As DSC readers will have noticed in recent weeks and months a steady stream of teams have declared their intentions either to enter or evaluate the forthcoming 2018/19 Asian Le Mans Series.
After last season saw a dip in entry numbers (14 full season entries) a combination of factors producing a ‘perfect storm’ for the Series that left a reduced LMP3 entry, and a small GT contingent, a combination of factors has, it seems reversed the trend, potentially in dramatic fashion.
Teams are seeing advantages in continuing to offer their paying driver customers an opportunity to race in the traditional European off-season;
Teams are also seeing the Asian races as an opportunity to allow their customer drivers to develop their skillset away from the European tracks; The very success of the European Le Mans Series is putting pressure on the availability of slots for ELMS contenders to gain a Le Mans 24 Hours entry;
The availability of Auto entries via the Asian series has not gone unnoticed;
Neither has the relative success in catching the Le Mans Selection Committee’s eye of teams committing to multiple ACO Championships.
The 2018/19 Series will see Auto-entries for Le Mans awarded for the three main class winning teams (LMP2, LMP3 and GT (for GT3 spec cars), plus a shift from a second auto entry for the second-placed GT team to an entry for the winning car in an LMP2 sub class (LMP2 Am) open to entries featuring all-amateur driver line ups, to encourage non-professional drivers to compete – The LMP2 AM class also features a separate winning trophy at each round.
Already confirming their return for the coming season are Jackie Chan DC Racing with LMP2 (the older pre-2017 cars are still used for the Asian Le Mans Series) and LMP3 entries, Eurasia Motorsport who look set to be represented in up to two classes, Viper Nisa Racing, the Malaysian squad eyeing a possible LMP3 expansion, TianShi Racing, already confirmed to double their Audi R8 LMS GT3 effort with a second car, ARC Bratislava, returning with a solo Ligier LMP2, and Algarve Pro Racing, a two car LMP2 effort on the cards for them.
In addition a gaggle of European teams are en route, perhaps most significantly ELMS LMP3 Championship winners United Autosports with a four car effort, a pair of cars apiece in LMP2 and LMP3, Inter Europol have confirmed a 1-2 car LMP3 campaign, AF Corse-operated Spirit of Race will field an LMP2, and may add to their car count, Panis Barthez Competition have confirmed that they will compete with a Judd-powered Ligier JS P2 (see below).
Other current LMP and GT teams are yet to confirm their potential entries with Ecurie Ecosse Nielsen Racing close to committing a two-car LMP3 effort, fellow ELMS contenders EuroInternational edging closer to a potential single car LMP3 campaign and at least two other, Asian-based outfits, yet to make their final decision and/ or declaration.
And there are others too, both from Europe and Asia, waiting in the wings to make their final decisions and take the wraps off their plans – more news is expected in the coming days and weeks. Even conservative estimates look set to see significant growth in all three major classes for full-season entrants, current estimates see a likely full season total entry of something over 25 cars.
Spirit of Race are set to field a Ligier JS P2, the Swiss-flagged, AF Corse operated outfit putting Come Ledogar and Alexander West together with Pipo Derani, the Brazilian returning for a second season in the Series after heading up the Team BBT LMP2 effort last season, again operated by AF Corse.
The Spirit of Race entry takes the LMP2 contingent to 8, or 9 cars, with one potential entry still to be confirmed. The entry sees the Jackie Chan DC Racing squad field an ORECA 05 with all other entries currently declared with Ligier JS P2 chassis, most with Nissan engines but at least one, the Panis Barthez Competition car, will be powered by the Judd V8.
Mathieu Lahaye revealed that the Panis Barthez team have taken delivery of their Judd-powered JS P2 ahead of the season, the car pictured before livery application.
Talks are still underway around a possible Norma LMP3 entry for the Series , the overall LMP3 contingent looking to be well into double figures after a full season five last time out!
The full live-web streaming, introduced last season proved a major success, viewing figures exceeding expectation, is set to return with the Asia-based production and comms team again set to be joined by the DSC Editor, DSC also set to have an enhanced editorial presence at the race meetings this coming season.