27 points cover overall contenders Liu, Inthraphuvasak, Ibrahim and Lu
GT3 Teams’, Pro-Am, Am and Fanatec China Cup championships also up for grabs
Four drivers. Two races. One drivers’ champion. 2023’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS campaign concludes this weekend at Sepang where Anthony Liu, Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak, Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim and Lu Wei all remain mathematical title contenders.
27 points cover the championship protagonists, while the top two – Liu and Inthraphuvasak – start just one point apart. And with a maximum 50 up for grabs across the two 60-minute races, the destination of this season’s crown remains very much in the balance.
Fanatec Japan Cup concluded last time out at Okayama, so the bulk of Japanese teams won’t travel to Malaysia. However, Sepang’s entry list still features an impressive 30 cars thanks to several returning and new teams, as well as Fanatec GT Asia debutants.
GT World’s YouTube channel and SRO’s Twitch platform have live coverage of qualifying and both races this Saturday and Sunday, while J Sports will also broadcast the races live across Japan. Malaysian fans can watch online or via Astro and SpoTV.
TITLE FIGHT TOO CLOSE TO CALL
No driver has ever won Fanatec GT Asia’s title with a race to spare. And that stat looks set to remain unchanged at Sepang where Craft-Bamboo’s Liu starts the weekend’s first race with the narrowest of championship advantages.
Indeed, he will need to score a fourth victory of the season and hope Inthraphuvasak finishes no better than 10th to knock the AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing driver out of contention. Race 2’s result might still allow the pair to tie. However, Liu’s greater number of wins would make him champion regardless.
One element that could prove pivotal is Success Penalties. Liu races without a handicap on Saturday while the #911 Porsche has 10 additional seconds during its pitstop after finishing second at Okayama.
Of course, the Chinese driver isn’t just concerned with Inthraphuvasak. Triple Eight JMR were also title contenders last year and line up as an underdog this time around thanks to Ibrahim’s 16-point deficit. He doesn’t necessarily need to beat Liu in Race 1, but doing so would certainly boost the Johor Prince’s title prospects on home soil ahead of Sunday’s potential showdown.
Finishing behind the #37 Mercedes-AMG isn’t something this year’s final title protagonist, Lu, can afford to do on Saturday, though, because his current 27-point deficit is already two more than available for winning. And the R&B driver’s chances are further hindered by the five-second Success Penalty incurred for finishing third in Okayama’s second race.
All four protagonists have raced with multiple co-drivers this season, and it’s the Pro side of each garage that could ultimately decide which Am ultimately takes the title.
Liu has scored two of his three wins alongside Mercedes-AMG ace Dani Juncadella, including one at Okayama in August. And they’re paired together once again for the finale. Inthraphuvasak, meanwhile, has just one victory to his name this year, but it came with Klaus Bachler who is back aboard the 911 this weekend. Mikael Grenier joins Ibrahim for the second round in succession, and Patrick Pilet continues to rotate with fellow Porsche driver Dennis Olsen alongside Lu.
CLASS CHAMPIONSHIPS ALSO UP FOR GRABS
Of the class titles, only Silver has been wrapped up so far after Ling Kang and Cao Qi (Phantom Pro Racing) amassed an unassailable 51-point advantage at Okayama.
Pro-Am is not always won by the overall champion, and that might be the case again in 2023 given that Liu and Inthraphuvasak start level on points, while Ibrahim and Lu aren’t out of contention, either.
But Climax Racing’s Hu Yuqi and Bian Hao start as hot favourites to win the Am title thanks to their 33-point lead over two-time reigning class champions Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter. The Australians must beat their Chinese rivals in Race 1 to have any chance of fully overturning the deficit on Sunday.
Fanatec China Cup is also going down to the wire at Sepang where Sun Jingzu and Franky Cheng start with a 31-point lead over Ling and Cao, while Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli also retain a mathematical chance.
Elsewhere, five entrants can still win the teams’ championship. However, with a maximum 86 points available for twice finishing first and second, the winner is most likely to be one of Absolute Racing, Craft-Bamboo and R&B Racing.
NEW AND RETURNING ENTRIES SWELL THE GRID
This weekend’s 30-strong entry is the largest Fanatec GT Asia has assembled outside of Japan since Chang welcomed the same number in May 2019.
It’s partly thanks to the likes of GH-Team AAI’s BMWs making their first appearances since this year’s opening round, EBM adding a second Porsche, B-Quik Absolute Racing fielding a pair of Audis, and D’station deciding to contest Fanatec GT Asia overseas for the first time.
However, there are also new names to look out for.
Antares Au and Ash Samadi are both racing solo, albeit for Modena Motorsports and Melbourne Performance Centre respectively, while Chinese team Harmony Racing makes its SRO debut with Am pairing Ruihua Wu and Yanbin Xing. These three entries, amongst others, are not eligible to score points.
Fanatec GT Asia has featured many world-class GT drivers this year, and another makes his championship debut in Malaysia where Formula E racer and multiple Macau FIA GT World Cup winner Edoardo Mortara joins Bao Jinlong in Absolute Racing’s second Porsche.
Thursday 21 September
11:00 – 12:55 Official Test 1
16:00 – 17:55 Official Test 2
Friday 22 September
11:30 – 12:30 Official Practice 1
15:45 – 16:45 Official Practice 2
17:05 – 17:35 Bronze Session
Saturday 23 September
10:15 – 10:30 GT3 Qualifying 1
10:37 – 10:52 GT3 Qualifying 2
11:02 – 11:17 GT4 Qualifying 1
11:22 – 11:37 GT4 Qualifying 2
15:45 – 16:45 Race 1
Sunday 24 September
11:15 – 12:15 Race 2
SUCCESS PENALTIES (RACE 1)
15s – Not attending
10s – #911 AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing + #39 Toyota Gazoo Racing Indonesia
05s – #4 R&B Racing
Cars #26, #30, #61, #62, #99 and #222 do not score points.