RLR MSport launches bi-continental programme with 2019-20 Asian Le Mans entry

RLR MSport is set to expand its reach to China, South East Asia and Australia with an assault on the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 Am Trophy, in a bid to secure a coveted entry to the 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Bolton team will field a sole ORECA 05 Nissan for European Le Mans Series (ELMS) regulars John Farano and Arjun Maini, and New Zealand’s LMP2 debutant Andy Higgins for the duration of the four-part season that takes in some of the greatest racetracks in the Asia-Pacific region.

Farano has a long and successful association with RLR MSport that in 2018 yielded an ELMS LMP3 title and a coveted entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Canadian remained with RLR MSport as he took the next step of his motorsport career in LMP2 and, having just completed his first full season in the ELMS’s headlining division, he is ready for yet another new challenge in the burgeoning Asian Le Mans Series.

RLR MSport also welcomed Arjun Maini to the fold for its much-anticipated return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the ELMS’s LMP2 class in 2019.

The young Indian was mightily impressive during his maiden season of endurance sportscar racing, transitioning seamlessly from Formula 2 single-seaters to Le Mans Prototypes, and he views the Asian Le Mans Series as an opportunity to continue his development through the winter.

“The idea behind racing in the Asian Le Mans Series is to get as much driving time as possible and to win the Am Trophy to earn an entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said Maini. “It would be good to win for John (Farano), who has improved a lot throughout the year, and I feel the class will be fair for the Bronze drivers and give a good reflection of how they’re getting on relative to each other.

“I know the ORECA 05 is a little slower than the 07 we race in the ELMS, so we will have to get our heads around the speed and the grip levels, but I think we will all be fine with that. I’m looking forward to returning to Sepang, as I have experience of the circuit from GP3 and Formula BMW and I really like Malaysia as a country, although I’ve never been to Australia and The Bend looks mega, so I’m expecting that to be a highlight.”

Higgins, meanwhile, is a second-generation racer from Auckland and a stalwart of New Zealand’s historic motor racing scene.

He began his career with campaigns in his domestic Formula Ford Championship, before graduating to the Toyota Racing Series NZ in 2005.

However, he went on to set the pace in the MSC NZ F5000 Tasman Cup Revival Series, winning the 2014 and 2017-18 championships, although finishing second overall in the F5000 50th anniversary celebration race at Laguna Seca – the biggest gathering of F5000 cars in history – stands as a personal highlight.

Higgins has since gained experience in iconic Group C prototypes from the late Eighties and early Nineties; starting with the Spa Classic in Belgium, he and father Paul achieved a lifetime ambition by contesting the 2018 Le Mans Classic with a Porsche 962C they restored themselves.

In 2017, Higgins finished third in class in the Gulf 12 Hour with a Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo, but the 38-year old is now set to make his modern Le Mans Prototype debut as part of RLR MSport’s maiden Asian Le Mans Series effort.

“I would really like to thank RLR MSport for this opportunity, as I’m really excited about joining the team in the Asian Le Mans Series,” said Higgins. “It’s going to be a big challenge and a massive learning curve, but I’m looking forward to joining John (Farano) and Arjun (Maini), who have been working strongly together in the European Le Mans Series. I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’ll need to get on the pace as quickly as possible.

“The entry is getting stronger each year and the series has certainly gained a lot more traction in New Zealand and Australia, especially since The Bend Motorsport Park was added to the schedule. I will just be focused on doing my absolute best for the team, and I can’t wait to get going in Shanghai.”

The 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series commences at the Shanghai International Circuit in China (22-24 November) before moving on to The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia (10-12 January), and it concludes with back-to-back races at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit (14-15 February) and Thailand’s Chang International Circuit (21-23 February).

Each venue on the calendar will be unchartered territory for both RLR MSport and its drivers, but the Asian Le Mans Series provides an invaluable opportunity to clock-up countless meaningful miles in competitive conditions, to stay fresh and focused during the long European off-season.

RLR MSport Director of Motorsport Operations, Nick Reynolds, said: “The Asian Le Mans Series is growing in size and stature every year, and we believe there’s a lot of value in an entry. It isn’t only the calibre of the field that makes the series attractive, but the fact it’s held during the European winter months makes it a fantastic platform for teams and drivers who wish to stay fresh all year round.

“For John (Farano) and Arjun (Maini), it’s an opportunity to continue developing their skills, albeit in slightly older LMP2 machinery, in a competitive environment with all the variables of a race weekend. Of course, it’s fantastic to have Andy (Higgins) on-board; while he is yet to sample modern LMP2 machinery, he will be an asset. The aim is simple – win the Asian Le Mans Series Am Trophy and secure that automatic entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and gather plenty of momentum for the 2020 season.”