The Asian presence at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is somewhat reasonable, but quantity may mean nothing if not combined with quality, and among the three classes where we will have Asian representatives, some of them have good conditions to fight for class wins, starting with the side of the Le Mans Prototypes. Here are the ones present in the prototype side of the French endurance classic.
Toyota Gazoo Racing - Toyota TS050 Hybrid
No. 5 – Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima
No. 6 – Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi
The Japanese manufacturer is almost in the same league of the other LMP1 manufacturers, as its chances at Le Mans depend of the reliability of the TS050 Hybrid. In terms of speed alone, they are catching up with Audi Sport Team Joest, although still the 6 Hours of Spa proved that they can last more with huge or terminal problems. The inclusion of Kamui Kobayashi adds a lot to an already star-filled squad with no weak link, so they don’t have anything to complain about Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and others.
KCMG – ORECA 05-Nissan
No. 47 – Matt Howson, Richard Bradley and Tsugio Matsuda
The LMP2 winners at Le Mans will be back to defend their title, going to the point of recalling almost the whole lineup again and go in a “classic” paint scheme instead of the blue and chrome livery of 2015. The ORECA 05 is the most reliable car of the class, and KCMG is strongly tipped to repeat the flawless race made last year, especially with the Howson-Bradley combo behind the wheel, while Tsugio Matsuda, a KCMG driver in their early LMP2 days, being backed with his wealth of experience and fast pace. It’s clearly one of the safest bets of the class, even though this wasn’t demonstrated in the Journée Test.
Baxi DC Racing Alpine – Alpine A460-Nissan (ORECA 05)
No. 35 – David Cheng, Ho-Pin Tung and Nelson Pantiatici
The Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 champions made the step up to the LMP2 class as initially planned, and two factors helped DC Racing in the upgrade: the backing of the actor Jackie Chan and the alliance with Signatech Alpine, the reason why they went to the FIA World Endurance Championship with one of the rebranded ORECA 05 models instead of the Onroak way with a Ligier JS P2. Cheng and Tung are safest bet to keep the car on track, while Pantiatici’s speed will contribute to achieve a high rank in the LMP2 field. Although not high-rated contenders, they can climb the field in case of problems of the frontrunners.
Eurasia Motorsport – ORECA 05-Nissan
No. 33 – Tristan Gommendy, Nick de Bruijn and Pu Jun Jin
Eurasia Motorsport is another team that will fight against the odds at Le Mans, even though they switched from the ORECA 03 they used in the Asian Le Mans Series to a new ORECA 05 model and recruited Frenchman Tristan Gommendy, who will be the pace reference of the team. Pu Jun Jin’s variety in his CV may represent another trump card for the team, and de Bruijn is a safe pair of hands.
Special mention – LMP2
Race Performance – ORECA 03R-Judd
No. 34 – Nicolas Leutwiler, James Winslow and Shinji Nakano
They may be the Asian Le Mans Series overall champions and can bring trouble for the sure contenders in the LMP2 class, but Swiss outfit Race Performance may need to overcome the factor of having an older machine than most of the field, and although the Judd power may give the needed speed, it may not be as reliable as the predominant Nissan powerplants. If they can make their ORECA 03R reliable enough, James Winslow and Shinji Nakano are good enough to be in the lead pack as demonstrated in the Asian LMS season, and Leutwiler is really competent. The team’s experience and knowledge of Le Mans may be a very useful weapon in their hands.
PHOTOS: Asian Le Mans Series, DC Racing, Toyota Motorsport GmbH, ORECA