Stephen Errity, Le Mans Correspondent
Le Mans 24 Hours organizers the Automobile Club de l'Ouest today announced that the Asian Le Mans Series would join the existing European and American Le Mans series as a regional feeder championship to the WEC and the big race in June. Each team will have to run at least one Asian driver in their car, and moves are underway to get a 100 percent Chinese team competing in the series and eventually at the 24 Hours itself.
The new series will consist of six races: four in China (to include Zhuhai and Shanghai), one in Japan (Fuji) and one at Sentul in Indonesia. They will be three hours in duration – according to ACO President Pierre Fillon; this is to give fledgling Asian teams a chance to become more proficient at distance racing before progressing to six, 12- or 24-hour races.
Eligible car categories will be the same as the European Le Mans Series: LMP2, LMPC, GTE and GTC. The promoters are expecting 20-25 cars per race and the winners of LMP2, LMPC and GTE categories will be awarded entries to the following year's Le Mans 24 Hours (the winning LMPC team will need to step up to LMP2).
Fillon also announced that diesel engines will be allowed in the LMP2 category at Le Mans and in the WEC from 2013 onwards, with performance balancing against the petrol engines. He also acknowledged the smaller than usual GTE entry at this year's 24 Hours and for the WEC, saying that the ACO is working to make the class more attractive by reducing costs. He pointed to the new Dodge SRT Viper ALMS car, which is on display in the spectator village all this week, as well as several other manufacturers the ACO is in discussion with.
Finally, the ACO says it is looking at races in Russia and India for the second season of the World Endurance Championship in 2013.