Now that the 2015/2016 season of the Asian Le Mans Series is over, all the teams related with the competition need to do something during the current season until the time of the 24 Hours of Le Mans arrives, as well the 2016/2017 Asian LMS season.
The LMP2, LMP3 and GT champions had their slots locked in the French endurance classic, so what will the Asian representatives bring for the remainder of the season?
LMP2 champions – Race Performance
The Switzerland-based team now rejoins the European Le Mans Series after a year out, still with the Asian LMS title winner ORECA 03R, one of the few of the whole LMP2 field that still uses JUDD power to compete. Niki Leutwiler will return, but it's still unknown which will be his partners for the ELMS and for Le Mans. The full time drivers from the latest Race Performance effort were Franck Mailleux and team principal Michel Frey, so there's possibility to see at least one of them to go back.
LMP3 champions – DC Racing
The Chinese team owned by the driver David Cheng got important backing from the actor Jackie Chan, so their step up to the LMP2 class wouldn't be only a mandated thing, but also part of their plans from the moment the team was formed.
To improve the scenario for them, a partnership was formed with Alpine to bring them not only to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but also to the whole FIA World Endurance Championship season with the name of Baxi DC Racing Alpine, racing with an Alpine A460, which is in fact a rebranded ORECA 05, which fills the void left by KCMG as the single Asian team in the class. A second Alpine team was a long time wish for the French brand, which may help the chances of the former ELMS champions against two-car teams like Tequila Patrón ESM and SMP Racing, as well against strong and traditional teams like Strakka Racing.
Drivers at the moment are Cheng himself with his long-time partner Ho-Pin Tung, but the third slot would possibly see the youngster Thomas Laurent, who raced with them in the Asian LMS return to the team.
GT champions – Clearwater Racing
The traditional team from Singapore will be in a Le Mans-only journey until the start of the new Asian Le Mans Series season, where they will change from their McLaren 650S GT3 to a Ferrari 458 Italia GTE model. In fact, Clearwater Racing races with the GT3 version of the Ferrari 458 for a couple of years, being used even at some rounds of previous Asian LMS seasons with success.
It would be a good chance to see how the duo formed by Keita Sawa and Mok Weng Sun will fare against European competition since Clearwater Racing normally roams between Asian events, and with Rob Bell still in the house they have a good pro driver to rely on.
Special mention – Eurasia Motorsport
After years competing with ORECA 03 models, they switched to a brand new ORECA 05 for the full European Le Mans Series season and Le Mans, which may improve their odds against the European contenders. The addition of former Thiriet by TDS Racing driver Tristan Gommendy will be specially welcome to help Pu Jun Jin and Nick de Bruijn to improve their form.
Special mention - AAI Motorsports
The Taiwanese squad returning to Le Mans isn't in fact surprising after their participation in 2015. What surprises the most is the car selection from the team according the teams presentation made by ACO and FIA, as the nominated machine was the Corvette C6-ZR1 GTE, a model which isn't seen at Le Mans since 2013, when Larbre Competition and Corvette Racing used them before the transition process to the current C7R model used by these two teams. AAI has also a second Corvette in the reserve list, but as this second car is in the tenth and last slot, only a massive wave of withdraws would bring it to the 60-car grid.
Last year they fielded along with ProSpeed Competition two Porsche 911s in the LMGTE-Am class, being a 997-spec car and a 991-spec, and although both cars started from the back of the grid, it was pleasing that the 991-spec Porsche finished in 35th overall (6th in class) while the 997-spec car finished 37th (8th in class).
It's certain that they will rely on their lineups of the LMP3 and GT classes in the Asian LMS, so they have guys like Alex Kapadia, Masataka Yanagida and Ollie Hancock to rely on. Another scenario would see the Chen brothers ally with any free pro driver in their first Corvette, which is the expected thing to happen.
Some of these teams are sure bets for frontrunner spots in the FIA WEC, ELMS and at Le Mans this year, while others are dark horses somehow. Most of the questions about what the Asian representatives can do in 2016 will be answered once the season is on.
PHOTOS: Asian Le Mans Series, Clearwater Racing, ProSpeed Competition, DC Racing