Franky Cheng

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Biography

Cheng Congfu (Franky Cheng) is a Chinese racing driver, currently driving in DTM. He started his formula racing career with the British Formula Ford Winter Series in 2001. In 2003 he will be supported by the McLaren Formula One team, as part of its driver development programme. He joined A1 Team China and drove in the A1 Grand Prix series from the 2006-07 season to the 2008-09 season. He is the first Chinese driver to participate, finish and score a class podium in the 24 Hours of Le Mans when his Saulnier Team LMP2 Pescarolo finished 3rd in the LMP2 class of the 2008 event. In November 2011, Franky partnered with 1998 and 1999 F1 World Champion Mika Häkkinen and Lance David Arnold to drive a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG at the 2011 6 Hours of Zhuhai race, a round of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. With his extensive experience and success in different types of motor racings and knowledge of the various racing tracks at home, he is a popular racer in China.

Q: How did you get to know the Asian Le mans Series? Did you hear about it before the news was released?

A: I got the news from the “AUTOSPORT”. When I got the news, I was glad to see that the Le Mans Series was finally being introduced to Asia and China. When I looked into the new competition rules, I thought that the grouping was a great idea. It sets a variety of groups and allows a combination of amateur drivers and professional drivers. Besides, it also stipulates that every team must include an Asian driver, so local drivers will have more opportunity to cooperate with foreign counterparts. In the process of cooperation, they can familiarize themselves to drivers in other classes.

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Q: As an Asian driver, I think it is the good news for you. How do you think other Asian drivers will treat this new sports event?

A: This is of course good news because if more competitions can be held in China, endurance events in China will have a great promotion and more car fans can get to know the endurance format. At the same time, it provides more opportunities for young drivers within China and gives them invaluable boost towards their career development.

Q: As a famous formula driver, you can show your great driving skills in Asian Le Mans Series, right? And you have great scores in A1. What are the benefits to you if you can compete with world’s top drivers in the Asian Le Mans Series?

A: In 2008, I was the first Chinese driver to take part in the famous Le Mans 24 hours and my team finished third in LMP2. The competition left a great impression on me as it’s quite different from what I had imagined because this competition definitely focuses on the team cooperation and it was also a great challenge to my endurance. Competing with world’s top drivers helped me a lot. The competition left such an impression on me; it can even be described as shocking.

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Q: The main rules of Asian Le Mans Series are that every car shall have both professional drivers and amateur drivers and at least have one Asian driver. Do you think other Asian drivers will be interested in this?

A: I think it provides greater space and more opportunities for Asian drivers and lets them take part in first class worldwide competition to enrich experience and transcend themselves.

Q: You have taken part in the Le Mans 6 hours in 2011 in Zhuhai. What advantages does Le Mans Series have? What do you expect in Asian Le Mans Series in 2013?

A: I took part in the GTC racing competition with the Mercedes-Benz AMG team in 2011. To my regret, we didn’t finish the competition due to the car failure. So, I’m quite looking forward to reaching the top of the podium in China in 2013. Le Mans 24 hours is a harsh test of the performance of the car, the driver’s endurances and wills. I hope more professional teams and drivers can take part in the Asian Lemans Series in 2013 to keep the high quality of this competition, and cooperation with media to let more people know about this competition and maintain its presence in Asia.

Armaan Ebrahim

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Biography
Armaan Ebrahim is the new hope for Indian single-seater racing. He has comprehensively won numerous National Racing Championships and is currently racing in the F2 circuits. Armaan had completed Indy Lights last year– the developmental series that is part of the ‘Road to Indy’ – i.e. it functions as a qualifier for the world-famous Indy 500. Armaan has always been a go-getter and nothing demonstrates this better than his racing history. At 14, he won the National Karting Championship & the National Racing Championship. Two years later, he was the youngest driver in the world to drive an A1 GP Car. Following another two years, he was the youngest driver ever to participate in the GP2 Asia Championship, where he finished in the top 10. Last year, Armaan became the first Asian and Indian to win a podium in F2 Championship at the race in Valencia. Armaan is taking the racing world by storm and over the past year has developed tremendous celebrity value in India and the international racing community. He is the Gen Next racer-smart, tenacious with a never-say die attitude.

Question: How did you find out about the Asian Le Mans Series? Has there been much buzz about the race?

A: Being a racing driver from Asia and having raced in Asia for most of my career I keep in touch with what’s happening and I know a few teams as well. Personally I think there has been a good buzz about the championship. It’ll probably be the premier championship in Asia as well as present great opportunities to Asian teams and drivers to compete against the European Teams.

