The Asian Le Mans Series has announced that all four rounds of its 2021 season have been moved from South East Asia to Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates.
The switch to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix venue, which is set to hold a quartet of four-hour races next February, comes as the series anticipates possible coronavirus-related travel restrictions on the South East Asia region in the coming months.
Asian LMS was due to hold its 2021 season as a compact block of four January races at Buriram in Thailand and Sepang in Malaysia, but these plans have now been canceled.
A statement from the championship said that it “could not wait any longer” for potential restrictions that could be imposed in January.
The first two Abu Dhabi four-hour races are set to take place between Feb. 4-6 while the second pair of races is expected to be held on Feb. 18-20.
Asian LMS plans to utilize two different configurations of the multi-layout Yas Marina facility and combine night, day and evening conditions.
The short seasons are designed to enable European teams to take part in a full campaign of Asian endurance racing without compromising their competition plans at home.
“2020 has thrown up significant challenges for all of us due to the global impact of Covid-19,” said Asian LMS managing director Cyrille Taesch Wahlen.
“It is our responsibility to respond to these challenges in a way that not only ensures the health and safety of all of those involved, but also protects the sport and our teams.
“Each decision we make must find the right balance – offering exciting and enjoyable racing in a cost-effective manner, without compromising the quality of our series.
“My thanks are also extended to all of our stakeholders for their patience and support of this change. We look forward to welcoming them to Abu Dhabi in February.”
ACO president Pierre Fillon added that moving the entire season to one circuit in the Gulf region presents an “exciting alternative” for the eighth multi-event season of Asian LMS.
It will mark the furthest west that the championship has held a race as well as the first time visiting Yas Marina, which is also hosting the Gulf 12 Hours GT enduro on Jan. 9.
Yas Marina is set to become the ninth different circuit to host Asian LMS while the UAE is to become the series’ seventh different country.
“This year has been unprecedented for all of us,” said Fillon.
“Establishing this new calendar for the Asian Le Mans Series is not a decision that we have taken lightly.
“It is one that takes into consideration the challenges we have and presents an exciting alternative. It opens up new opportunities for the Series as it continues the strong growth seen over recent years.
“I look forward to watching the growth continue, and a season full of close racing.”
Saif Al Noaimi, the acting CEO of Abu Dhabi motorsports management, said: “We look forward to welcoming the Asian Le Mans Series to the Yas Marina Circuit.
“Abu Dhabi and Yas Island has proven itself to be a leading destination to hold global sporting events in a safe manner, and we hope the teams and drivers enjoy what will no doubt be a great event in the motorsports calendar.”