The Coronavirus outbreak in China has forced two teams to withdraw from the remainder of the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series season, with other absences resulting in a reduced 23-car field for this weekend’s first night race at Sepang.
Multiple cars in both the prototype and GT ranks have been ruled out of the final two rounds of the season, most notably FIST Team AAI and Astro Veloce Motorsports, due to travel restrictions that have prevented the majority of its staff from leaving China.
AAI was due to debut its Porsche 911 GT3 R this weekend in Malaysia, while Chinese squad Astro Veloce had campaigned two BMW M6 GT3 cars in the GT class up until now.
The LMP2 Am grid has also been reduced with RLR MSport not returning after its Oreca 05 Nissan caught fire at the most recent round at The Bend Motorsport Park, resulting in extensive damage.
ARC Bratislava team owner/driver Miro Konopka, meanwhile, has also withdrawn his entry due to “unforeseen personal reasons.”
The Asian Le Mans Series has confirmed in a statement that the Coronavirus situation will “not have an impact” on the running of either Sepang or next weekend’s season-ending 4 Hours of Buriram race in Thailand.
While multiple cars have been ruled out, there are two new or returning entries for Sepang, as LMP2 squad K2 Uchino Racing makes a return after not competing at The Bend.
Graff Racing has also confirmed they will field an additional Norma M30 Nissan LMP3 entry for the final two rounds with Matthias Kaiser and Rory Penttinen at the wheel.
Changes to driver lineups have also taken place as Masataka Yanagida returns to the No. 1 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier JS P217 Gibson after Shane van Gisbergen stepped in at The Bend.
Elsewhere, Dan Wells and Philip Kadoorie will pilot the No. 14 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 Nissan and Takashi Kogure will replace Andre Couto in the No. 88 Team JLOC Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
The championship battle is tight as G-Drive Racing by Algarve leads LMP2 heading into the weekend following success at the opening two rounds.
The Russian-badged squad is 13 points ahead of Eurasia Motorsport and Thunderhead Carlin Racing a further six points back.
Meanwhile, the LMP3 and GT series standings are even closer with no more than two points separating the respective class leaders and their closest rivals.
Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit has been a fixture on the calendar but will feature the series’ first night race with the 4-hour encounter set to be run from 5-9 p.m. local time on Saturday.