There are many aspects to bringing together a motorsport season. If you are a Championship you need the teams, the logistics, marketing, investors, sponsors, fans, promotional events, and endorsements. If you are a driver, you need a potential race seat- either backed by a manufacturer or a sponsor, you need to be fit, healthy, fast, and to organise your PR/marketing for the season to ensure your backers are happy.
The last few months have been one with a lot of question marks for both my side, and also the newly formed FRD LMP3 Series.
My original plans of competing in a GT4 class after my debut Sepang 12 Hour victory in December of 2016 were scuppered when Blancpain announced the class would be for bronze drivers only. For drivers who had competed in junior single seater categories, but didn’t have the budget for Asian Le Mans or the GT3 class in Blancpain, there was little opportunity out there.
This was until FRD came up with their newly devised LMP3 Series. Normally, you wouldn’t try to run a new series, with new cars, a new promoter, at a new track, but this is what FRD successfully managed to achieve in their first round at the Zhejiang International Circuit on July 1-2.
The season was originally scheduled to kick off in May, however due to customs issues with the cars, this event was canned so the provisional 5 round championship became 4.
Trying to raise a budget and secure confidence from sponsors for a new championship which had already been unable to run their first proposed event was by no means easy, but all the work put in from January to June paid off and we managed to eventually confirm my entry into the series, alongside fellow Asian Formula Renault Champion and 2015 Chinese F4 Champ Julio Acosta.
It is funny how even when you think there is good time to plan, things normally come down to the last minute in motorsport! I am pleased to welcome fashion brand EVISU as our main sponsor, alongside returning partners Choctails, ProRacing Simulation and others. We have many exciting events planned in the coming months in both Hong Kong and China so I hope to bring news of these to you soon.
We were all happy to hear that the cars had arrived to the new Zhejiang facility and we had 4 hours of track time on the Thursday before the race to get accustomed with the new Ligier JSP3 car.
This was my first time driving an LMP3 car, and it was quite damp out there. But it is clear what a great machine they have: very well engineered, awesome aesthetics, and thunderous noise from the engine.
It was also fantastic news that 22 drivers in 11 cars would be competing in the first event. With this figure due to expand to 13 cars for the next round in Shanghai on July 29/30.
Indeed, it was also a testament to the grid that Le Mans Series veteran James Winslow commented it was the most competitive LMP3 grid in the world right now, and it would be hard to argue against that.
The FRD LMP3 Series also offers a very good reason to join the also FRD-organised Asian Formula Renault Series as a stepping stone. The 2013 AFR Champion and 2008 Class B Champ Martin Cao, 2015 Champ (myself) and 2nd placed driver Garnet Patterson, and also 2016 Champion Josh Burdon are racing on the LMP3 grid this year. To be able to step up and join a championship with proper Le Mans cars in China is a good opportunity that drivers in Europe or Asia should consider.
The first race weekend ran without a hitch. The publicity gained from Jimmy Linn in attendance, the “Cars 3” movie liveried Craft-Bamboo Racing cars, good online streaming and live television was the icing on the cake of the debut weekend.
Next up is Round 2 of the Championship on July 29-30 at the Shanghai International Circuit. I hope some Pit Talk Asia readers can join us there and support this new growing Le Mans series in China!