While we have Asian representatives in both classes of the prototype field of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the same can’t be said of the grand touring side, as all entries with be racing for LMGTE-Am honors, and some of these cars may have a shot for victory. Four cars of three different makes represent four countries of the Asian continent, with good chances on their sides.
KCMG/Abu Dhabi-Proton – Porsche 911 RSR
No. 78 – Christian Ried, Wolf Henzler and Joël Camathias
No. 88 – Khaled Al Qubaisi, Patrick Long and David Heinemeier Hansson
Even though they use Hong Kong and United Arabian Emirates flags, KCMG and Abu Dhabi Racing are in fact affiliated with the German outfit Proton Competition, and this gives them a good structure to achieve good results at Le Mans. KCMG switched its full-time FIA World Endurance Championship activities from the LMP2 class to the LMGTE-Am in place of Dempsey Racing, which stepped up to the LMGTE-pro class, and this also changed their lineup as a whole. Ried and Camathias can be good bets and Henzler is the pro driver every team would want, fast and solid in his approach.
The Abu Dhabi Racing side also suffered changes as Patrick Long took the place of Klaus Bachler and the driver-programmer David Heinemeier Hansson in place of Ried as the other amateur driver. Both were excellent signings to the 88 car, as Long is something like a Porsche GT God, adapted to GTE and GT3 machinery and ready to go fast, and DHH is one of the best amateur drivers currently, if not the best, and his LMGTE-Am class win in 2014 with Aston Martin proves this. The machine is still the same safe bet, the Porsche 911 RSR, and all these factors put the Abu Dhabi-Proton squad in a good position for the race.
Clearwater Racing – Ferrari 458 Italia GTE
No. 61 – Mok Weng Sun, Keita Sawa and Rob Bell
Clearwater Racing comes as the reigning GT class champions in the Asian Le Mans Series, and along with the Ferrari 458 GTE the Singapore-based team will use at Le Mans, the lineup won’t suffer changes, as the pair of Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa will be alongside McLaren factory driver Rob Bell, which means that this may work as an advantage to them. Rob Bell by himself is already a gem, coming with years of GT experience even though he didn’t lift the Le Mans trophy yet. The Mok-Sawa combo is the best of Asia in terms of endurance racing, having participations in the 12 Hours of Sepang and Bathurst with good results, and even if they aren’t sure contenders for a win, they will pose a threat if their adaptation to La Sarthe goes right.
Team AAI – Corvette C7.R GTE
No. 57 – Johnny O’Connell, Oliver Bryant and Mark Patterson
The Team AAI operation that will race at Le Mans this year, again with ProSpeed Competition doing the running, will not remember in almost anything the one that was present last year. First of all, out goes their pair of Porsches to enter a Corvette C7.R in place of the planned Corvette C6.R GTE, and if you believe in superstition, this C7.R was the one which took LMGTE-Pro honors in 2015. Along with the car, the driver lineup suffered a total overhaul, as team owner and nominated driver Jun San Chen relinquishes his place and the other two to completely new trio without relation to AAI or ProSpeed.
Leading the team is Johnny O’Connell, Cadillac factory driver with a ton of Vette experience at Le Mans and some memorable moments with it. Bryant and Patterson have Le Mans experience and some experience in the regional Le Mans Series, but their good displays depend heavily of good momentum, as shown by their good results in other competitions.
"Asian teams at Le Mans aren’t a thing of today, but now they aren’t representing only themselves, but also the Asian Le Mans Series where some of them compete. If we see good performances in the coming years, the regional competition gains momentum and gets solid and stronger, which is what the Asian LMS needs the most now, to someday become something like the European Le Mans Series.
All the luck to KCMG, Abu Dhabi Racing, Eurasia Motorsport, Team AAI, Clearwater Racing, Baxi DC Racing Alpine and Toyota Gazoo Racing next weekend."
PHOTOS: Michelin Motorsport, Asian Le Mans Series, Abu Dhabi Racing, BuddyClub International