Japan Le Mans Challenge Update
Plans are well underway for the inaugural three race season in the ACO sanctioned Japan Le Mans Challenge.

Prospects for the moment suggest a grid of between 15 and 20 cars for the season, with a gaggle of LMP cars in the mix.

The likely LMP entrants include potential entries from teams running Courage C65s and there is the possibility of at least one (and perhaps more than one) LMP1 car (see next news item).

These will not however include either of the Team Goh Audi R8s for 2006 (Kazumichi Goh owns both a 2001 spec. car and the 2004 Le Mans winning car), the team now fully engaged with their Super GT programme with the Maserati MC12.

Mr Goh though is assisting the organizers in an advisory capacity on regulations, and Japanese sources suggest that the 2004 Le Mans winning team owner has also been advising current entrants and prospective entrants on the economics of LMP racing.

“At a very early stage we were going to enter the (2001 spec.) Audi R8, but it became obvious (at that stage) that we would have no real competition in the class in 2006,” commented Mr. Goh. “That would be bad for us and bad for the Challenge. I am though very interested in the R10, it really is a matter of when the customer cars will be made available.”

In the GT categories there is the likelihood of a trio of GT1 ‘refugees’.

The Hitotsuyama Racing Ferrari 550 (a Care Racing machine, chassis CRD 06) is reportedly currently being converted to full ACO spec. (the chassis was built to Super GT spec. from new).

There is also the strong probability that the two JLOC (Japan Lamborghini Owners Club) Lamborghini Murcielago R-GTs will race in the Challenge.

GT2 looks like having a healthy entry from the Porsche 996 GT3-RS contingent, with Ferrari 360s also joining in. All of the European machines have found it very tough going in Super GT, against the tube framed silhouette racers in both GT500 and GT300, and the new three race challenge offers a very real alternative.

The Challenge has been specifically designed to encourage Japanese teams into the more international sportscar racing arena and the ACO have agreed that for this potentially very valuable future market the regulations should be frozen at 2004 levels, for at least the first two seasons. That’s great news for those teams who have LMP1 and LMP2 chassis that are now, or soon to be, obsolete in Europe and, if the business model works, those Japanese teams taking the first step with an older car in 2006/7 might just be on the waiting list for the next generation of brand new LMP1 and 2 chassis.

The Le Mans Challenge gets into gear at Sugo on 13/14 May.
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