Q: Could you briefly introduce your previous record and do you want to participate in the 2013 Asian LMS?

A: I started racing with go karts and after winning the Indian and Asian championships I progressed into cars by winning the Indian Formula 1300 cc National Championship and then went on to win the prestigious BMW Motor Sport Scholarship Award. I raced in the Formula BMW Asian Championship and won my first race when I was 15! By the end of that year I represented India in the A1 GP and became the youngest to do so at 16. In 2007 I finished 2nd in the Formula Renault V6 Asia championship. In 09 and 10 I did the FIA Formula Two championship and got a podium as well as consistent top 5 and top 10 finishes. In 2012 I did half a season in America in the Indy Lights series.

Q: The 2013 Asian LMS category will be divided into LMP2, LMPC, GTE and GTC. Which category will you participate in and what do you expect of the competition?

A: All the 4 categories sound very interesting. I would like to compete in the LMP2 class because I have raced in single seaters my whole career. The competition is going to be top class. Le Mans is on the short list of most people involved in racing so I’m sure there will be the best teams and drivers from Asia and everywhere else taking part.

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Soheil Ayari

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Biography

Soheil Ayari is a French race car driver born in Aix-les-Bains, Savoie, from an Iranian father and French mother. He claimed his first championship with the 1994 French Formula Ford Championship. After 11 national and international titles in single-seater (Macao Grand Prix Winner in 1997), Touring Car, GT and Prototype, Ayari aims to shift gears a little in his career and is currently looking to join a strong team to compete in the 2013 Asian Le Mans Series and hopefully tap into the widespread support he enjoys in Iran.

Question: How did you find out about the Asian Le Mans Series? Has there been much buzz about the race?

Answer: For me it is very attracting to race in Asia due to the development of the continent and since the 2013 season will gather interesting and new circuits. The other advantage is that it is linked to Le Mans regulation and the taking part to Le Mans 24 Hours. I have already raced Macau F3 Grand Prix (Winner in 1997!) and Suzuka 24 Hours and I keep fantastic souvenir of the Asian ambiance. The new Asian Le Mans Series is also a fantastic championship for the numerous Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indonesian spectators and fans who will discover more how fantastic is endurance races!

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Q: Could you briefly introduce your previous record and share a little on why you want to participate in the 2013 Asian LMS?

A: I raced 11 times Le Mans 24 Hours, ranking 8 times in the top-10, I run also in ALMS and ELMS (Champion in GT1 class in 2007), being crowned in ILMC 2011 (LMP2 class), have raced in 2012 in FIA WEC, that is why racing in the Asian Le Mans Series represents a logical choice for me for next season.

Q: Most of Asia is still in its infancy in terms of the development of a strong motor sports culture. From your experience in other race series, could you give some suggestions on the development of 2013 Asian LMS?

A: The Asian Le Mans Series 2013, totalizing 6 races (some on brand-new circuits), will become an attracting championship as it is already for ELMS or WEC. My major suggestion is to be able to gather as many Prototypes as GT cars, in order to interest everybody, drivers, teams and of course fans and medias. I think with 6 rounds the Asian Le Mans Series 2013 will have a real echo in Europe and will attract more and more competitive European contenders, mixed to Asian ones. For sure, it is already one of the major championships of the coming years.

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Q: The 2013 Asian LMS category will be divided into LMP2, LMPC, GTE and GTC. Which category will you participate in and what do you expect of the competition?
A: My experience and price list allow me racing in all categories but I target in priority LMP2 or GTE classes. I am certain all kinds of cars will be exciting to run of the 6 tracks scheduled in the 2013 season.

Q: What are your personal objectives for the Series? How about your team?

A: To win the series and to find team and teammates permitting me to reach that goal.

Mark Goddard

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Biography

A race winner as a driver in Europe in many categories, ranging from Formula Cars to GT cars, Goddard moved to Asia in 1994 and has managed some of the regions most successful teams, including the multi-title winning Toyota Alabang Team in the Philippines and Ghiasports Racing in China. As a driver he was a multi-race winner in Asia F2000 and Formula Toyota before claiming the Asian F3 Drivers Championship in 2002. He then concentrated on building Eurasia Motorsport and its sister team, Team Goddard. He is also a successful driver coach, having previously been chief instructor at the Silverstone Race School in the UK. The first modern Safety Car Driver in Formula One he is a member of the prestigious British Racing Drivers Club, owners of the Silverstone F1 Circuit.

