Reigning and double Le Mans 24 Hours winner Earl Bamber heads a raft of debutants competing in Blancpain GT Series Asia’s penultimate event of the season at Shanghai this weekend (September 23/24).
The Porsche LMP1 factory ace usually races in the FIA World Endurance Championship but will swap back to the German manufacturer’s customer GT3 programme this weekend as part of Arrows Racing’s re-jigged Pro/Am line-up.
The Kiwi, who earned a factory call-up after winning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in 2013 and ‘14, partners fellow newcomer Will Hardeman aboard the #98 991 GT3R. Hardeman - the first American ever to compete in Blancpain GT Series Asia - is also no stranger to Porsches having raced them Stateside in the firm’s one-make series and Pirelli World Challenge GT Cup class since 2015.
Elsewhere, Craft-Bamboo Racing have confirmed that another Porsche FIA WEC driver, Marvin Dienst, has joined Darryl O’Young in the team’s #99 entry. The 20-year-old German raced a 991 GT3R in last season’s ADAC GT Masters one year after graduating as ADAC Formel 4 champion.
His fellow countryman Nico Menzel is, like Bamber, also well known across the region after winning the 2016 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia crown. However, he has since switched allegiance to BMW with whom he competes in several European championships and one-off events, including the European-based Blancpain GT Series and VLN. And it’s aboard FIST - Team AAI’s M6 GT3 that he now makes his first Blancpain GT Series Asia start this weekend alongside championship returnee Lin Yu.
Both Bentley Team Absolute cars and all four of its drivers are also making their championship debuts in Shanghai. And last season’s results at the same circuit suggest both cars should be quick following GT Asia Series podiums for Adderly Fong, Andrew Kim and Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak.
China GT points leaders HubAuto Racing also have two Porsches entered for Shanghai, although one of its driver crews is different to that originally announced last week. It’s as you were for Leo Ye and Tim Bridgman who line up in car #277, but #33’s driver crew has switched since last Friday’s news to Taiwanese amateur Brian Lee and Super GT regular Hideto Yasuoka.
Lamborghini Young Driver Yuki Nemoto makes his series and GT3 debut aboard VSR’s #66 Huracan, Jeff Lu joins Keo Chang in Taiwan Top Speed Racing's Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, and James Wong takes the wheel of HubAuto Racing’s GT4-spec Porsche.
The first two practice sessions take place on Friday before Saturday’s qualifying session and first hour-long race. The second is a day later at mid-afternoon Chinese time.
SHANGHAI PITSTOP SUCCESS PENALTIES (RACE 1)
10s - Abbott/Buhk - #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 07s - NOT ATTENDING
05s - Lee/Thong - #5 Audi Hong Kong R8 LMS GT3
07s - Chong/Wong - #89 HubAuto Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR
05s - Yu/Merlin - #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR
07s - Inthraphuvasak/Fong - #20 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3
07s - Kim/Tan - #30 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3
07s - Lee/Yasuoka - #33 HubAuto Racing Porsche 991 GT3R
07s - Yu/Menzel - #91 FIST - Team AAI BMW M6 GT3
07s - Hardeman/Bamber - #98 Arrows Racing Porsche 991 GT3R
07s - Ye/Bridgman - #277 HubAuto Racing Porsche 991 GT3R
Friday 22 September
13:00 - 13:45: Free Practice 1
15:45 - 16:30: Free Practice 2
Saturday 23 September
09:10 - 09:40: Official Practice
12:35 - 12:50: Qualifying 1
13:00 - 13:15: Qualifying 2
16:15 - 17:15: Race 1
Sunday 24 September
13:45 - 14:45: Race 2