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Absolute to Lean on European Support for Le Mans Debut

Chinese team set to align with Proton as travel restrictions complicate Le Mans debut…

Photo: GTWC Asia

The impact of travel restrictions on the movement of homegrown team members is leading Absolute Racing to rely on European support for its 24 Hours of Le Mans debut.

The Chinese multi-discipline team is fielding a single Porsche 911 RSR-19 in the GTE-Am class for Andrew Haryanto, reigning European Le Mans Series GTE champion Alessio Picariello and a Silver-rated driver who is yet to be determined.

Team director Ingo Matter has said that Absolute, which operates several bases across East Asia including two in China, cannot envisage sending many staff members from that region over to the French endurance race.

This is mainly due to mandatory quarantines including spells of up to 14 days for arrivals into China and a 21-day period for entries into Hong Kong. Quarantine requirements led to Absolute withdrawing its planned two-car entry for last month’s Asian Le Mans Series.

It’s understood that the team is set to receive support from Proton Competition for its Le Mans GTE-Am effort, which was included in the 62-car entry list published on Tuesday.

“It’s not going to be the scenario we usually operate,” Matter told Sportscar365.

“We will team up with a team which knows the car, and then see last-minute what people we can actually get to Europe to help.

“Obviously we will have people in Europe, but we have to see how we involve all that together. Stage one was to get the entry and stage two is to see how we can get it running.”

When asked if Absolute is set to receive assistance from 2018 Le Mans GTE-Am winner Proton, Matter said: “Obviously, they’re the biggest.”

“We are talking and nothing is confirmed yet, but it’s not a big secret, he said.  “I need somebody who knows this car and runs them a lot. We are used to operating a lot of cars in Asia, so I have no fear going to a big team that runs a lot of cars in Europe.”

Absolute Racing regular Picariello provides a link between the two outfits, having been a member of Proton’s ELMS title-winning driver lineup last year alongside Michele Beretta and the German team’s director Christian Ried.

“You need somebody who knows both teams, in the team,” said Matter.

Despite the travel restrictions, Absolute will attempt to bring staff members from some of its East Asian bases over to Le Mans, but will largely rely on European support.

“I’ll be heading over fairly soon and organizing the testing program,” said Matter.

“I don’t think I can have [co-director] Fabian [Fior] over there, because we are very busy in China this year with all our championships. He is able to engineer a car, and engineers are treated like gold in China.

“We are looking at options for getting people from Malaysia or the Philippines to Europe, but not from China.”

Further WEC Appearances Being Considered

Beyond its Le Mans debut, Absolute is looking to have a larger presence in the GTE category moving forward.

The team has two of the batch of ten customer Porsche 911 RSR-19 models on its books, with one owned by Indonesia’s Haryanto and the other by Chinese racer Yuan Bo.

While both vehicles are currently in Germany, Yuan’s car is set to be transported to China for select Porsche race events and a possible FIA World Endurance Championship outing at 6 Hours of Fuji in September.

Haryanto’s car will initially stay in Europe and could be used for an expanded itinerary in 2022.

Matter indicated that Absolute originally looked at establishing a base in France for a potential WEC or ELMS campaign in 2021, before travel restrictions scuppered that plan.

“We are also looking at programs for the car for next year,” he said.

“The cars will be traveling around quite a lot. That’s the goal anyway, but for this to happen we really need to have the travel restrictions released a lot.”

Absolute is also targeting preparatory GTE appearances in select WEC or ELMS races as it gears up for its Le Mans debut.

The WEC will visit Spa, Portimao and Monza before heading to Le Mans for round four, while the ELMS has four races to run before the 24 Hours on Aug. 21-22.

“We are looking now at everything, but the idea is to definitely go there prepared,” said Matter.

“To be prepared, you have to do something more. We have to speak to the ACO to see what’s possible there.

“You definitely have to do a round before, to get the whole team gelled in. For sure there will be testing, but ideally there is racing. We have to see how it all pans out.

“The goal was always to build a team in Asia which can take on almost anyone in the world.

“We proved it before, in America and also in Europe a couple of times. To go to the biggest race is obviously a huge milestone.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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