Asian Le Mans Series Managing Director Cyrille Taesch-Wahlen believes that the 2017-2018 season will bring an increased field of LMP2 cars, thanks in part to the championship continuing to embrace previous-generation prototype machinery.
With both the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series adopting new-for-2017 LMP2 regulations, the Asian continent will remain with the current regulations for the next three seasons, through 2019-2020.
Taesch-Wahlen, who has led the transformation of the once-struggling championship into booming 30-car grids, said he sees more room for growth, with the freezing of its regulations providing a “fantastic opportunity” to potentially double the LMP2 grid.
“In Europe the teams in LMP2 are running with the new generation of LMP2 cars, and this allows them to run the Asian Le Mans Series with the old-generation of LMP2 cars,” Taesch-Wahlen told Sportscar365.
“It creates a second-hand market for LMP2 cars in Asia, allowing Asian teams to get used to LMP2. It only makes sense for us. ”
A total of four LMP2 cars took part in last season’s championship, won by Algarve Pro Racing, which is planning a return with its two Ligier JS P2s, alongside a Ligier entered by Eurasia Motorsport, which will have at least two cars on the overall grid.
LMP3 runners-up ARC Bratislava, which made its LMP2 debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is also working to step up, with other teams known to be in discussions for efforts in Asia’s top prototype class as well.
The creation of a new all-Bronze-rated LMP2 class for gentlemen drivers is also aimed to help boost grid numbers, according to Taesch-Wahlen.
“The consideration was really about how we leverage the fantastic opportunity to be the only series on earth where these old generation P2 cars can run,” he said.
“We have Oreca, we have Ligier, we have BR [Engineering]. There are plenty of cars available that can race there, and we thought that it would be good to give gentlemen an opportunity to fight for their own gentlemen trophy, and to get something additional.
“This might bring us more P2 cars. We are expecting to get more P2s than last year anyway, but this might be an addition. We need to give these cars a chance to run.”
Despite the positive outlook, the series boss has set realistic expectations for the category next season.
“Double [the LMP2 cars] would be fantastic, and we would like to see it go from four to six,” Taesch-Wahlen said. “The potential is there but I don’t know whether it would be possible or not.
“If we manage to have three rows of LMP2s on the grid, that would be fantastic.”
Taesch-Wahlen sees further growth in the LMP3 and GT categories as well, which largely contributed to the 50 percent larger grid last season.
He said the decision to remain at four rounds, albeit with one event in a six-hour format, will help further stabilize the grid numbers.
“In all honesty, I think around 30 [cars] for each round, for the full season, is reasonable and achievable,” Taesch-Wahlen said.
“You never know, and that’s why we’re working very hard every day, to make sure we provide teams a very nice and very attractive package.
“Considering that we have more and more teams wanting to go to Le Mans, [it is good that] they can use the Asian ACO platform to get there.
“More and more teams are proving this and it’s a direct path from Asia to WEC and Le Mans.
“It’s also contributing to the internationalization of the WEC grid, having more and more Asian teams is very good. Not all of them can afford it yet, but at least going to Le Mans and being invited.”