The entry list for this year’s Suzuka 10 Hours continues to grow in stature following confirmation that Europe and Asia’s Blancpain GT Series champions will contest round three of the Intercontinental GT Challenge on August 24-26.
Mobilityland, which is planning the inaugural event, has added three further cars to the provisional entry list it originally issued on March 2, thus bringing the current total of FIA GT3, GT300 and JAF GT-spec machines to 30.
Two of them have accepted automatic invites to attend as reigning champions of their respective regions.
Austrian outfit GRT Grasser Racing Team and Lamborghini factory ace Mirko Bortolotti won the world’s toughest GT3 Teams’ and Drivers’ championship – the Blancpain GT Series – in 2017, and will now take that same pedigree to Japan where they’ll go head-to-head against the best from Super GT, Asia and America.
Grasser regular Rolf Ineichen is also confirmed alongside Bortolotti aboard the team’s Huracan GT3, while a third driver will be announced in due course.
They’re joined on the grid by GruppeM Racing, which claimed Blancpain GT Series Asia’s inaugural Teams’ and Drivers’ titles in 2017. The Hong Kong-based outfit is yet to name its line-up but has confirmed a single Mercedes-AMG GT3 for August’s 47th Summer Endurance Race, which builds on the legacy of Suzuka’s previous 1000-kilometre event.
Grasser Racing and GruppeM’s confirmations add to an already impressive list of reigning champions set to contest this year’s Suzuka 10 Hours. Super GT’s 2017 GT300 title winners Goodsmile Racing & Team Ukyo (Mercedes-AMG) will be on the grid along with fellow Japanese outfit ARN Racing (Ferrari), which claimed last season’s Super Taikyu crown. The international contingent is also strong courtesy of ADAC GT Masters champions Callaway Competition (Corvette) and Asian Le Mans Series’ 2017/18 winners FIST – Team AAI (BMW).
The third new entry, Black Swan Racing’s Porsche 991 GT3 R, was formally announced last week but appears on the official entry list for the first time. Tim Pappas’ Pro/Am victory in February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour means he leads the Intercontinental GT Challenge’s Bronze Drivers’ Championship ahead of July’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, before the series moves on to Suzuka.
Other updates include Honda Team Motul, previously listed as a TBC, becoming the race’s third NSX GT3 entrant, while the team originally known as Nissoku has changed its name to APR. Further announcements are expected in the coming months.
The Suzuka 10 Hours, which becomes Asia’s sole leg of the Intercontinental GT Challenge this season, is being jointly administered by SRO Motorsports Group, Super GT organisers GT Association, and Suzuka’s management company Mobilityland Corporation.
Pirelli has been chosen as the event’s official tyre supplier while prize money totalling 100-million Yen has also been confirmed.
Uniquely, the race offers FIA GT3 cars from all over the world an opportunity to compete equally against Japanese teams running similar machinery and the JAF GT-spec chassis only found in Super GT’s GT300 category.
The Total 24 Hours of Spa hosts round two of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge on July 26-29 before the Suzuka 10 Hours takes centre stage one month later. The Laguna Seca Raceway California 8 Hours closes out the campaign, which began last month at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, in late October.
2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge Schedule
February 2-4 – Australia – Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour
July 26-29 – Belgium – Total 24 Hours of Spa
August 24-26 – Japan – Suzuka 10 Hours
October 26-28 – USA – California 8 Hours of Laguna Seca
Source. SRO Motorsports Group