A new season of Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS gets underway in Thailand this weekend (May 12-14) when 25 supercars descend on the Chang International Circuit for the first of 2023’s six events.
That number will increase to at least 40 next time out at Fuji when the bulk of Fanatec Japan Cup’s cars join the grid. Only points scored at the four Japanese events count towards that classification.
But the same can’t be said of the new Fanatec China Cup, which covers all 12 of this year’s 60-minute races. Four crews are eligible to score points this weekend.
The 25 entries assembled for Chang – which last welcomed Asia’s biggest continental series in 2019 – include 22 full-season participants and three Thai race-by-race teams armed with local knowledge. And they’re going to need it given the quality of driver pairings eager to begin the new campaign in style.
Saturday and Sunday’s races will be broadcast on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel, and are also live on J Sports in Japan, SpoTV across South East Asia and major Chinese streaming platforms Huya, QQ, Douyu, Iqiyi and Billibilli.
INTERNATIONAL STARS JOIN REGION’S BEST
This year’s entry could well be the most diverse, and certainly talented, in championship history thanks to several factory drivers joining Asia’s established Ams and Pros.
Reigning overall champions Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino won’t join the grid until Fuji, which surely makes last year’s runner-up and Pro-Am champion Prince Jefri Ibrahim the pre-season favourite. That’s only underlined further when factoring in the continuity of Triple Eight JMR and Mercedes-AMG, as well as the speed of double Bathurst 12 Hour winner Luca Stolz.
The reigning teams’ champions also have a formidable second line-up which pairs their Supercars ace and increasingly rapid GT driver Broc Feeney with Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim. After spending a year learning the ropes, the latter will be eager to upstage his older brother on the other side of Triple Eight JMR’s garage.
There’s more Mercedes-AMG talent at Craft-Bamboo, which has Fabian Schiller and 2021 DTM champion Maximilian Goetz at its disposal. The latter links up with Jeffrey Lee, who returns for the first time since 2019, while Schiller partners another Fanatec GT Asia race winner, Anthony Liu.
BMW also has factory drivers on the grid courtesy of Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn who respectively join Kevin Chen and Junsan Chen at FIST – Team AAI.
Not to be outdone, R&B Racing has enlisted the services of Porsche’s Dennis Olsen to guide Wei Lu, while Morris Chen and HUBAUTO RACING can rely on one of the world’s fastest GT drivers and its former Le Mans pole-winner, Alvaro Parente.
The big names just keep on coming. 2018 Fanatec GT Asia champion Dennis Lind returns for the first time since his title-winning campaign alongside new co-driver Zhou Bihuang in one of two Climax Racing Mercedes-AMGs, and Porsche Asia Pacific driver Alessio Picariello joins 2019 overall runner-up and Pro-Am champion Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak at AAS Motorsport.
Theirs is one of four full-season entries overseen by Absolute Racing, which is also responsible for two Audi Sport Asia-backed cars. The first features the familiar name of Franky Cheng who is reprising his partnership with Sun Jing Zu, while the second pairs Andrew Haryanto with Audi Sport Asia Junior, James Yu. The same duo formed two thirds of this year’s winning Sepang 12 Hours crew.
But it’s not all about the Pros. The action will be no less intense in the Am class where three cars are entered this weekend. They include Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter (AMAC Motorsport) who are vying for a third-straight class title, full-season rivals Hu Yuqi and Bian Ye (Climax Racing) and a local YK MOTORSPORTS BBR BY SUNOCO Mercedes-AMG driven by Pasarit Promsombat and Dechathorn Phuakkarawut.
Speaking of Thai entries, B-Quik’s Audi is also making a one-off appearance in the hands of its regular co-drivers Henk Kiks and Eshan Pieris.
Elsewhere, two all-Japan cars – Porsche Center Okazaki’s Hiroaki Nagai and Yuta Kamimura plus debutants NK Racing, Kiyoshi Uchiyama and Tsubasa Kondo – both have new 992-spec 911s at their disposal.
The same goes for reigning GT4 champions Brian Lee and Hideto Yasuoka (HUBAUTO RACING WITH GTO) who make their first GT3 appearance together since the inaugural 2017 season.
Absolute’s other Porsche driven by Bao Jinlong and Alexandre Imperatori appears to be a serious title contender this season along with Silver pairing Cao Qi and Ling Kang. Theirs is one of two Phantom Pro Racing Audis, the second of which features team owner Chris On Chia and rapid Danish racer Mikkel Mac.
Chang’s GT3 contingent is completed by EBM’s returning duo of Setiawan Santoso and Reid Harker, and this weekend’s second Silver line-up which comprises Bo Yuan and Leo Ye (R&B Racing).
The sole GT4 entry – a Toyota GR Supra overseen by Toyota Gazoo Racing Indonesia – pairs Haridarma Manoppo with Nonaka Seita.
Pitstop Success Penalties will be served on Sunday when Race 1’s overall podium finishers remain stationary for an additional 10, seven and five seconds, respectively. GT3 Silver entries will carry an additional 35kgs.
CHANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT TIMETABLE
Thursday 11 May
10:30 – 12:30: Paid Practice 1
13:30 – 16:30: Paid Practice 2
Friday 12 May
12:00 – 13:00: Official Practice 1
14:30 – 15:30: Official Practice 2
15:30 – 16:00: Paid Bronze Test
Saturday 13 May
11:00 – 11:15: GT4 Qualifying 1
11:22 – 11:37: GT4 Qualifying 2
11:47 – 12:02: GT3 Qualifying 1
12:09 – 12:24: GT3 Qualifying 2
15:30 – 16:30: Race 1
Sunday 14 May
11:00 – 12:00: Race 2
Source. SRO Motorsports Group
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