Q: As Craft Racing AMR Team Principal why do you choose to enter Asian LMS in 2013?

A: Whilst Craft Racing AMR is a new team it is a progression from Craft Eurasia Racing. In the past few seasons we have brought together a team of people with a view to compete successfully on the Global motorsport stage. Our aim is to compete at Le Mans and in the WEC in the not too distant future and Asian LMS offers us the ideal opportunity to hone the team into a truly World Class organization. Outside of Japan this series is the only championship in the region that can give us the opportunity to develop the team.

Q: Could you introduce your team and your objective for the 2013 Asian LMS?

A: Aston Martin appointed us as an Official Partner Team for 2012 and our first event with the new Aston Martin GT3 was in the MME 12 Hours. Aston Martin Racing were obviously impressed by what they saw and we have now been appointed an Official Technical Partner Team, under the Craft Racing AMR banner, the first to achieve this status globally. We are extremely proud to be moving forward with Aston Martin as a partner in our journey to Le Mans and beyond.

Eurasia Motorsport was formed in 2003 to enter the then new Formula BMW Asia Series. Most of the personnel had already won championships with me in Asian F3 and Formula Toyota. We were the Minardi F1 Junior team until Red Bull bought Minardi, after which we ran as Eurasia. In 2010 we joined the GT Asia Series, as Craft Eurasia Racing, winning the Team Championship and have since won several GT races and the MSS GT Championship. We were also Formula BMW Pacific Champions in 2010 and Formula Pilota China champions this year. Over the past few seasons we have recruited the best possible personnel, including an ex-F1 development engineer, and I believe the best technicians in the region.

Our aim for 2013 is quite simple, to win the GTC Class and the entry for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours. Apart from our line up of professional drivers from the region we also want to encourage new young talent, and that will include those who have raced with us in our Formula car teams.

Ho-Pin Tung

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Date: December 20th, 2012
Ho-Pin Tung is a Dutch born Chinese racing driver. After winning Formula BMW Asia in 2003 and the German F3 Cup in 2006 he joined A1GP Team China scoring their first ever podium finish at the Australian GP. In 2008 he finished 2nd in the Monaco race of the GP2 Series, the F1 feeder series. After a successful test in the young driver days in 2009 the Renault F1 team announced Tung was signed as their third- and reserve driver of the team for the 2010 season. Hence, Ho-Pin Tung became the first ethnic Chinese driver involved in F1. A position he retained in 2011 in addition to joining some races in IndyCar. In 2012 he has returned to racing in Asia taking part in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia with Budweiser Team StarChase.

Question: As an international driver who has raced for many years, what do you think about the Chinese motorsports?

Answer: I think it’s improving every year, if you look at, for example the FASC are making a big effort with CTCC. It is very professional series with a lot of support from many manufacturers. Then of course there is Porsche Carrera Cup Asia which is probably one of the strongest series in Asia with a lot of international drivers. Of course this year, for the first time we had Audi R8 LMS Cup, with amazing cars and very strong Asian and international drivers. So I could say that the level has been going up quite significantly in the past a few years.

Q: Are interested in the Le Mans Racing?

A: Of course, I am a racing driver so always like to race. I spent two years as third- and reserve driver for Renault F1 team (later Lotus F1), which was an amazing experience, as a reserve driver you go to all the races and do some tests and demos. However, there was no chance of a racing seat and I wanted to go back racing again. The opportunity to join Budweiser in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia for my GT-racing debut was exciting and hopefully will lead to more. Le Mans is on the shortlist of every racing driver and if a good chance comes along of course I would definitely consider joining the Series.

Q: Do you know about the Asian Le Mans Series? What’s your first impression on the Series?

A: Yes, I know. I think it is very good initiative and it’s always exciting to see such a Series with many notable brands. Motorsports in Asia is developing very fast therefore to launch this Series now is a very good initiative.

Q: What factor is the most important as an endurance driver?

A: I think you need to be very consistent, make no mistakes. Of course, you need to be flexible because you share the car with teammates which means the car can never be set-up specifically for you. Therefore, you always need to compromise and from this perspective I think that it is very important to be a flexible driver.

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Q: Will you drive in the Series?

A: Who knows! I am currently in talks with several teams that are planning their participation in the series. If I will get a good opportunity, for sure I would be interested in racing in the Series.

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