Now that registration is now open to competitors interested in participating in the 2018-2019 season of the Asian Le Mans Series, the structure of the classes has been slightly modified and four invitations to the following edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans are now a key bonus for race winners.
The calendar for the 2018-2019 season of the Asian Le Mans Series was announced in early February, with four 4-hour races in four different countries. The opening round will take place in Shanghai, followed by Fuji in Japan, Buriram in Thailand (where the 2017 edition was six hours long) and lastly Sepang in Malaysia.
At the end of the season, four invitations will be granted to the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans. As in the past, the LMP2 and LMP3 winners will be invited to compete in the LMP2 class, and the GT winner will be invited to participate in LMGTE Am. A new recognition in the LMP2 class: the winner of the "LMP2 amateur" trophy will also be awarded an invitation to Le Mans.
The "LMP2 amateur" class itself is also new and concerns driver line-ups comprised solely of gentlemen-drivers, now competing in their very own championship class. Though no changes have been made to the highly successful LMP3 class, the same cannot be said for GT.
In fact, the GT class includes the most changes. GT remains open to GT3s and cars from the Japanese Super GT Championship (GT300). Also, if at least four GTE cars are entered for the full season (eligible in LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am at the 24 Hours of Le Mans), a dedicated LMGTE class will be created. Lastly, the GT Cup class reserved for amateur drivers will no longer be restricted to cars from one-make series such as the Audi R8 LMS Cup, the Ferrari Challenge, the Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the Porsche Carrera Cup, but will now welcome GT4s.
Coverage of the ALMS qualifying sessions and races will once again be availabe to live stream, and a one-hour recap will be broadcast by numerous television stations across the globe.
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: "The Asian Le Mans Series is a very important championship for the ACO, particularly with regard to the role the Series plays in the development of endurance racing in the region. The significant growth in coverage is opening the sport up to a new audience, whilst it offers local teams and drivers the opportunity to develop before making the step up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Graduates of the Series such as Clearwater Racing and particularly Jackie Chan DC Racing are proof of the talent that is coming from the Asian Le Mans Series, and we are looking forward to seeing what the 2018-2019 season delivers."
Cyrille Taesch Wahlen, Asian Le Mans Series Managing Director: "The 2017-2018 season saw record exposure for all those involved in the Asian Le Mans Series. For 2018-2019, we are expecting this to generate even greater coverage making the Series even more attractive to our stakeholders. With an improved entry package that includes lower entry fees, especially for those who commit prior to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, combined with the increased recognition of amateur drivers and an impressive broadcast package, [it] gives us a strong base to further strengthen the Asian Le Mans Series for Prototypes and GT categories and cement its place as the premier endurance racing series is Asia."
Quotations from Asian Le Mans Series press release.