Asian Le Mans Series still a go despite economic crisis

When the Automobile Club de l'Ouest announced the formation of the Asian Le Mans Series last June, there were some skeptics wondering if it would be just another failed attempt to bring Le Mans-style racing to China and Japan. And now coupled with...

When the Automobile Club de l'Ouest announced the formation of the Asian Le Mans Series last June, there were some skeptics wondering if it would be just another failed attempt to bring Le Mans-style racing to China and Japan. And now coupled with the worldwide economic collapse, it gave all the more reason for the plan to not get off the ground.

Instead, the ACO has kept a positive outlook and is pushing ahead with plans for the inaugural four-race championship this fall. Organizers gave a brief update on the series Thursday, revealing a change of location for the opening two rounds.

The first event in Japan, originally scheduled to be held at Mt. Fuji, will now take place at the Okayama circuit in conjunction with the World Touring Car Championship on October 30 P November 1. One week later, teams will head west to Shanghai for the Chinese leg of the championship. Each weekend will consist of two three-hour races, one on Saturday and Sunday, totaling 12 hours of combined race time.

The champions in each of the four categories will receive automatic invites to the 2010 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The ACO hopes this incentive, along with a special travel package, will attract American Le Mans Series and European-based Le Mans Series teams to the championship. Up to ten teams from both series, along with four Japan or China-based squads, will be eligible for 'preferential' travel packages from the ACO.

A handful of teams have already expressed interest in the championship, including LMP1 newcomers Team ECOSpeed and GT2 squad Drayson Racing. Others, though, will have to commit rather quickly, as the ACO intends to publish its final entry list on April 30. Entries will begin being accepted on Friday.

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Series Le Mans