Final Le Mans auto-invites awarded for Asian LMS champions
The final batch of auto-invites for this year's Le Mans 24 Hours have been handed out following the conclusion of the Asian Le Mans Series in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
A total of three invitations were up for grabs in the four-race mini series, which comprised a pair of four-hour races at the Dubai Autodrome on February 12-13 and two more races at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit last weekend.
The top LMP2 class was dominated by the only Pro car entered for all four races, the Nielsen Racing Oreca 07-Gibson of Matt Bell, Ben Hanley and bronze-rated American driver Rodrigo Sales.
Bell, Hanley and Sales swept the board with a pair of wins at Dubai, then finishing second in both Abu Dhabi races behind the United Autosports car of Paul di Resta and American youngster Josh Pierson.
United did not enter the Dubai races as Pierson - who will contest the FIA World Endurance Championship with the team this year - only reached the minimum age of 16 in the week running up to Abu Dhabi.
That meant di Resta and Pierson did not score points, giving the Nielsen squad an easy run to the title and the Le Mans auto-invite that goes with it.
Top Pro/Am squad was the Graff outfit, whose Oreca was piloted by David Droux, Sebastien Page and Eric Trouillet. They won their sub-class in three races out of four, only losing out to High Class trio Dennis Andersen, Anders Fjordbach and Kevin Weeda in the second Dubai race.
In LMP3, Spanish team CD Sport sealed the LMP2 Le Mans auto-invite on offer as its pair of Ligier JS P320s locked out the top two places in the standings.
The #27 car driven by Steven Pallette, Christophe Cresp and Antoine Doquin didn't win any of the four races, but finished second in three and third in the remaining event to beat the sister #3 entry of Nick Adcock, Edouard Cauhaupe and Michael Jensen by four points.
A bumper 23-car GT field offered an auto-invite for either LMP2 or GTE to the top team in the championship, which went to Inception Racing with Optimum Motorsport (McLaren 720S GT3).
Inception trio Ben Barnicoat, Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy - who already have a Le Mans entry courtesy of their WEC programme with Project 1 Motorsport - won the opener in Dubai and claimed two more second places to take the title by two points from Herberth drivers Ralf Bohn, Alfred Renauer and Robert Renauer.
The lead Herberth car took both Abu Dhabi wins, with the remaining class win in the second Dubai race going to the Rinaldi Ferrari of Rino Mastronardi, David Perel and factory driver Davide Rigon.
All grandstands at Albert Park have been redesigned to hold more people following the record Australian Grand Prix crowd earlier this year.
Daniel Ricciardo has the chance to turn his Formula 1 career around "on a dime" after taking up a Red Bull third driver role, reckons former boss Zak Brown.
Cadillac driver Sebastien Bourdais feels LMDh manufacturers are playing a “cat and mouse game” in testing for the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season as they try to understand where they stand relative to competition.