Photo : Philippe CHEMIN - ACO/NIKON
How did you hear about the new Asian Le Mans Series?
Darryl O Young: I knew about the Asian Le Mans Series quite early as they have started the plans for the 2013 season several months ago. Some people have been quite critical about the Asian LMS because it has not launched successfully in the last two attempts, however, I think what many people fail to recognize is that Chinese and Asian motorsport is still very new in this side of the world. It takes time to build the interest and develop a fan base for a new racing series such as the Asian LMS in a country that only knows Formula 1. I feel the ACO are pioneers in setting up the first truly professional endurance championship in Asia and I expect big things from the Asian LMS once it begins to pick up momentum.
How do you think Asian drivers perceive this new series?
This is definitely good news for all drivers in our region as having a professional endurance championship in this region will give many drivers the opportunity to link Asian and European Racing. I have been blessed to have the chance to compete the past 6 years over in Europe. This required a lot of support from sponsors to give me the opportunity to develop my skill against the best drivers in the world. Having the Asian LMS will open the door for drivers to compete at a high level in our own region. It will be fantastic to see more Asian drivers having a chance to compete at the Le Mans 24 in the future.
You have competed in WTCC, FIA GT2 and won at Bathurst and Sepang... But do you miss competing in China and Japan?
I do miss having the chance to compete in Asia more often, but the good thing is that the WTCC and the GT1 World Championship both have several rounds in Asia including China, Japan, and India. The major difference is that those are only a few rounds in Asia compared to having an entire championship in the region like this series. Asian LMS will probably give more opportunity for Asian drivers to develop their skills before stepping up to World Championships like WTCC, GT1, or WEC. In fact, this championship won't only help Asian drivers, but it will also help everyone involved with the industry such as teams, engineers, sponsors, and even championship promoters.
The ACO wants to make the Asian LMS a preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours you started in 2009. Do you think this kind of training is necessary?
Le Mans is a very special race at the top level. In order to succeed there, you need to be a strong driver that is ready for several different circumstances and situations. The only way to develop that experience is to compete at a high level, so driving in the Asian LMS will definitely prepare drivers for the tough challenge of competing at Le Mans.
The main rule is to mix Pro and Am drivers, and have a least one Asian driver on the cars... looks like a good opprtunity for you ! Do you know other drivers interested?
At the moment with the global economic situation, it isn't easy for many drivers around the world to have sponsors and compete. I have been very fortunate to have strong sponsors that have stayed by my side for the past 5-6 years and given me big opportunities. The major difference in Asia is that there aren't many big race teams that have their own sponsors and funding. They require drivers to bring big budgets, so this creates a situation where many strong drivers in Asia struggle to find opportunities to have full time drives. Hopefully, this concept can create an arena where drivers in Asia can fight hard against each other, develop their skills, and prove that they are ready for Le Mans! I also hope more Chinese drivers will turn to endurance racing as this will be the key to bringing more manufacturer interest to the series.
Prototypes will be allowed... Is this something you want to try, or do you want to compete as the GT specialist that you are?
I've always wanted to drive prototypes as this type of machinery is simply amazing. Personally, I would drive anything if the right opportunity arose, be it LMP2 or GTE. It has been 3 years since I've been to the Le Mans 24, so that is definitely too long. If the right opportunity comes for me, hopefully with a manufacturer, then I would definitely consider this chance. My goal has always been to compete and win against the worlds best drivers. There is no better place to achieve this than the Le Mans 24 and I'm always ready to face a new challenge.
Please let us know about your plans...
My plans for the 2013 season are unclear at the moment. The 2012 season has been very busy for me as I am competing in two FIA World Championships, so this gives me very little time to think about next year! I always keep my options open and see where racing takes me, but I've been very happy with the WTCC and also the GT1 World, as this gives me a good mix of Touring Car and GT racing at the highest level. If I could add Endurance racing and Le Mans back into my regular season, this would be truly the perfect situation.
Click here to visit Darryl O young Website.
Photo: LE MANS 24 HOURS, 13TH AND 14TH JUNE 2009. Darryl O Young shared the wheel of this Porsche 911 with Philippe Hesnault from France and Plamen Kralev from Bulgaria.