SRO to jointly run Asian Le Mans Series with ACO
GT boss Stephane Ratel is joining forces with Le Mans 24 Hours organiser the Automobile Club de l'Ouest to run the Asian Le Mans Series.
Ratel's eponymous organisation will work with the Asian arm of the ACO-owned Le Mans Endurance Management organisation to run the ALMS from the end of next year as part of a wide-reaching agreement.
The ALMS and the Stephane Ratel Organisation's GT World Challenge Asia will combine in the same as the GTWC Europe Endurance Sprint and Endurance Cups.
There will be a joint classification for the GT class across the two championships from 2023. The winning team of the joint classification will receive an automatic entry for Le Mans in 2024.
As part of the link-up, an automatic entry for the 24 Hours will also be awarded to an overall class winner from the GTWCE Europe. It has yet to be decided from which class this will be, but it will either be Pro-Am or the new Gold Cup category for one bronze, one silver and one gold-rated driver due for introduction next year.
This is because there will be no professional GT category at Le Mans and in the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2024 when GT3 rules are adopted in place of GTE.
Ratel explained that the joint vision for the ALMS is to initially have two races in the Middle East and two in the Far East.
The ALMS ran exclusively in the Middle East this year as result of the COVID pandemic, with four races over two weekends in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Ratel said: "We have developed quite a powerful pan-Asian series and the ACO has developed these races in the Middle East, bringing in quite a few European teams and drivers.
"Our success has been with Asian teams and Asian drivers, so the combination should work if we can get some of the European competitors who are now coming to the Middle East to push east and some of the Asians to push west.
"In Europe we have five endurance and five sprint races, so going forward the plan is to have the same thing in Asia. The idea is to have the sprint races under the name GTWCA and five ALMS races under the endurance format."
The 2022 ALMS will go ahead next February as planned with four races in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, before what is being called the 2023 season kicks off most likely at the end of next year.
ACO president Pierre Fillon insisted that is "too early to have more details" of the plans for the new-look series.
"This is just a framework, but we will have more details in a few weeks of how we will work with Stephane," he said.
He stressed the importance of the Asian series in what he called the ACO's "endurance pyramid" and a desire to continue to attract teams and drivers from the region to Le Mans.
LMEM boss Frederic Lequien, who is also CEO of the ALMS, added: “This collaboration will bring to the table some very strong specialists to organise the ALMS: Stephane has some and we have some.
"Together we believe we can build something that will be strong for years."
The GTWCA, established as the Blancpain GT Series Asia in 2017, is due to resume next year after a two-year hiatus resulting from the pandemic. The draft schedule includes six dates, starting with a provisional event at Sepang in Malaysia in May.
Ratel, who competed at Le Mans as a driver in 1993 and 94, has long-standing links with the ACO. He was one of the original partners in LMEM when it was set up to run what was originally called the Le Mans Endurance Series in 2004.
He was initially in charge of putting together the calendar, but sold his shareholding ahead of the launch of the WEC for the 2012 season.
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