asian Le Mans Series Sprint Cup champion Scott Andrews. Could this intriguing new set of drivers spring a surprise?
There’s a new look too to the second Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca squad, Ho Pin Tung is on Formula E duty in Hong Kong, replaced by Jazeman Jaafar, the Malaysian driver sharing the car for the final three Asian Le Mans Series races with David Cheng, and with third drivers likely to be confirmed for Buriram and Sepang.
In the LMP3 class, there’s also a change, FRD LMP3 Champion James Winslow will join Douglas Khoo and Dominic Ang in the Viper Niza Racing Ligier JSP3, bringing speed and experience to the team’s line-up after a troubled run in China.
There’s also an additional entry to the LMP3 category in the form of a TKS Ginetta, bringing chassis variety to the class which was populated solely by Ligier JS P3s in Round 1. The team, which won the Asian Le Mans Series GT Cup championship last year will race with Shinyo Sano heading its line-up once again, he’s joined by young single seater (and one-make Porsche) racer Yuta Kamimuri. The team will present a third (Bronze-ranked) driver tomorrow, their current Silver/Silver combo not permitted in the Series.
Elsewhere in the P3 class KCMG will be looking to take a second win, the Hong Kong-flagged team taking a big win in Zhuhai in what turned into a topsy turvy race for most of the class. Josh Burdon, Louis Prette and Neric Wei had a clean run at Zhuhai while others had off-track excursions or were dealt costly penalties.
Two of the outfits in particular will be looking to bounce back, Patrick Byrne and Guy Cosmo (who will head to the Gulf 12 Hours with United Autosports after this weekend) in the #6 Jackie Chan DC Ligier and the WIN Motorsport JS P3 featuring LMP2 Le Mans Winner Richard Bradley. Both had a tough opening race, the WIN entry suffering an early puncture and unable to contend as a result while the Jackie Chan machine was caught out in a FCY period forcing Byrne and Cosmo to settle for a podium after showing off race-winning pace.
Will the AAI train roll through Fuji once again this weekend, or will the class’ other competitiors Tianshi Racing Team and Spirit of Race mix it in this time?
Like the two prototype divisions, the GT class for Round 2 also has a slightly different look to it, Team AAI switching one of its cars for this weekend’s four hour race. Ollie Millroy and Lam Yu raced with a Mercedes AMG GT3 in the opener, and battled for the win throughout the race, finishing second. This time round they’ll be driving a Ferrari 488 GT3, joined by AF Corse driver Marco Cioci in the seat originally filled by Rafaelle Marciello.
AAI dominated round 1, finishing 1-2, with its M6 GT3 of Junsan Chen, Jesse Krohn and Chaz Mostert leading the aforementioned sister crew to the flag. Will the AAI train roll through Fuji once again this weekend, or will the class’ other competitiors Tianshi Racing Team and Spirit of Race mix it in this time?
This Sunday’s 4 Hours of Fuji is set to begin at 12:20pm local time in Japan, and can be streamed live for free on the Asian Le Mans Series Facebook page with commentary from DSC Editor Graham Goodwin. Live timing is also available on asianlemansseries.com.