The Asian participation at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in all classes was concluded with mixed feelings, as favorites fell midway in the race and some surprises appeared before our eyes, especially in the LMGTE-Am category.
The LMP2 class was the one with the strongest favorites for a win at La Sarthe, as Baxi DC Racing Alpine had a nice car and driver lineup and KCMG tried to recreate the 2015 winning team, but things weren’t exactly that way. Baxi DC Racing was on par with the main Alpine car in qualifying, while KCMG didn’t go past ninth place in the class grid. Eurasia Motorsport started 11th, while Asian LMP2 champions Race Performance were by far the frustration the grid, starting from 21st position.
During the race, KCMG counted with Richard Bradley to rise in the ranks, even being in podium place in a given moment, while Baxi DC Racing and Eurasia Motorsport came in recovery races on the top-10 group. The night time and the early morning were somehow decisive for the three crews, as the KCMG ORECA had a sequence of electrical problems over the night, eventually coming to a halt. The Baxi DC Racing Alpine was doing a good job by keeping themselves in the top-5 when in the morning Nelson Pantiatici had a brake lock up, hit the first kerb of the Playstation chicane, becoming a passenger as he crossed the gravel and the car hit the Armco.
Thanks to a collection of troubles in the LMP2 field, the Eurasia Motorsport ORECA was able to reach fifth place in the class, and with three laps down to the third place battle between Strakka Racing and SMP Racing, it was only a matter of managing fuel and tires to get into the finish like Pu Jun Jin did, completing their debut at Le Mans with style.
In the GT ranks, Singapore-based outfit Clearwater Racing made history by scoring a class pole position in the first visit of the team to La Sarthe, thanks to Rob Bell, and Abu Dhabi-Proton was a bit behind in the class, starting in third.
In the race, it was an all-Asian domination in the early stages mostly thanks to their professional drivers, with Abu Dhabi-Proton and KCMG dominating the first two LMGTE-Am slots while Team AAI and Clearwater Racing were lurking into the top-5 positions, fighting with AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing.
KCMG was temporarily knocked out of the race due to problems, so the Abu Dhabi-Proton Porsche had to deal with the pursuit of the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari while the other two Ferraris in the top 5 were in battle for a podium position, with Clearwater Racing managing its way against AF Corse. Problem appeared in the middle of the night for the chrome car, as a misfire cut the pace when Keita Sawa was at the wheel, relegating them to fourth place, although they were still in contention for a podium place. The Abu Dhabi side was also losing ground as they lost the lead and were caught defending themselves to not go below second.
Abu Dhabi-Proton then settled for third place and Clearwater Racing did it for fourth as they were a lap behind, as Scuderia Corsa got class honors followed by AF Corse. Khaled Al Qubaisi returned to a Le Mans podium after a second place finish in 2014, while Clearwater Racing had everything to celebrate even though they missed the podium, as it was the first Le Mans race for Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa. The Team AAI Corvette and the KCMG Porsche completed the race, but they were the last ones in the class to cross the finish line.
PHOTOS: FIA WEC, Asian Le Mans Series, Clearwater Racing