The inaugural FIA GT Nations Cup continues to develop as a truly international motor sport competition with the confirmation of five more entries that will represent their nation in the end-of-season showdown, to be held at the Bahrain International Circuit on 1st December 2018..
Belgium, Italy, Japan, Sweden and Belarus are the latest nations to set their sights on success in the newly-formed competition, which pits nation against nation in the hunt for one of GT racing’s most sought-after prizes. We take a closer look at their prospective entries.
TEAM: Belgian Audi Club Team WRT
CAR: Audi R8 LMS
DRIVERS: Mike Den Tandt/Charles Weerts
Audi Team WRT represents Belgium in the FIA GT Nations Cup with its Audi R8 LMS entry, two weeks after the squad contests the FIA GT World Cup in Macau.
Interestingly, though WRT and its long-standing association with Audi makes the team one of the more established GT outfits competing, it is looking to new talent for its Bahrain bid after signing 17-year-old talent Charles Weerts in what will be his maiden competitive GT race outing.
Weerts joins WRT on the back of a race-winning German Formula 4 campaign, which yielded a victory, two further podiums and fifth in the overall standings. By swapping single-seaters for a closed-cockpit GT car, Weerts recognises the steep learning curve ahead of him but says he is ready for the challenge.
“While I have no experience, I will find myself facing GT race specialists and it will not be easy,” said Weerts. “But that’s how we learn the most! During my first tests, I was amazed by the performance of the Audi R8 LMS GT3. Honestly, I did not expect such a fast and powerful car. I loved the thrills of this GT3 and I made good progress. This will be my goal again in Bahrain: to do better every time I take the track! And for that, I will also rely on my teammate, Mike, to share his experience.”
Team-mate Mike Den Tandt brings greater experience to the pairing by comparison, though his relatively limited outings with the team in recent years makes this line-up overall something of an unknown quantity.
TEAM: AF Corse
CAR: Ferrari 488 GT3
DRIVERS: Piergiuseppe Perazzini/Matteo Cressoni
An Italian effort through-and-through, the iconic Ferrari 488 GT3 naturally sits at the heart of Italy’s FIA GT Nations Cup bid, one that will in turn be overseen by successful long-time collaborator AF Corse.
As well as stirring emotions for fans, racing a Ferrari 488 GT3 entry in Italian colours will be a particularly proud moment for Matteo Cressoni and Piergiuseppe Perazzini in their attempts to lift tricoloreover the top step of the podium.
A familiar figure in the AF Corse family, Cressoni is a race winner in the Italian GT Championship this season and has also experienced time behind the wheel of the Ferrari 488 GT3 at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Perazzini completes Italy’s impressive line-up as the veteran attempts to add the FIA GT Nations Cup to a repertoire that already includes wins in both the Le Mans Cup and International GT Open in recent seasons.
TEAM: AF Corse
CAR: Ferrari 488 GT3
DRIVERS: Ken Seto (Kenji Abe)/Tamotsu Kondo
One of multiple nations to do so, Team Japan is calling upon the support of AF Corse for its effort by entering a Ferrari 488 GT3 for drivers Ken Seto and Tamotsu Kondo.
“Our team has competed all around the world over the last twenty years, including several times in Bahrain, where we won our class at the 6 Hours of Bahrain the last time we were there in 2017,” stated AF Corse Team Manager Bernardo Serra.
“We are honoured that these competitors have selected us to support them during the FIA GT Nations Cup and the whole team is looking forward to joining this new event for the first time.”
Seto heads to Bahrain having previously won the 2017 Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific – Trofeo Pirelli Am title, whilst Kondo is also a class winner in the same series. More recently, the latter has contested two rounds of the Blancpain GT Series Asia – GT3 series this season.
TEAM: Garage 59
CAR: McLaren 650S GT3
DRIVERS: Alexander West/Victor Bouveng
Sweden is entrusting its FIA GT Nations Cup entry to British outfit Garage 59, who will carry the hopes of a nation with its McLaren 650S GT3.
One of Garage 59’s regular GT racers, Alexander West will hope the benefit of familiarity will see him replicate his race-winning turn in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – Am this season. Moreover, he has posted many miles behind the wheel of the McLaren after driving the same 650S model in the likes of the Total 24 Hours of Spa and the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
At just 22 years of age, Victor Bouveng will be among the youngest competitors lining up on the grid in Bahrain. Most of the fledgling talent’s competitive outings have so far come in BMW machinery, with Bouveng making an impression in ADAC GT Masters and International GT Open – GT3 PRO.
The Swedish pairing is certainly one of the most intriguing on the grid and the duo could be looking to spring a surprise in Bahrain.
TEAM: AT Racing
CAR: Ferrari 488 GT3
DRIVERS: Alexander Talkanitsa Sr./Alexander Talkanitsa Jnr.
Although Team Belarus makes up one of AF Corse’s proposed entries, it will run under the AT Racing banner.
Notably, the Belarus car also represents the second father and son combination to compete for their nation, following the announcement Stephen and Brenton Grove will also keep it in the family for Australia’s effort.
Much of Alexander Talkanitsa Sr’s recent competition has come in the LMP3 class, where he is a multiple race winner in the European Le Mans Series, though he is also highly experienced in GT racing.
With Talkanitsa Jnr’s career following a similar path to that of his father’s, this Belarussian family affair is likely to be one to watch in Bahrain.
A new high-profile event to embrace and celebrate GT racing as a truly global motorsport discipline, the FIA GT Nations Cup’s unique concept evokes the thrill of supporting your home nation and cheering them on to the chequered flag.
With maximum duos composed of a Silver-rated driver and a Bronze-rated driver by the FIA, this race is primarily reserved for amateurs and drivers looking to continue their progression in GT racing.
A further five nations will be confirmed next week as preparations ahead of the 2018 FIA GT Nations Cup continue.
The FIA GT Nations Cup will headline the Bahrain GT Festival, sharing a busy weekend of racing with supporting series including the SRO GT4 International Cup, Patrick Peter’s Bahrain Classic Challenge and the Porsche GT3 Challenge Middle East.
Source. SRO Motorsports Group