First of two Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS events in as many weeks
Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS heads to Suzuka this weekend for rounds five and six of the regular season, three and four of the Fanatec Japan Cup, and the first event of a Honda Mobilityland double header in the space of two weeks.
The first pair of 60-minute races precede the championship’s maiden event at MotoGP stalwart Motegi, which is managed by the same company as its illustrious figure-of-eight counterpart located some 400 kilometres due south-west.
37 cars are scheduled to attend this weekend’s event, which last year produced arguably the most extraordinary result in series history when Yusuke Yamasaki and Yorikatsu Tsujiko became the first Am/Am pairing to win a race outright. Comet Racing’s duo are back on the grid again this season and eager to pull off another giant-killing act.
Qualifying and both races are live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel, while J Sports has the latter live on Saturday afternoon and Sunday lunchtime.
FRESH FACES IN FAST CARS
Just one point separates the leading contenders thanks to Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim and Luca Stolz’s unexpected win in the second of Fuji’s two races.
Triple Eight JMR’s #88 Mercedes-AMG has collected points in just two of the four races held so far. But both of those results have been wins, which leaves its crew right behind the more consistent but also victory-less AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing Porsche shared by Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Alessio Picariello.
The duo had been expertly navigating Fanatec GT Asia’s success penalty system that’s designed to handicap the fastest crews, and were on course for another rostrum – and possibly even a win – in Race 2 until Inthraphuvasak spun just after the pitstops. Those lost points at least leaves #911 penalty-less this Saturday when Ibrahim and Stolz must serve the full 10 seconds.
Picariello’s other commitments require a change of personnel at AAS where one of Porsche’s most dependable GT drivers, Klaus Bachler, joins Inthraphuvasak.
The car in third overall, R&B Racing’s #4 Porsche, also has a new name above the door this weekend. Clashing programmes see Dennis Olsen make way for his Porsche factory colleague Patrick Pilet, who joins the impressive Lu Wei. He and Olsen collected two third places at Fuji – the best combination of any crew there – and now lie 11 points behind championship leaders Inthraphuvasak/Picariello.
Those results, as well as a fourth place for the sister car shared by Bo Yuan and Leo Ye Hongli, have also helped R&B Racing open up a small advantage over Absolute Racing, Triple Eight JMR and Craft-Bamboo in the early teams’ championship standings.
Anthony Liu is a little further back but has shown enough pace alongside Fabian Schiller and Daniel Juncadella to suggest he more than remains a victory and title contender. Indeed, Juncadella – who is back in the Pro seat this weekend – led Fuji’s second race from pole before being nerfed into retirement.
Bo/Ye are right behind in the overall standings and second in the Fanatec China Cup classification, which is shaping up to be especially competitive in its first season.
Sun Jingzu and Cheng Congfu top the table thanks to their consistency, while Bo/Yuan are just a point ahead of their Silver class rivals Ling Kang and Cao Qi. Hu Yuqi and Bian Hao complete the standings.
Elsewhere, former Super Formula and current Super GT driver Atsushi Miyake joins historic racing ace Katsuaki Kubota in CREF Motor Sport’s McLaren, while Broc Feeney returns to Triple Eight JMR’s second Mercedes-AMG following his Supercars clash at Fuji.
FANATEC JAPAN CUP
The European Le Mans Series clash prevents reigning champions and early Fanatec Japan Cup leaders Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino from racing this weekend. CarGuy’s crew will return at Motegi by which time its domestic rivals could have stolen a march on the new Ferrari.
However, despite CarGuy’s early lead Fuji’s class wins were actually shared by Bingo Racing and Plus with BMW Team Studie, while D’station Racing was denied overall and Fanatec Japan Cup victories in the post-race stewards office. The Corvette is absent this weekend – it was only ever scheduled to contest Fuji – which leaves Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii, and Tomohide Yamaguchi and Seiji Ara as the obvious candidates to take advantage of CarGuy’s absence.
The Aston Martin starts just two points behind the Ferrari, which is a further three points clear of the BMW.
Variety at the top of the Fanatec Japan Cup standings continues with Porsche Center Okazaki whose familiar duo of Hiroaki Nagai and Yuta Kamimura lie fourth.
The GT4 class is also tight but has arguably the fastest entry propping up the points table after Race 1 winners Masaki Kano and Manabu Orido – who also clinched both pole positions – failed to finish the second.
Instead, it’s Checkshop Caymania’s Naohiko Otsuka and Sho Kobayashi who lead the way courtesy of third and first place finishes. The Am/Am class Porsche is 15 points ahead of the YZ RACING with BMW Team Studie M4 in fourth place, which will not serve a success penalty in the opening race on Saturday.
Those are reserved for Checkshop Caymania, plus the Toyotas of Akiland and K-Tunes which finished second and third in Fuji’s second race.
Thursday 13 July
10:00 – 12:00: Test #1
14:30 – 16:30: Test #2
Friday 14 July
12:35 – 13:35: Official Practice 1
15:20 – 16:20: Official Practice 2
16:20 – 16:50: Bronze Test
Saturday 15 July
09:05 – 09:20: GT4 Qualifying 1
09:27 – 09:42: GT4 Qualifying 2
09:52 – 10:07: GT3 Qualifying 1
10:14 – 10:29: GT3 Qualifying 2
14:20 – 15:20: Race 1
Sunday 16 July
11:30 – 12:30: Race 2
SUCCESS PENALTIES (RACE 1)
15s – #88 Triple Eight JMR + #718 Checkshop Caymania
10s – #8 EBM + #71 Akiland Racing
05s – #4 R&B Racing + #97 K-Tunes Racing