It’s something of a new challenge for Aidan Read in the 2018-19 Asian Le Mans Series as he takes on the role of mentor and tutor, whilst also doing what he does best – driving fast. This was underlined perfectly on Sunday (25 November) in the first round of the championship in Shanghai, where the rising Australian star helped teammate Nobu Yamanaka and Eurasia Motorsport secure a podium position in the first round of the championship.
“The result was amazing and beyond our expectations, maybe a dream result for us at this track,” Aidan began. “I thought ‘maybe we could get a podium’ after qualifying but to drive up through the field to achieve that was very special and it shows that we’re part of a great team and that we executed a perfect race on what was Nobu’s international debut.”
The Eurasia squad completed plenty of pre-season testing with Aidan guiding Nobu extensively at many of the tracks that the series will visit in the coming months. The race week saw the team take part in the unofficial Thursday practice session, before heading into official practice and then qualifying where Aidan qualified in fifth position.
“I had a really big pushing qualifying and tried to dig deep and managed to get the top five,” he explained. “I had hoped for a little more as my new tyre run wasn’t optimal, but overall I was very happy with what I was able to achieve.”
Nobu took the first stint, completing his mandatory 90-minutes of racing and brought the Ligier LMP3 home unscathed, while the team used strategy superbly to ensure that Aidan remained on the lead lap with his rivals as the pit stop sequence unfolded.
Wasting no time, Aidan carved his way from tenth position in the class in a matter of laps, routinely the fastest driver in his class, before he set about the tougher targets in the race. The race came Aidan’s way as his speed and the strategy of the team played out and as he caught and passed Tony Wells in the Ecurie Ecosse entry, the podium position was on.
The final 30-minutes of the race saw Aidan forced to conserve fuel, as he managed the gap to those behind him and after four hours of hard racing, brought the #36 Ligier home for a sensational first podium in the new Asian Le Mans season.
“Nobu did a great job to stay in the game and remain consistent,” Aidan said. “He did exactly what we needed him to which is to stay out of trouble and be in a position to use the safety cars to our advantage. The team made some clever stops to clear the drive time and to give me two full runs to the end. I was trying to be consistent, I didn’t really know what position we were in. I didn’t ask, I just kept pushing and then with half an hour left I got the call to save fuel and that we were in the podium position.
“For my two stints we had two laps of fuel to save and we managed that which was fantastic, whilst managing the gap to P4. It was a big collaboration with the team to make sure we got the fuel strategy right, so a great credit to the engineering team at Eurasia. To start the season for here, we can only hope to improve further, and we can then take it to the guys at the front.”
For Aidan, the coaching side of the Asian Le Mans Series programme is pivotal in his role in the team and something he is relishing as he brings a gentleman driver into a fiercely competitive environment. It’s a delicate balance between his duties, but one he performed flawlessly at the first round in Shanghai.
“I’ve been working hard to help Nobu develop and bring his lap times down, whilst also looking at my own programme as well, but it’s all about the average of the two of us in this championship,” he said. “That means that sometimes Nobu will get a lot of the running in the practice sessions and the team did a good job to make sure the package suited Nobu. The important thing is that Nobu has been able to drive my setup well, so we have been able to share with few compromises for either of us, but the aim is for Nobu to get used to the setup that myself and the baseline setup Eurasia has perfected.
“It been a very impressive weekend as went up against some of the European powerhouse teams. The Eurasia squad was flawless and now we can look forward to the next race in Fuji with confidence.”