The Asian Le Mans Series is set to post higher entry numbers for the 2019-20 season, according to championship managing director Cyrille Taesch Wahlen.
Taesch Wahlen suggested to Sportscar365 that the LMP2 grid could be the “biggest ever” after the series opened up current-gen LMP2 machinery alongside previous-gen cars for the next campaign.
High Class Racing, Inter Europol Competition, Eurasia Motorsport and Carlin have either expressed interest or confirmed programs in the top category so far.
Entries for the full-season close on October 1, just under two months before the opening round at Shanghai on November 24.
“All in all, I think the LMP2 field will be the biggest ever in Asian Le Mans,” Taesch Wahlen told Sportscar365.
“You will see regular Asian Le Mans teams coming back with multiple cars. You will see newcomers in both LMP3 and GT3 cars. You will see new Asian teams joining.
“On paper, to date, it looks like it’s going to be better and bigger in every aspect.
“We have more cars than we had at the end of June last year, with probably more to be confirmed backstage this week.”
Taesch Wahlen said the series is targeting a 25-car grid of committed full-season entries but warned that it needs to “be realistic” about seeing 30-plus fields.
Last year, a total of 19 cars contested the whole season while others entered select parts of the four-round schedule.
The largest grid was for the Shanghai season-opener, which saw four Porsche Carrera Cup Asia teams boost the field to 27, while it’s understood that plans are in place to include Australian LMP3 Cup teams in the round at The Bend in January.
“I would say that if we were to reach the 30 mark, I would be the happiest promoter on earth for the year to come, but let’s be realistic,” said Taesch Wahlen.
“We have to take the reality of the economic situation into account. It’s not cheap, but it has a very good value and return investment.
“Teams seem to be liking what we do in Asia. It’s something new for them and very beneficial for them for many different reasons.
“25 cars is what we are aiming at, considering all the news we have and knowing what we can achieve, but let’s wait and be a little bit humble.”
No Decision on Phasing Out Older LMP2 Cars
Taesch Wahlen suggested that previous-gen LMP2 cars will continue to be eligible in future seasons as long as entry figures remain competitive.
Older chassis such as the Oreca 05, Ligier JS P2 and BR Engineering BR01 can still be entered in Asia, while seven cars contested most of the 2018-19 season.
The current LMP2 formula, which was introduced globally in 2017, will compete in the top Pro-Am category this season while the older cars will race for the Am Trophy.
“Depending on the number of old-generation LMP2 cars for the coming season, we will make a decision,” said Taesch Wahlen.
“If we have six or seven, then why not? But that doesn’t mean that all these guys are not willing to do it for another season in 2020-21.
“Let’s see how it goes this year. I think we’re going to enjoy the biggest LMP2 field ever in Asia, which is already a good step. Competition will be tough and really nice in LMP2 Pro-Am with new names and big names arriving.
“Even if we have only a few Asian-based teams running LMP cars, this will create a domino effect to attract new Asian teams to the field.”
Taesch Wahlen confirmed that GT3 will continue to be the standard-bearer of the GT class, citing a general lack of interest from teams to run GTE cars in Asia.
“I would love to [have GTE] but at the end of the day, when you have to keep adapting to a market which is very different from the European one, you know that GT cars in Asia are GT3 cars,” he said.
“Basically, the GT market relies on GT3, period. Why try to do things that would be going against the major trend in that huge geographic zone?”