Multiple GT champion Sawa leads Japanese team’s Pro-Am line-up
Seventh GT3 manufacturer now confirmed
McLaren’s new 720S GT3 will make its Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia debut in 2019 with Japanese squad ABSSA Motorsport and a Pro-Am line-up comprising Keita Sawa and Tadao Uematsu.
The full-season entry represents McLaren’s first in the senior class since Clearwater Racing contested the very first Blancpain GT Series Asia event, as the championship was previously known, with a 650S GT3 in 2017.
The British manufacturer’s new frontline customer racing contender joins a growing list of new-generation GT3 cars confirmed for the upcoming campaign. The likes of Audi’s R8 LMS GT3 Evo, Honda NSX GT3 Evo, Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo and Porsche 911 GT3 R are all entered for the full season alongside Ferrari’s 488 GT3 and the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
ABSSA’s all-Japanese team and driver crew packs plenty of experience, with both drivers’ CVs featuring stints in their domestic Super GT300 series. However, it’s the Pro half – Sawa – who is best known thanks to his success across Asia.
Indeed, the 42-year-old – who established ABSSA Motorsport earlier this year and also fulfils the role of Team Director – won the Asian Le Mans Series GT crown with McLaren in 2016 after previously claiming 2011’s Porsche Carrera Cup title. He’s also a two-time winner of the Macau GT Cup race and multiple Le Mans entrant who currently competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s GTE Am class.
“Not many Japanese teams compete outside of their native championships so to see so many racing in Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia over the last two years made it a prime contender for ABSSA Motorsport’s first full-season GT programme,” he said. “The opportunity to race against Asia’s best teams and drivers was also a key factor in our decision. I’ve always loved the challenge of taking on the best our continent has to offer and this championship gives me the chance to do that.
“McLaren has a very strong heritage in Japan and it’s made a big commitment to new customers there this year. It also holds a special place in my heart after winning the Asian Le Mans Series title with Clearwater and the 650S, so there was really only one choice when it came to which car we’d choose for this season.”
Meanwhile, Uematsu re-joins the GT3 ranks in 2019 as Super Taikyu’s reigning TCR class champion. His career also encompassed a season of Super GT500 in 2004 and stints in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia.
Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia’s six-round, 12-race 2019 campaign begins at Sepang in Malaysia on April 6/7.