Asian involvement in 24H proves Le Mans pyramid is working
In recent years the ACO have successfully set up a global Le Mans pyramid whereby the Le Mans 24 Hours and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is supported by regional series’ such as the Asian Le Mans Series.
A key objective of this structure is to bring Asian teams and drivers through the Asian LMS and ultimately have the opportunity to race on a global stage. If we see the participation and achievements of Asian teams and drivers at the recent Le Mans 24 Hours race it can be clearly seen that this structure is starting to pay dividends.
The LM P1 category already well represented by Asia in Le Mans 24 Hours and WEC by the highly competitive Toyota who were able to put up a very strong performance finishing 3rd overall at Le Mans.
The Toyota Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima set a time of 3m 21.789s early in Qualifying Practice 3 to become the first Japanese driver to claim top spot on the grid for the twice-round-the-clock endurance race.
Nissan is planning to return in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans in LM P1 prototype to defeat th the goal to compete favourably against Porsche, Audi, and Toyota in an attempt to win Le Mans and WEC next year.
The 2013 Asian Le Mans Series LM P2 winner OAK Racing Team Asia achieved a great result at 24 Hours of Le Mans. The #33 OAK Racing Team Asia driven by the Chinese trio of Ho-Pin Tung, David Cheng and Adderly Fong who produced a solid, consistent run in changeable weather conditions made it to the end of the race in a respectable 7th in class, 11th overall.
David Cheng, the LM P2 champion of 2013 Asian LMS said: “This has been my life goal, to complete my first 24 Hours in the top 10, we finished 7th, it’s quite amazing.
“Now, the goal is to win the Asian Le Mans title again, that way I can be here next year in this very spot going for the win. Hopefully, we can be standing on that podium.”
The 2013 Asian Le Mans Series GTC winner AF Corse with Steve Wyatt and Michele Rugolo driving for the Italian team in Le Mans 24 Hours this year was forced into retirement early on. The team showed amazing potential which will surely be fully utilized in the remaining season of WEC.
The 2013 Asian Le Mans Series GTE winner Team Taisan with Japanese driver Shinji Nakano returned to the Le Mans 24 Hours after a long absence, Taisan drove a steady and reliable race as they marched up the GTE Am field to an eventual 8th place class finish, and 28th overall.
For Team Taisan that can be viewed as a success on their return after some years away and they’ll fight for an invitation pass from 2014 Asian LMS to make a return visit in 2015.
KCMG, China’s first ever team to race in Le Mans, were going very impressively in LM P2 before they were unfortunately forced to retire in a early stage after suffered a heavy damage. KCMG will be in the hunt for automatic qualification into next year’s Le Mans race through the LM P2 class 2014 Asian Le Mans Series.
Former F1 driver India’s Karun Chandhok was once again present at Le Mans, and was racing with Murphy Prototypes in LM P2. One of the stars of the 2013 Asian LMS British driver James Winslow represented Greaves Motorsport in LM P2 and he showed great pace at the start of the race before his car ran into mechanical problems and failed to finish.
Another popular Asian LMS driver was Hong Kong’s Darryl O’Young who was on the entry list at Le Mans 24 Hour with his Craft Bamboo Racing’s Aston Martin Vantage but unfortunately due to a crash in qualifying failed to make the start of the race.
All the teams and drivers, and fans across Asia should be very proud of the region’s performance, and can look forward to further success in the future.
With the 2013 Le Mans now completed endurance racing now looks ahead to July 20th and the first race of the 2014 Asian Le Mans Series at Inje, South Korea.