Final at Sepang: United Autosports, ARC Bratislava and Inter Europol Competition win the titles
23-24 February 2019: fourth and last round of the 2018-2019 Asian Le Mans Series season on the international Sepang circuit in Malaysia. There were double stakes to play for in this final: titles in the Asian Le Mans Series and invitations for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans for the champions in the LM P2, LM P2 Am and LM P3 categories. Victory in the last race went to the #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2. Second place was enough to give United Autosports the championship title with their #22 Ligier JS P2. ARC Bratislava came out on top in LM P2 Am with its #4 Ligier JS P2 and clinched the championship in this category. In LM P3, Inter Europol Competition also scored a double with the #13 Ligier JS P3, which won both the race and the LM P3 title.
The final round of the closely-contested 2018-2019 Asian Le Mans Series season took place in very hot conditions with a temperature of more than 30°C! In LM P2, the battle for the title was fought between the #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P2, which was 18 points in front of the #24 Ligier JS P2 entered by Algarve Pro Racing, the 2016-2017 champion, followed by the #4 ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P2. In the LM P2 Am category, the gaps were much smaller as ARC Bratislava was just nine points in front of the #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 with, in third place, the #25 Ligier JS P2 run by Algarve Pro Racing, 21 points behind. In the LM P3 category the competition was even more intense as the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 led the dance with eight points in hand over the #2 and #3 United Autosports JS P3 Ligiers.
After missing the round in Thailand, the #8 Ligier JS P2 entered by Spirit of Race topped the time sheets for the race thanks to Pipo Derani who clinched the last pole position of the season in 1m 55.167sec pipping the #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 with Phil Hanson at the wheel by 0.203 seconds at the very end of the session. Derani looked to have got off to a flying start, but he had hit the loud pedal too early and was given a drive-through penalty. After 1h20m the #8 Ligier JS P2 ground to a halt out on the track due to an engine problem bringing out the first safety car in the race. It managed to restart but had to stop at its pit again an hour from the finish. The team got the car going two laps from the chequered flag and ended up fifth in LM P2.
The #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 driven by Andrea Pizzitola-Harrison Newey-Ate Dirk De Jong started the race in third place and went on to score victory. The Portuguese team had already triumphed at Fuji in Japan. The #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P2 came home in second place and snatched the 2018-2019 Asian Le Mans Series title. The Anglo-American team had a great season with a pole position and four podium finishes including victory in Buriram on their first outing in the Asian Le Mans Series.
Into third came the #35 Ligier JS P2 run by Panis-Barthez Compétition, which was in the lead at one stage with Matthieu Lahaye was at the wheel. The French team's car driven by the trio Matthieu Lahaye-Jean-Baptiste Lahaye-François Hériau scored its second consecutive podium finish of the season.
The #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 in the hands of Mark Patterson-Anders Fjordbach-Christopher McMurry hit the front in the LM P2 Am category, but their race ended due to a glitch with 45 minutes to go to the finish. The second United Autosports Ligier JS P2, #23 in the hands of Patrick Byrne-Guy Cosmo-Salih Yoluc, also ran into trouble. It started in second place in front of the #4 Ligier JS P2 entered by ARC Bratislava and was running third in LM P2 after two hours racing. With only 32 minutes left a gearbox problem put a brutal end to the team's hopes. The #4 ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P2 of Miro Konopka-Ling Kang-Darren Burke in the lead in P2 Am won the category and finished fourth overall. Thanks to this third victory on the bounce, the Slovakian team sealed the LM P2 Am title.
The LM P3 race in which the battle for the title raged was a real nail-biter! The Inter Europol Competition outfit emerged victorious with a lap in hand in their #13 Ligier JS P3 driven by the duo Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe. The Polish squad, which has put on a stunning performance throughout the season scoring four podium finishes including two victories and a pole position, won the LM P3 title. Second place was filled by the #7 Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P3 of Christian Olsen and Nick Adcock who took their first podium finish and the third for the team after Fuji and Buriram. The #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3 of Chris Buncombe-Garett Grist-Wayne Boyd jumped into the lead when the lights went out but was immobilised in the early stages of the race. It then lost a lap following the first safety car intervention. The team made a great comeback and finished third, the trio's third top-3 finish this season. The #79 Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P3 took the flag in fourth place followed by the #36 Ligier JS P3 entered by Eurasia, which rounded out the top 5.
The #65 Ligier JS P3 run by Viper Niza Racing for Douglas Khoo and Nigel Moore made a great start. Moore fought his way up from the back of the LM P3 pack and took the lead in the category after only 10 laps: they finally finished seventh in LM P3.
The R24 women's team of Margot Laffite-Katherine Legge-Michelle Gatting also put on a great show. They set fast times and saw the chequer in eight place in LM P3 in their #50 Ligier JS P3.
And so ends a fantastic Asian Le Mans Series season! Three teams, United Autosports, ARC Bratislava and Inter Europol Competition, have all clinched an invitation for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans. Below the classification of the teams in the championship.
LM P2 Class – Top 5
- United Autosports – #22 Ligier JS P2– 80 points
- Algarve Pro Racing – #24 Ligier JS P2– 69 points
- ARC Bratislava – #4 Ligier JS P2 – 51 points
- Panis-Barthez Compétition – #35 Ligier JS P2– 50 points
- Spirit of Race – #8 Ligier JS P2 – 35 points
LM P2 Am Class
- ARC Bratislava – #4 Ligier JS P2 – 94 points
- United Autosports – #23 Ligier JS P2– 60 points
- Algarve Pro Racing – #25 Ligier JS P2 – 49 points
LM P3 Class – Top 5
- Inter Europol Competition – #13 Ligier JS P3 – 87 points
- United Autosports – #2 Ligier JS P3 – 70 points
- Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Racing – #79 Ligier JS P3 – 54 points
- United Autosports – #3 Ligier JS P3 – 53 points
- Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Racing – #7 Ligier JS P3 – 52 points
Rendezvous with the LM P2 and LM P3 Ligier teams in 41 days when the European Le Mans Series gets under way again on the Paul Ricard circuit in France.
Credit Photo: DPPI Images