The change in command of the Asian Le Mans Series brought new hopes to the far east championship, as with the Automobile Club de L’Ouest directly in charge, things will tend to go to a better way. So far we are already done with the 2015 part of the 2015/2016 calendar, and the first race of the new year, the third of four races in the condensed Schedule, is no more than two weeks away. So let’s think for a moment: is everything going right in the Asian championship?
One of the goals of ACO around the renewed Asian LMS is to attract teams with the lure of an invite to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and we can say that this point was attractive enough to secure minimum regular entries for each class. The 13 entries present at Fuji for the start of the season weren’t that inspiring, but date clashes with other categories, a common issue from previous Asian LMS seasons, paid its toll as the event shared track time with the FIA World Endurance Championship, and with finishers in the double digit order, it was obviously satisfying. Sepang saw an entry number improvement, as 17 cars spread into five classes raced for three hours on Chinese soil, and although it didn’t hit the so much awaited numbers of 20 entries, a grid boost is always welcome.
The LMP2 class started with two entries and received a new car at Sepang, and maybe as expected, Race Performance dominated every race with certain ease, thanks to their multi-year LMP experience and to their lineup, composed by Niki Leutwiller and Shinji Nakano. Right behind them, Eurasia Motorsport and Algarve Pro Racing brought some trouble, but their on-track woes allied with the inexperience of their amateur drivers is what lacks to them to seriously fight for the class title.
The LMP3 class had three entries this season, and also is being dominated by a single team. Although all squads are using brand new machines, DC Racing is having the upper hand with the prototype experience of the pair of drivers composed by team owner David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung. The Team AAI has good names spread in the pair of ADESS 03 used, like Masataka Yanagida and Alex Kapadia, but the weak reliability of the car isn’t helping their side.
The CN class returned with less variety this season as there’s only a pair of Wolf GB08 cars on it, being there more to demonstrate the capabilities of the model specifically.
At the moment the GT class is the standout of the series, due to the large presence of teams coming from GT Asia and other championships. Eight cars was the maximum grid number, and the racing is harder and closer than the other categories. Clearwater Racing is the leader here, thanks to the best endurance racing pair there, Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa, and counting with the services of Rob Bell to drive their McLaren 650S GT3. Reliability issues and lack of consistency didn’t play on favor of Spirit of Race and Team AAI, but these two teams should be watched if something occurs with the glowing chrome and orange car.
The last class of the grid, GT Am, almost had two entries but still survives with the single Porsche 911 Cup car run by KCMG, as team owner Paul Ip is sharing driving duties with different drivers, mostly to get a taste of endurance GT racing.
Making a championship popular and attractive takes time and effort as ACO knows due to the situation of the European Le Mans Series. In a market that isn't too used with prototype racing, making everything possible to succeed may be a must.
PHOTOS: Asian Le Mans Series