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Four Asian LMS Teams Gain Le Mans Auto Invites

Three LMP2 berths and a GTE-Am slot for Le Mans confirmed as Asian LMS titles decided…

Photo: MPS Agency

The final automatic invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans were handed out at the weekend following the conclusion of the 2018-19 Asian Le Mans Series.

United Autosports, ARC Bratislava, Inter Europol Competition and Car Guy Racing will each be given the opportunity to contest the French endurance classic on June 15-16 after winning their respective classes.

The news means there are now likely only 14 vacant spots left to fill on the 60-car Le Mans entry list, with the final selected runners and reserve entries to be announced on Friday.

Second place in Sunday’s 4 Hours of Sepang was enough for United’s Paul di Resta and Phil Hanson to clinch the LMP2 title, capping a run of four straight podiums in the four-round series.

The pair dominated the penultimate round at Buriram after finishing second in the Shanghai and Fuji races which gave them a healthy points lead heading into the Sepang finale.

United took an LMP2 podium in last year’s edition of Le Mans which came off the back of an automatic invite for winning the 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP3 class.

“We’ve achieved what we set out to do in our first Asian LMS season and that was to win races in both classes and claim at least one automatic Le Mans entry,” said team managing director Richard Dean.

“Our aim was also for Phil to get him well-prepared for the forthcoming ELMS and then WEC seasons this year. The series has been perfect preparation for us heading into ELMS.”

The Anglo-American squad missed out on securing a double Le Mans invite when Guy Cosmo stopped the team’s LMP2 Am Trophy Ligier on-track late in the race with a gearbox problem.

This paved the way for ARC Bratislava to take its third consecutive win and secure the sub-class title to potentially bank its second Le Mans start after first appearing in 2016.

In LMP3, Inter Europol Competition earned its first Le Mans entry with victory in Sepang and the class title, after Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe won an exciting multi-car lead battle.

This means there could be an extra four Ligier LMP2s on the grid to join Larbre Competition, which was the only team running the JS P217 Gibson package confirmed in the provisional entry list issued two weeks ago.

“Going to Le Mans was the target of the team by doing the Asian Le Mans Series,” said Inter Europol team manager Sascha Fassbender.

“We reached our goal. I think we did a perfect job as a team, with the drivers and crew very involved we got the result we deserved.”

Car Guy Racing earned a GTE-Am auto invite as it became the fourth Ferrari team to clinch the Asian Le Mans GT class title as it swept up its fourth win from four races this season.

Drivers Kei Cozzolino and Takeshi Kimura will need a new co-pilot for Le Mans, with their Asian Le Mans partner James Calado set to race for Ferrari’s GTE-Pro team in the WEC season finale.

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

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