Asian Le Mans Series managing director Cyrille Taesch Wahlen is confident of the series’ potential growth over the coming years in the ever-expanding Asian motorsports market, with a minimum target of at least 20 cars for the upcoming 2018-19 season.
The championship, which saw a significant drop in numbers last season, appears poised to rebound following a string a recent entry announcements, including a four-car commitment from United Autosports.
Both Eurasia Motorsport and Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Racing, meanwhile, have also confirmed LMP3 entries for the season, which kicks off in Shanghai in November.
It comes following several changes to the series’ format, including new class structures and a more compact schedule, which Taesch Wahlen believes will play a key factor in securing additional entries.
“We consider that Asia is the third pillar of the ACO racing pyramid,” he told Sportscar365. “Asia is very important and the potential growth ahead of us is amazing. It will take time but we are here for the long-run.
“Asia is very diverse. The level of motorsports culture is very different between Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and China.
“OK, it is very challenging on a daily basis because it’s a market which changes all the time and it’s a rollercoaster. It’s growing, which is very positive, because the potential is there.”
Taesch Wahlen put the drop in grid numbers between 2016-17 and 2017-18 down to “a lot of parameters” but believes his team has established itself as the lead series in the Asian market.
Additionally, the revised schedule, which sees the season kick off four weeks after the European Le Mans Series season finale, will make it more feasible for European-based teams to take part after the ELMS season finale and Asian LMS season-opener were on back-to-back weekends in previous years.
“It’s a combination of timing, locations, new series being created in Asia, some teams giving up because of the costs of running two seasons with GT3 cars,” Taesch Wahlen explained, regarding the decrease in numbers to an average of 15 cars last season.
“It’s a rollercoaster, and it’s not cycles every five or six years but it can change overnight. It’s very challenging but it’s very interesting and we are in a very positive mood and very much looking forward to developing Asian Le Mans again.
“We’re here for the long run. You have new championships being created in China every year so I guess that’s one of the reasons but we have to deal with it.
“I think that people now really understand and realize that it has become not only the reference endurance racing series in Asia but the real springboard for teams and drivers wanting to go up the ladder to join WEC, ELMS or Le Mans.”
Separate Class Important to Push GTE
Taesch Wahlen said plans to create a separate class for GTE cars are important to push for its growth and “identify” it as an opportunity for teams.
GTE cars have been permitted in Asian Le Mans in the same category as GT3 machinery but have not been entered in recent years.
A separate class will be made if at least four cars are registered for the upcoming season.
“Knowing that things are slightly moving when it comes to GTE joining Asian Le Mans at some point, it was time for us to give a sign to GTE teams that there is an opportunity,” he explained.
“GTE has never been left aside, it’s always been here, but it’s about time to really identify GTE as an opportunity for the years to come.
“Maybe, that said, we won’t see any GTE cars in Asian Le Mans in the future. The market in Asia is so different.
“GT3 teams are already complaining about the cost of running GT3 cars.
“We must anticipate and make sure that we follow what’s going on in the market which is a bit different to what happening in Europe.”