Capacity entry to kick off GT World Challenge Asia 2024 at Sepang

Capacity entry to kick off GT World Challenge Asia 2024 at Sepang

Reigning champion, past protagonists and new hopefuls amongst Asia’s biggest GT3 grid

 

A new season of Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS blasts into action this weekend when 33 supercars tackle two 60-minute races at Sepang in Malaysia.

 

The championship was last there in September when the former grand prix venue hosted 2023’s title showdown. Then, Anthony Liu saw off a spirited against-the-odds challenge from home favourite Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim, as well as fellow contenders Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Lu Wei, to clinch the crown on a dramatic final day.

 

Now, those four drivers are back to do it all over again.

Regulation changes over the winter have seen Fanatec GT Asia switch to a GT3-only format for the first time, as per the other three World Challenge continents. GT4 cars will instead contest the Japan Cup, which begins on June 5-7 at Sugo.

 

But all eyes are solely on Sepang this weekend where a 33-strong entry list features 23 teams and eight manufacturers. There are also 12 pairings eligible to score Silver-Am points – a new classification that has proven instantly popular with amateurs and young, aspiring professionals. 

 

Remarkably, that number matches Pro-Am’s total. The class is stacked full of established Asian professionals and international factory stars who will collectively contend for overall wins with the five Silver crews. Four more Am line-ups complete the 33-strong full-season list.

 

In terms of sheer size, only Fanatec GT Europe’s Endurance and Sprint Cup series currently feature more GT3 entries than Asia, which has now fully recovered from the initial post-pandemic decline. Indeed, even more will compete at Fuji where 50+ supercars are expected across the four Fanatec GT Asia and Japan Cup races.


FAMILIAR FACES AND NEW NAMES
Of last year’s title protagonists, two remain in familiar surroundings. Runner-up Ibrahim returns with Triple Eight JMR but is now joined by Mercedes-AMG Junior Jordan Love, while Lu continues with Origine Motorsport – the new name for R&B Racing – alongside Porsche ace but series debutant Laurin Heinrich.

 

Liu is also in a 911 this year after swapping from Craft-Bamboo to Absolute Racing where he partners Asia’s go-to European and Porsche driver, Alessio Picarrielo. The latter’s numerous commitments often prevent him from contesting a full season, but this time he’s locked in for the year and – given previous performances – one to watch.

 

Inthraphuvasak, meanwhile, has switched across to AAS Phantom Global Racing where another of Stuttgart’s young talents, Bastian Buus, has a ticket to drive. The Dane was crowned Porsche Supercup champion at just 19 last season before his Bathurst 12 Hour debut – incidentally with Phantom – impressed many earlier this year.

 

But there are plenty more combinations ready to rock the established order.

Mercedes-AMG driver Fabian Schiller was a winner first time with Liu last year and is back in one of Craft-Bamboo’s two entries alongside Jeffrey Lee, although the Pro element of that line-up will change as the season progresses. On the other side of the garage is Daniel Morad, a driver less lauded than his factory contemporaries but just as capable in Mercedes-AMG machinery. 

 

There’s also Ralf Aron, who joined the Mercedes-AMG roster last year and now links up with Wayne Wang at Climax Racing.

 

Italian squad VSR has also returned en masse, albeit after a shorter time away, and has factory talent up its sleeve in the shape of Asia’s 2018 Pro-Am champion Marco Mapelli. He and Mike Zhou – who showed promise with Climax last year – should be near the sharp end.

 

Audi has wheeled out one of its big guns, Markus Winkelhock, to help Absolute Racing’s cause. But it’s the team’s Silver entry of Akash Nandy and James Yu that could steal the headlines for Ingolstadt. Yu won twice overall last year to establish himself as one of the series’ top young talents, while Nandy showed promise on his sole appearance.

 

None of the four new Ferrari 296s can boast a factory driver, but the Silver and Silver-Am pairings should have enough talent to trouble the front runners. Absolute Corse’s combination of Andre Canard and Finn Gehrsitz is possibly the pick of this year’s Prancing Horses.

 

The sole BMW is fielded by Team KRC, which has Jono Lester amongst its ranks, while race winners D’station, Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii have the new Aston Martin at their disposal. And there’s even more variety thanks to another Japanese outfit, Team 5ZIGEN, which fields the evergreen and ever-popular Nissan GT-R.

 

Elsewhere, Setiawan Santoso will contest the Am category solo for EBM, which has switched from a 911 to new Vantage. His class rivals include Garage 75’s David Tjiptobiantoro and Christian Colombo who have a Ferrari 296, perennial contenders Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter (AMAC Motorsport), and former Pro-Am champion Hiroshi Hamaguchi who partners Mineki Okura in a Spirit of FFF Racing Audi run by Hitotsuyama Racing.

 

Finally, Vollgas Motorsports becomes the first Korean team to contest Fanatec GT Asia since Indigo Racing in 2019. Its driver, MG Choi, clinched the title that season.


SEPANG TIMETABLE
Thursday
13:00 – 14:55: Test 1
16:00 – 17:55: Test 2

Friday
12:00 – 13:00: Official Practice 1
15:30 – 16:30: Official Practice 2
16:40 – 17:10: Bronze Test

Saturday
10:30 – 10:45: Qualifying 1
10:52 – 11:07: Qualifying 2
14:45 – 15:45: Race 1

Sunday
11:30 – 12:30: Race 2


Related Motorsport Articles

84,627 articles