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Asian Le Mans Series

Asian LMS Working to Manage European Teams’ Freight Costs

Asian Le Mans considering schedule adjustments to make series more viable for European squads…

Photo: MPS Agency

The Asian Le Mans Series is working to make it easier for European teams to participate in future seasons, according to championship director Cyrille Taesch Wahlen.

Six of the teams that competed in the 2018-19 Asian campaign went on to enter this year’s European Le Mans Series, including LMP2 champion squad United Autosports.

However, back in April, United managing director Richard Dean warned that the need to fly equipment between Europe and Asia to be ready for the respective seasons had created excessive transportation costs.

Taesch Wahlen has since suggested that the Asian LMS would be open to adjusting its future calendars to make it easier for European teams, specifically those that also compete in the ELMS, to enter.

“We are trying to make sure that the calendar is adapted to align with the needs of the European and American teams wanting to join the series,” he told Sportscar365.

“When we work on the calendar, the first and last rounds are very important when it comes to giving European teams the opportunity to shift their equipment back in time to start the next European season.

“This is something we are working on, including for the 2020-21 calendar, and we have already two or three options.

“We may have found a solution to finish at a date that even better fits with the European teams’ programs.”

Taesch Wahlen explained that while some teams have been struggling to negotiate the tight window between seasons, others have taken matters into their own hands.

“To the best of my knowledge, from what I’ve been told by teams so far, some are already thinking about investing in new equipment to leave in Asia purposely, to avoid the cost of air-freighting equipment back and forth,” he said.

“If you look at the business case deeply, you realize that this is the thing to do.

“We also know that some of the European teams are thinking about bringing their current-gen LMP3 cars with a view to selling to customers [in Asia] because most teams are buying new-gen LMP3 cars rather than buying the kit to upgrade them [for the 2020 regulations].

“Having four additional endurance racing events organized in Asia, which for them is an addition to what they do in Europe, is further benefiting their business case, because they need to keep busy 12 months a year.”

Taesch Wahlen believes the approach of building grids by attracting European teams to compete alongside homegrown Asian outfits continues to be “manageable”.

Higher entry numbers are expected for the 2019-20 season, which sees the introduction of LMP2 cars built from 2017 onwards alongside previous-gen cars that have remained eligible in Asia following their worldwide phasing-out.

“You have Asian drivers competing in Europe, in different series and you have European teams going to the USA from time to time, at least for some of the major events,” he said.

“It’s also something which is very much linked to the calendar of the Asian Le Mans Series. It’s offering teams a platform which is complimentary to what they do on their own continents.

“We see more European teams realizing that having the opportunity to do 10 ACO-organized events rather than six. So for the time being, it seems to be the right formula.”

Expansion to Five Races Possible in Future

Taesch Wahlen added that the series is evaluating the possibility of adding a fifth date to the calendar, depending on various logistical considerations.

He explained that the championship’s restrictive operating window will mean any additional race would need to occur in a back-to-back scenario with another round.

Additionally, a potential fifth event would not necessarily be tied to an FIA Grade 1 circuit.

The series added Grade 2 venue The Bend Motorsport Park to its 2019-20 schedule in place of Fuji, setting up the first LMP race in Australia in 20 years.

“We are aiming at moving from four to five events at some point, but we have a very tiny window starting in November and ending in February,” said Taesch Wahlen.

“Not clashing with the Macau GP, the Bathurst 12 Hour, and taking Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year into account, makes it challenging.

 “Should the teams agree to it, and afford the cost, the fifth event would be a back-to-back with the previous one.

“That’s why we are experimenting this for the coming season, doing Sepang and Buriram in two weeks. Then we will make a decision with the teams.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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