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ACO takes over running of Asian Le Mans Series

The Automobile Club de l'Quest is to take over the running of the Asian Le Mans Series for next season

The ACO, the organiser of the Le Mans 24 Hours, has decided to assume full control of the series that has so far attracted small grids in its first two seasons under the promotion of the Chinese-based S2M sports management group run by expatriate Briton Mark Thomas.

A statement from the ACO said that it could "no longer be satisfied with a field that is still too small".

It stated that the Asian series remained "a major competition in the ACO's strategy and its endurance pyramid".

ACO president Pierre Fillon said: "Asian motorsport is booming: in this context the ACO is determined to continue promoting its favourite branch of the sport - endurance - in Asia.

"After two years the Asian Le Mans series is facing a major crisis in expanding its growth on a large scale. But for us throwing in the towel is out of the question, quite the opposite in fact!"

The ACO will regroup with a series of three races, down from this year's four, in the second half of next year and then plans to expand to five rounds for 2016.

ACO board member Frederic Henry-Biabaud, who was present for the announcement at this weekend's Asian LMS finale at Sepang, said: "We didn't want to find ourselves in April with a grid of eight cars.

"We didn't want to rush into it and prefer to wait and work with the teams to ensure we have a strong series when we restart, definitely after Le Mans and probably at the end of the summer."

The ACO plans to bring the series onto the World Endurance Championship bill at one of its fly-away Asian rounds at the end of 2015.

"We want to align the series with one of major races in Asia, probably China — it would make sense," he continued.

The 2015 Asian LMS calendar and how the ACO will distribute the guaranteed entries for Le Mans in 2016 have yet to be announced.

This year's series ailed to attract a grid of more than eight cars at any of its rounds.

Henry-Biabaud admitted that mistakes had been made for the 2014 season after an encouraging end to the 2013 season when 14 cars were on the grid for the Sepang finale.

"There were too many clashes with other Asian events, which we believe affected the grids," he explains.

The Fuji Asian LMS was just one week after the important Sepang 12 Hours enduro and the Shanghai round clashed with the Fuji World Endurance Championship round.

OAK Racing completed its domination of this year's series by notching up its fourth victory in four races with its Morgan-Judd/BMW LMP2 at Sepang today.

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