Defending Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 class winner Jackie Chan DC Racing is working on getting together an LMP1 program with a Chinese OEM in time for the upcoming 2020/2021 regulation cycle, according to team boss David Cheng.
Cheng told RACER he believes the marketplace in China has a lot of potential moving forward, and is therefore bullish about his chances of getting a manufacturer deal in time for 2020.
In order to achieve this, Cheng has had step back from the driving seat. His team will run in the FIA WEC this year with five new drivers in its two-car LMP2 effort, allowing Cheng to concentrate on securing a sustainable and successful future for the team in the top class.
“My decision to step out of a driving role is based on what we lacked last year, and that’s in the business end,” he said. “It’s no secret, I want to bring a Chinese manufacturer into this, and run a factory LMP1 deal.
“The regulations come out in 2020 and 2021, so by next year you need to start building. So this year we need progress on getting deals in place to make it happen.
“It’s all about educating the market in China in racing. It needs to make up for lost time. In the past 20 years the automotive market has developed at an extraordinary rate. I remember when I was a kid, cars were rare, and this was the early 90s. Everyone rode bicycles until the early 2000s when there was a big boom.
“China’s own auto industry is now starting to catch up to, China’s old brands. And they’re learning from what other people are doing. With autonomous driving, with electrification, hybrids, it’s all of a sudden a situation where every car brand across the world is learning, it’s a more even playing field.
“China needs to innovate, and where does it come from? Motorsport, and testing the limits in an extreme environment. There’s a big focus on trying to learn, and in the past two years there’s been a lot of interest in Chinese manufacturers, Chinese companies going motor racing.
“It’s all come quickly, as there wasn’t even a motor racing scene until the Shanghai International Circuit was built.”
As it stands, Chinese automotive manufacturers have yet to make an impression on international motorsport, though Cheng feels that jumping straight into the WEC is nevertheless viable due to the resources some of the larger ones have, making it possible to dive into LMP1 partnered with his team.
“There’s two ways to do this: Go from the bottom and build step by step, or use the resources like China has, and go in at the top,” he explained. “Coming into the World [Endurance] Championship, I think, is not crazy at all. We’ve built this team to be ready for when manufacturers want to take the plunge.
“We have meetings scheduled. We’re narrowing the list [of manufacturers] and pretty soon we’re planning to be with a specific manufacturer, and get engaged with the manufacturer meeting with the ACO.
“But timing wise, we haven’t been able to move to that stage yet.”