A return to the Asian Le Mans Series in 2022 is ‘definitely on the radar’ for United Autosports according to team co-owner/managing director Richard Dean, who hasn’t ruled out a dual class LMP2 and LMP3 effort.
Announced last month, the ACO-run championship will again be contested in the United Arab Emirates instead of Southeast Asia, with a four-race calendar spread between Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit over a two-week span in February.
The Anglo-American team entered three Ligier JS P320 Nissans in the series this year, winning the LMP3 class championship with drivers Wayne Boyd, Manuel Maldonado and Rory Penttinen.
“It’s definitely on our radar,” Dean told Sportscar365. “We’re just now waiting for the European schedule to come out.
“I think they’ve made a totally sensible decision in going back to the UAE. I think the format worked last year. Certainly the drivers liked it, the team liked it.
“The only downside last year was that we, from the UK, ended up on a red list which created havoc for us. That was the standout negative, which was out of the Asian Le Mans peoples’ control.
“All we’re waiting for is the European calendar coming out so we can see how we return back.
“Last year a couple of teams had some very tight moments with their cars getting back in time for the European season.”
Dean said they very well could “do both” prototype classes this time around after only deploying its fleet of LMP3 machinery this year.
United won the LMP2 title in the more traditional season format in 2018-19 with Phil Hanson and Paul di Resta.
“If the European calendar starts in March then we can’t do it,” he said. “If it’s late April, then it’s doable.
“It’s certainly become a European winter series. I hope they’ll accommodate [ELMS teams]. It’s really from zero chance to everything chance depending on the opening race of the European season.”
United Rules Out Full-Season IMSA Effort for 2022
While a Michelin Endurance Cup effort with both its U.S.-based LMP2 and LMP3 cars are in the cards, Dean has essentially ruled out full-season programs for either class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year.
After initially announcing plans, the team opted out of this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona due to its customers not wanting to race under IMSA’s LMP3 driver rating requirements, which differ from the ACO standard.
Since then, United has run both classes in Endurance Cup races and plan to again have its Oreca 07 Gibson and Ligier LMP3 in action for November’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“I think Daytona fits in quite well because we have a P2 for Jim McGuire that’s out there,” Dean said. “We’ve got a P3 car that lives out there as well.
“Asia and Daytona don’t really conflict because the cars are unique to each program.
“We’ve got our eye on Daytona. We haven’t gotten a deal done yet but we’re going to work towards at least one car in each [class].”
When asked about the prospects of a full-season IMSA program, Dean said it’s “highly unlikely” for 2022.
“It’s something we want to do,” he said. “But it would still require some staff moving between Europe and the U.S.
“Currently, trying to imagine doing that regularly with a WEC program and everything is difficult.
“Then you start thinking it needs permanent people in the U.S., which we’re just not at that point yet. There’s a few other things [in the works].
“If we didn’t get a LMDh deal or a hint of one, then we’d probably look a little bit harder at a full IMSA series in the future — but not next year.”
Dean said they have remained in discussions with multiple LMDh manufacturers to potentially operate a factory program in WEC, although have yet to get a final word.