The Asian presence at the 24 Hours of Le Mans didn't have that much change in terms of numbers comparing this year's edition with the 2016 one, but new squads and partnerships shaken up things a little in both prototype and GT ranks. Some efforts have more chance than ever for a class win and even overall wins, continuing what KCMG once did in LMP2 some years ago.
We start with the LMP side of the grid, with three teams and six cars spread into LMP1 and LMP2.
Toyota Gazoo Racing – Japan – LMP1
Entries – 3x Toyota TS050 Hybrid
Drivers – Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi (No. 7)
Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima (No. 8)
Nicolas Lapierre, José Maria Lopez and Yuji Kunimoto (No. 9)
Toyota suffered one of heaviest defeats seen in motorsport in recent years as they lost their dreamed La Sarthe win in the final lap last year, but the Gazoo Racing operation moved on from the occurred and the evolved TS050 is actually the force to be beaten in France, specially with the so much expected third car coming to competition this year, although Porsche is still in close pursuit, if not in equal level. Drivers remained practically the same, and the trio of the No. 9 with LMP1 expert Lapierre, WTCC champion Lopez and Super Formula champion Kunimoto has good chances for a top spot, as their rivals already did it with a third car.
Eurasia Motorsport – Philippines – LMP2
Entry – Ligier JS P217
Drivers – Jacques Nicolet, Erik Maris and Pierre Nicolet (No. 33)
The core of Eurasia Motorsport's entry is Asian, but looking at the lineup for the No. 33 Ligier you will probably remind of the Saulnier Racing and OAK Racing days where Jacques Nicolet was at the wheel, racing with recent partner Erik Maris and Jacques' son Pierre, who got recent experience in the Le Mans Prototype world. Accord to owner Mark Goddard the goal is to finish the race in one piece, and this may extend to the lineup in the Ligier JS P217.
Jackie Chan DC Racing – China – LMP2
Entries – 2x ORECA 07
Drivers – David Cheng, Alex Brundle and Triastan Gommendy (No. 37)
Ho-Pin Tung, Thomas Laurent and Oliver Jarvis (No. 38)
DC Racing is still competing and stayed in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but gone was Signatech Alpine and welcome is JOTA Sport to run the Chinese team. The No. 38 has a win at Silverstone so they are likely contenders for a win considering the high level of the all-ORECA FIA WEC ambient, with the rest depending on how clean will be their race and how the ORECA 07 will fare again the other LMP2s, aspects that are valid to every competitor in the class with the new regulations in place and increased pace.
PHOTOS: FIA WEC, Ligier Sportscars