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Are you new to Sports Cars Racing? Curious about the differences between the AsLMS & ELMS? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Ahead of the resumption of motorsport worldwide, we’ve decided to produce articles introducing Sports Car Racing to our readers. Part 8 is an in-depth introduction to the ACO’s growing Asian Le Mans Series, discussing it’s origins, rich history and the categories.

The Asian Le Mans Series, better known as the ALMS in short, or the AsLMS, is an endurance racing series organized by the Automobile Club l’Ouest (ACO).

The championship had its inaugural season in 2009, with a single round, held at the Okayama International Circuit with 4 classes, namely LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2. However, following the 2009 season, the series went on hiatus until it was revived in 2013. The series has its roots in both the Japan Le Mans Challenge, and the 1999 Le Mans Fuji 1000km.

History

1999 Le Mans Fuji 1000km

The 1993 Le Mans Fuji was a one-off endurance race that was run on the Fuji Speedway. It was an experimental event that was meant to gauge interest in a Le Mans endurance sports car racing series, based in Japan. This was done in a similar manner as the 1998 Petit Le Mans, with the winners being given invitations for the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans. The race was run in collaboration by ACO and the JAF, with the race seeing the LMP, LMGTP, GTS and GT classes competing against the GT500 and GT300 cars of the JGTC.

For the race, a field of 34 cars were entered, split across the 6 classes. However, on the race weekend, a mere 23 cars showed up to participate in the race, with just 16 cars conforming to ACO’s regulations. One high profile withdrawal was BMW, who had entered a single BMW V12 LMR. Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Nissan only entered a single car each.

Following the 1999 season, both Toyota and Nissan chose to shut down their sports car programmes, which led to the proposed Japan Le Mans Series being canned due to a lack of manufacturer interest.

Japan Le Mans Challenge (2006-2007)

The Japan Le Mans was an endurance sportscar series based in Japan, run by the Sports Car Endurance Race Operation (SERO) sanctioning body and utilising the rules laid out by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). It was the first endurance sportscar series in Japan since the demise of the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship in 1992. It featured a total of 4 classes, LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2.

However, unlike the two other Le Mans-based series, the JLMC allowed cars which did not meet ACO guidelines, to increase the number of entrants. Unfortunately, this waiver in the regulations did little to boost the grid numbers, which were low compared to the numbers seen in the LMS and ALMS. The initial round of the JLMC, the Sugo 1000km saw a mere 12 entrants, and while the second round, the 1000km of Motegi saw 14 entrants, only 12 cars would make it to the start of the race. The third round, the 1000km of Okayama saw a much-improved grid count with 20 cars entering, and starting the race.

While the 2006 season saw the number of entrants increase each race, the start of the 2007 season saw the series crumble back to square one, despite an expanded calendar, with the addition of Fuji. Just 11 cars were entered for the season-opening 1000km of SUGO, with only 10 cars starting the race. Round 2 at Fuji saw 10 cars enter and starting the race, while round 3 at Motegi saw 11 entrants, all of whom took the starting flag. The final round at Okayama saw a similarly low car count of 10 entrants, all of whom started the race. Following the end of the season, the JLMC would be discontinued, as the series was found to be unsustainable, given the low interest from both fans and teams.

Asian Le Mans Series (2009)

In 2008, the ACO announced a standalone precursor race to the Asian Le Mans Series. The race was planned to be run at the Shanghai International Circuit from the 1st to 2nd of November, 2008, but it was later cancelled, owing to the economic climate and conflicts with the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. As such, the 2009 Asian Le Mans Series was launched without a precursor race to gauge interest.

The initial 2009 season comprised of four three-hour races: two at Okayama International Circuit on October 30–November 1, and the other two at Shanghai on November 7–8. However, economic reasons saw the race cancelled, once more, leading to the season featuring just 2 races, run under the 1000km of Okayama banner. Unlike the previous editions of the race at Okayama, the race saw a sizable increase in the number of entrants. 40 cars were entered, although only 23 cars took the starting flag. The 2 races saw a mix of Japanese and European teams participating.

Asian Le Mans Series (2013-Present)

In June 2012, the ACO announced the revival of the Asian Le Mans Series, in partnership with S2M Company and TS Motorsport, with a six round calendar for the 2013 season. The series would initially feature three-hour races and be eligible to LMP2, LMPC, GTE and GTC (GT3) machinery. During the announcement, the initial 3 races were revealed to be held at the Zhuhai, Shanghai and Ordos International Circuits. A fourth Chinese round was planned ahead of a race at Fuji Speedway, with the season being set to end at the Sentul International Circuit in Indonesia.

