With championships in GTE and GTC already locked up, the attention in this weekend’s season-ending Three Hours of Sepang will be on the battle for the overall win and LMP2 title in the Asian Le Mans Series.
Only five points separate championship leader James Winslow from OAK Racing Team TOTAL’s David Cheng heading into the fourth and final round of the season.
For 24-year-old Cheng, the objective is clear and that’s for he and co-driver Ho-Pin Tung to be on the top step of the podium come Sunday.
“For us being [five] points down and with the points spread of what it is, we have to win to take this championship,” Cheng told Sportscar365. “That’s the only goal we have in mind.
“With that being said, it’s almost a little easier knowing that we’re here to go for a race win. Our OAK TOTAL team has been strong all year.”
While having been denied wins in the opening two rounds, the French squad broke through for victory in the most recent outing in Zhuhai, which put the Chinese driver, who won this year’s Twelve Hours of Sebring, back in title contention.
Cheng, a regular competitor in the American Le Mans Series with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, shifted his primary focus to the Asian LMS this year, which has also seen him also compete in the final two FIA World Endurance Championship races of the season with OAK.
“The year started out brand-new,” he said. “Coming to Sepang, it’s been going well. I came into the year not knowing what my expectations were.
“But with the championship being on the line, naturally there’s a bit of pressure. But we’ve been able to put pressure on KCMG as well. We just need to keep pushing along like we have been.”
The pressure is also on championship leader Winslow, although in a different way, as it could arguably be considered the 30-year-old Englishman’s championship to lose.
“It’s easy to say that you don’t feel the pressure but anybody would be lying if they say they weren’t,” said Winslow.
“But once you’re in the car, you forget about the extra pressure and just drive as if it was any normal race.
“If you finish in front, generally you win championships and prizes. The mission is still the same and that’s to win the race.”
There’s a wildcard for LMP2 honors on Sunday, however, as the debuting Craft Racing Oreca 03 Nissan of Jun Jin Pu, Dan Polley and Richard Bradley could take points away from both OAK and KCMG.
It means that a second place result for Cheng, even if KCMG’s Winslow finishes third, still wouldn’t be enough for the OAK crew to be walking away as champions.
But that hasn’t discouraged Cheng. “I think we have a really good shot,” he said. “It’s kind of nice being the one doing the chasing instead of being chased.”