The lovers of the Le Mans 24 Hours know it all. If you say 1923, their reply will be" Lagache-Léonard, Chenard & Walcker. In a few years’ time will they say? "Tinseau-Nakano, Pescarolo-Judd", when the first Asian Le Mans Series in Japan in 2009 is mentioned. The French team’s name followed by that of Aston Martin has gone down in history as the winner of a new Le Mans Series whose story has just begun.
The figures show that 23 European, Japanese and American teams competed in the event, and that the ACO team on the spot had nothing but positive feedback:
"We’re very happy, congratulation,; let’s start again quickly; give us some more rounds in the Asian Le Mans Series !". Comments that delighted Rémy Brouard, the ACO General Manager who said :
"When it comes to drawing conclusions, this is obviously the most important. I’d like to congratulate the ACO team for the great job they’ve done, and of which they can be proud. It’s not all that obvious to organize such an event so far from its base in the context of a partnership with the WTCC promoters, who know it inside out. I saw that the two types of event dovetailed perfectly! Endurance on the one hand and thirty-minute sprints on the other. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try the same thing again.
The ACO General Manager is also satisfied that the 2 x 3 hours format worked out so well. "Nobody knew who would win the Asian Le Mans Series – Pescarolo, Oreca, Lola, Aston Martin and Audi. Not before the meeting, not after qualifying, not after the first hour and not even after the first race. And this was the case in all the categories. We had two great races, in particular the first one with tiny gaps between the various favorites, so from a sporting point of view it was all very positive."
So Okayama generated great expectations? "And that was the whole problem," laughed Brouard, who added, ‘honestly I’d like to have a lot of problems like this one.
2009 wasn’t an easy year to launch such an event. We did the right thing, so we’ll have to try and do as well again before trying to do better. For 2010, our aim is to improve the quality of what we’ve just done on a Japanese circuit, which may be different, as several of them are now candidates. And we’d also like to organize a second event in Asia in the two weeks following the first one. We have to concentrate on Japan, which has so many car manufacturers, and on China for economic reasons and also because of its future perspectives. I don’t know yet if we’ll have a Chinese event on the 2010 Asian Le Mans Series calendar, but clearly, that’s our aim."
A reminder of the combined 2009 Asian Le Mans Series results after the 2 races on the Okayama circuit.*
LM P1 :
1 SORA RACING (PESCAROLO-JUDD), France, 18 pts
2 ASTON MARTIN RACING (LOLA-ASTON MARTIN), Great Britain, 15
3 TEAM ORECA MATMUT AIM, France, 14
LM P2 :
1 OAK RACING (PESCAROLO-MAZDA), France, 21 pts
2 JOSE IBANEZ (COURAGE-AER), France, 16
LM GT1 :
1 JLOC (LAMBORGHINI), Japan, 18 pts
2 HITOTSUYAMA TEAM NOVA (ASTON MARTIN), Japan, 15
3 LARBRE COMPETITION, France, 14
LM GT2 :
1 HANKOOK TEAM FARNBACHER (FERRARI F 430 GT), Germany, 16 pts
2 RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING TEAM (BMW M3 E92), USA, 14
3 TEAM FELBERMAYR-PROTON (PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR 997), Germany, 13
(*) The winner of each category receives an automatic invitation for the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Jean-Claude Plassart, the ACO President, and Pierre Fillon, Vice-President, meet with the Japanese manufacturers at Okayama where they also talked to the main players in endurance. They made the following comments.
JEAN-CLAUDE PLASSART :"GREAT HOPES FOR 2011, 2012"
"The Japanese car manufacturers wanted to know the Le Mans perspectives in the medium term. They asked us a lot of questions about the regulations, and that means they already have a few ideas in mind. All of them have raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours at one time or another, and we feel that they are ready to start again. Our discussions were mainly about new energies, hybrids in particular, in which one manufacturer- and it’s no secret – has already made a very heavy investment.
They saw that the ACO, which, I’d like to remind you, is a club, was able to organize great races so far away from its base with twenty-three cars at the start including ten Japanese teams. It’s a very important point for us and during the Okayama weekend we were bombarded with questions about the future Intercontinental Trophy, which seems to interest everybody very much. There too it’s a great future perspective. We’re going to need another few weeks’ work to think about it, prepare it and we’ll announce things when the time is right."
PIERRE FILLON :"GET THE TROPHY UP AND RUNNING" "Today, the 2010 Le Mans regulations have been well defined, announced and accepted by the endurance players. The 2011 regs have received unanimous approval from the manufacturers and entrants. We’ve now got to finalize the strategy of races bearing the Le Mans label, and get the Intercontinental Trophy up and running. We’re giving a lot of thought to this project, and the results should be known soon. It’s true that we’re aiming for a 2010 launch. That’s what we’d like, and the same goes for the manufacturers and television. We’ll start off gently and then up the pace the following year."