Following an agreement between the teams and organisers to delay and compress the 2013 season, the Shanghai and Ordos rounds were cancelled. The season opener was moved to South Korea, at the new Inje Speedium which was completed early in 2013. Fuji Speedway in Japan would host the second round, while Zhuhai, the sole remaining Chinese round, became the third race of the year. The Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia became the season ending round, replacing Sentul.

For the 2013 season, the series featured 5 categories: Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC), LM Grand Touring Endurance (GTE), GT Challenge (GTC), and GT Challenge Amateur (GTC Am). The GTC category would be open to FIA GT3 category cars, cars from one-make series, and unique to the Asian series, JAF-GT, a road-derived variant car taking part in the GT300 category of the Japanese Super GT series. All four categories require at least one amateur driver and one professional driver in each car, although teams are allowed a maximum of three drivers per car. For the 3 Hours of Fuji, an SGT class was added into the race, with the 3 Hours of Fuji serving as an optional point-scoring round of the GT300 class for the 2013 Super GT season

For the 2014 season, the op class of the series continued to be LMP2. The LMGTE and GTC classes were combined, along with Super GT GT300 class vehicles, into a single performance balanced GT category. Silver and bronze level drivers were required in the amateur division. The Group CN class was introduced to replace the LMPC class, which saw no entries in the previous season. All cars in the Group CN class used a spec Honda engine.

The series was originally set to expand to 5 races, with the addition of Shanghai. The season opening round at Inje Speedium was originally scheduled to be held on 6 July, but it was later rescheduled to 20 July. The second round was to be held alongside the fifth round of the 2014 Super GT season at Fuji Speedway.

The schedule was revised again on 9 May with the round at Fuji being moved back three weeks and no longer on the same weekend as Super GT. As well as this, a round at the Buriram United International Circuit in Thailand was confirmed, replacing a round scheduled for the Zhuhai International Circuit.[4] On 12 October, the round at the Buriram United International Circuit was removed from the calendar with no replacement.

2015-16 season saw the first time that the Asian Le Mans Series utilised a winter calendar. The initial calendar, which was an annual calendar was released on 12 February 2015, saw 3 races, with 2 races at Shanghai and Fuji supporting the WEC, while a standalone event was also held at Sepang as the season finale. An updated race calendar was released on 20 April 2015, which saw the shift to a winter calendar, adding the round at Buriram and rescheduling the Sepang round. However, yet another further revised calendar was released, cancelling the planned event at Shanghai International Circuit and replaced it with a second race in Sepang. LMP3 was introduced to the series

The 2016-17 season saw Calendar remain at 4 races, with all races from the previous season carrying over.

The 2017-18 season had originally seen the calendar expand to 5 races, with the addition of a race in Zhejiang. However, the Zhejiang round was removed in a later calendar change. The race at Buriram was also extended to 6 Hours and run under the 6 Hours of Thailand banner.

The 2018-19 season saw the calendar remain at 4 races, with Zhuhai dropped in favour of Shanghai. The race at Buriram was shortened to 4 Hours and ran under the 4 Hours of Buriram banner once more. The LMP2 Am sub-class was introduced in this season.

The 2019-20 season saw the calendar remain at 4 races, with the Fuji round dropped for a round at The Bend Motorsport Park. This was the first time the series raced outside the Asian continent. The 2017 LMP2 cars were introduced to the series in the main LMP2 class. The LMP2 Am class continued to utilise the previous-generation pre-2017 LMP2 cars.

Categories

Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2)

Denoted by White Sticker with Blue Font, White Number on Blue Background. (LMP2)
Denoted by White Sticker with Blue Font, Blue Number on White Background, Alongside additional “AM” sticker (LMP2 Am)

#23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JS P217, 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans
Panis Barthez Competition – Ligier JSP217 – Gibson #23 – Image by Kevin Decherf on Flickr

The second tier Prototype class in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, used as the Top Class in the Asian Le Mans Series, and the European Le Mans Series. It is a Pro-Am class in all championships where it is used and all teams must have a one Amateur driver, with either a Bronze or Silver rated driver in each car

All cars in the category have been closed cockpit since 2017.

Costs are tightly controlled in this category, with the regulations directly stating the following:

“The selling price of the complete new car without the single engine neither the homologated electronic equipment must not exceed 483 000€.”
” The Chassis Constructor must provide the FIA the price list of spare parts. The total of this price list must not be more than 140% of the selling price of the complete new car.”

However, there is a caveat to this, with the technical regulations also stating:

  • ”A 20% increase of the spare parts price is allowed if a Chassis Constructor is providing a sale services of these parts on the race meetings.”

    However, this price does not include options, which include:
  • The air conditioning system (mandatory and homologated) @7000€ max
  • The optional rear view camera system (but homologated)
  • The optional telemetry system;
  • The optional Tyre Pressure Monitoring System.

