Multiple international champion driver James Winslow and factory driver for West Race Cars in Australia once again showed his versatility as he helped Hong Kong squad KCMG to victory in the inaugural round of the Asian Le Mans Series.
The Australian-based Brit only signed a deal to race with the renowned KCMG outfit just days before the three hour endurance race at South Korea’s Inje Speedium, but this failed to disrupt his progress. Despite limited testing in an unfamiliar LMP2 Le Mans Morgan Nissan prototype, on his debut in the ultra fast sportscar class, he tamed challenging wet conditions to sweep to victory by four laps.
Reigning Australian Formula 3 champion, Winslow, driving alongside team mates Gary Thompson and Akash Nandy also managed to outpace Le Mans veterans OAK Racing, who won the LMP2 class in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours classic and ex-Sauber F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi, who was racing in the slower GT category.
Following his last minute deal with Hong Kong team, who led the LMP2 category at Le Mans in June, the Witham- born racer only had one practice session in the car before the race. However, it didn’t take long for him and car to gel on his first ever run at the Inje circuit, as he set the quickest time, two tenths of a second faster than F1 tester Ho-Pin Tung.
Technical issues hampered the final practice session and it was left to Thompson to qualify the car, which left the team second on the grid behind OAK Racing for the three hour endurance race.
Winslow was selected to start the race but he was in for a challenge as the heavens opened just minutes before the green light. Such was the ferocity of the rain, the race was started behind the safety car and racing only resumed after eight laps. James soon found his way passed pole sitters OAK Racing and he began a fuel economy run.
He managed to balance speed and fuel consumption well to hand over to team mates Thompson and Nandy with the car in the lead at the end of his 1 hour 15 minute stint. Thompson and Nandy made no mistakes when they got their turn behind the wheel to guide the team to an impressive four lap win from AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 of Steve Wyatt with Tung and the OAK Racing squad in third.
Winslow said: “It was a fantastic weekend with a great team. We produced amazing results despite only having one session in the LMP2 before the race. The entire crew, my teammates and I worked together and pulled off the impossible, winning on our debut in Asian Le Mans. This Sportscar drive is something I'm very passionate about and its an amazing opportunity I have been offered. KCMG are a world class outfit with F1 team personal, it reminds my of my A1GP days and great working with good people again. I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone in the team for the opportunity.”
The creation of the Asian Le Mans Series is the latest initiative from Le Mans 24 Hours organisers Automobile Club de l’Oest (ACO). The new four race series will follow the format of the European Le Mans Series with teams competing in LMP2, LMPC, GTC and GT Am categories. LMP2 and GTC victors will receive entry to the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Winslow will join up with the KCMG squad for round two of the Asian Le Mans Series at Japan’s iconic Fuji Speedway on September 22 as they bid to extend their lead in the championship.