Asian Le Mans to return to The Bend
THE ASIAN Le Mans Series will return to The Bend Motorsport Park, circuit Managing Director Sam Shahin has confirmed.
The Asian-based leg of global Le Mans-based competition made their Australian debut with a successful four-hour race at The Bend in early 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic put a long-term hold on all international travel, let alone major events.
The series’ has since based itself in the middle east, running four races across a two-week period at the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi in an effort to save on freight costs and logistical issues amidst the current climate.
While the series has confirmed it will retain the UAE-focussed concept for their 2023 season, set to run in February next year, Dr Shahin confirmed that series remained contracted to The Bend and would likely return the following year.
“They’ll be back. Asian Le Mans are contracted to come back for at least two events. Covid made a mess of everything and certainly the ability of teams to travel,” Dr Shahin told the On the Grid Podcast this week
“I am 100 per cent confident that the Le Mans brand will be back in Australia as soon as they are able to travel, which is now most likely end of the ’23 – ’24 season. They run their calendar November to February.
“It’s something to look forward to and in a blink of an eye they’ll be here. It was just one of the most impressive spectacles I’ve been to.”
The inaugural 4 Hours of The Bend was a successful debut for ACO-sanctioned motorsport in Australia, drawing a healthy crowd despite hot January conditions.
The race was won by the G-Drive Racing LMP2 entry driven by James French, Leonard Hoogenboom and Roman Rusinov.
2022 would have marked the third running of the event had the pandemic not interrupted proceedings, with industry speculation hinting that The Bend’s Asian Le Mans foray could have led towards the potential inclusion on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar in the future.
While there’s no confirmation of that, Shahin admitted the event generated significant interest in the French-based offices of the ACO.
“After that event I had a phone call and then a visit, from Pierre Fillon, the president of the Le Mans Series (ACO) because of the level of interest that circuit generated in Le Mans circles.
“I’m biased of course, I get it, but The Bend has received some exceptional endorsements all around the world for the race track itself.”
MEANWHILE, construction of The Bend’s new drag strip continues apace with the finishing touches likely to be applied, weather permitting, late this year.
Shahin said the demand for Drag Racing was an overwhelming factor in making the significant investment in constructing the facility.
“I’ve always felt and seen the incredible support for drag racing in Australia, and especially in South Australia. The support is beyond my wildest expectations,” he said.
“I’ll put it this way, The Bend has been open since 2018. The number one query, the number one message we get, by phone, by web, in person, in writing, over those five years is about drag racing.
“I’m buoyed by popular demand so I’ve taken another courage pill and stepped into building an international standard drag racing facility.
“If you were to pick a worst possible time to be building anything of concrete, steel and bitumen, now is the time. It’s been a tough few months – but when you decide to get drunk, you don’t count glasses.
“I decided to get drunk some time ago and the facility will be finished around the end of the year.”
The Bend hosts the Repco Supercars Championship this weekend with the OTR SuperSprint event commencing today (Friday, July 29).