Unlike LMP1, where teams can design and build their own chassis, LMP2 is a tightly controlled formula, with only 4 licensed chassis manufacturers (Ligier, Oreca, Dallara, Riley-Multimatic) and a spec engine, the Gibson GK428 producing 600 horsepower, paired with Cosworth electronics and a 6-speed gearbox

Bodywork in the class is also homologated and can only be altered under a “Joker” upgrade once during the current homologation cycle. 3 of the 4 cars, the Ligier, Dallara and Riley have undergone the joker upgrade previously ahead of the 2018 racing season. 2 aerodynamic configurations are used: A high-downforce kit for use at all tracks, and a low drag kit for Le Mans

  • Car Dimensions are listed below:
    • Minimum Weight: 930kg
    • Maximum Width: 1900mm
    • Minimum Width: 1800mm except for the most forward 50mm of the car
    • Maximum Wing Width: 1800mm
    • Maximum Height: 1050mm
    • Maximum Length: 4750mm (including rear wing)
    • Front Overhang: 1000mm
    • Rear Overhang: 750mm (Rear wing included)
    • Maximum Wheel F/R width: 12.5” & 13”
    • Wheel Diameter: 18”
    • Brakes: 15” Free Materials
    • Maximum Fuel capacity: 75 Litres

The following driver aids are allowed:

  • Engine-based traction control is allowed
  • Power Steering is allowed for the sole purpose of reducing effort required to steer

Other driver aids, such as ABS and Power Braking, are prohibited, alongside Four-Wheel Steering.

Le Mans Prototype (LMP3)

Denoted by White Sticker with Purple Font, White Number on Purple Background.

#85 DC Racing Ligier JS P3, 2016 Road to Le Mans
#85 DC Racing – Ligier JS P3 – Nissan – Image by Kevin Decherf on Flickr

Introduced in 2015, it is the third tier Prototype class ACO & IMSA competition and is one of the most widely raced prototype class globally. The class replaced Formula Le Mans, also known as the Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC). 2020 marks the beginning of the 2nd generation rules cycle for the category

It is intended for young drivers and teams who are new to endurance racing, as a stepping stone before advancing to the higher prototype classes. Hence, it is mainly an amateur class, with majority of the championships requiring line-ups to include one bronze driver, while the remaining drivers in the line-up may be Silver or Gold rated, although this varies from series to series

Costs are tightly controlled in this category, with the regulations directly stating:

“The selling price of the complete new car, complete, with the engine described and elected by the ACO must not exceed 239000€ (including the electronic passport).”  

– “The selling price of the conversion kit for the 2020 regulations must not exceed 50000€ (including the electronic passport)”

– ” The Manufacturer must provide the ACO the price list of spare parts. The total of this price list must not be more than 150% of the selling price of the complete new car.”

Like LMP2, LMP3 is a tightly controlled formula, with only 4 licensed chassis manufacturers (Ligier, Ginetta, Duqueine and ADESS) and a spec engine, the Nissan VK56 producing 455 horsepower, paired with a 6-speed gearbox

  • Car Dimensions are listed below:
    • Minimum Weight: 950kg
    • Maximum Width: 1900mm
    • Minimum Width: 1800mm
    • Maximum Height: 1050mm
    • Maximum Length: 4650mm (including rear wing)
    • Front Overhang: 1000mm
    • Rear Overhang: 750mm (Rear wing included)
    • Maximum F/R width: 12.5” & 13”
    • Maximum Wheel Diameter: 18”
    • Max Fuel capacity: 100 Litres
    • Brakes: 14” Steel
  • LMP3 cars also feature traction control from 2020

GT

Denoted by White Sticker with Orange Font, White Number on Orange Background.

#11 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo Car Guy Racing, 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series
#11 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo – Image by Car Guy on Wikipedia Commons

Points System

Pole: 1 Point (All races)
P1-P10 points:
4 Hours race: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1
P11 & below: 0.5 points (4 Hour race)
DNF: 0 Points

2020-21 Asian Le Mans Series Calendar

RndRaceCircuitLocationDate
1TBAChang International CircuitBuriram, Thailand9 January 2021
2TBAChang International CircuitBuriram, Thailand11 January 2021
3TBASepang International CircuitSelangor, Malaysia23 January 2021
4TBASepang International CircuitSelangor, Malaysia26 January 2021

Titles

LMP2 Teams’ Championship
LMP2 Am Teams’ Championship
LMP3 Teams’ Championship
GT Teams’ Championship
GT Am Teams’ Championship

LMP2 Drivers’ Championship
LMP2 Am Drivers’ Championship
LMP3 Drivers’ Championship
GT Drivers’ Championship
GT Am Drivers’ Championship

How to Watch

The Asian Le Mans series is available to be watched live online for free on the official Asian Le Mans Website. Past races may also be viewed for free on the official Asian Le Mans Series YouTube Channel.

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