Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS returns from a two-year break this weekend (May 20-22) in Sepang, where the first round of the 2022 campaign is taking place.
Difficulties with travel associated with many regional measures to combat the coronavirus, did not allow the organizer of the series, SRO Motorsports Group, to hold the championship in 2020 and 2021. But as most countries are now easing their demands to varying degrees, Asia’s only pan-continental GT3 series could return to Malaysia for its traditional lift.
In total, this year’s calendar, which includes four rounds in Japan, 12 hour races, divided into six events – as many as in 2017-19. These trips to Suzuka, Fuji, Suga and Okayama will also count towards the autonomous national “championship in the championship” designed for domestic teams and drivers.
The preliminary list of participants reflects the success of this new format focused on nationality, but also the long-standing challenges of organizing a pan-Asian series after COVID. Eight GT3 cars, fewer than expected, are competing this weekend before the network grows significantly for Suzuka and beyond. Indeed, the list of Fanatec Japan Cup participants, who will also score points for the entire season, remains temporary and is likely to increase before the Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS arrives in the Land of the Rising Sun in July this year.
Seven cars participating in Sepang will also be competing in Japan and on the new Mandalica track in Indonesia, which concludes the campaign in October this year.
These include such as Triple Eight JMR (Mercedes-AMG), Audi Sport Team X Works and AMAC Motorsport (Porsche), all of which had previous experience Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS. The winners of the 12 Hours Bathurst 2019 EBM (Porsche) will debut in the championship alongside Yogibo Racing (Ferrari), a new Japanese team that has strong ties to its internal Super GT series.
Many of the drivers are also experienced campaign participants in Asia. Jazman Jaafar – one of several home favorites this weekend – also teamed up with Triple Eight JMR in 2019, Sean Tong was the Silver Cup champion in the first season of the series as he battled new X Works teammate Sandy Stuvik and Naoki Yokamizo remains one of three Japanese racers who immediately won the race.
Also back is Jeffrey Ibrahim, who is participating in the full season with Triple Eight JMR along with Nick Foster, who finished second in 2018. Next year’s Am class champions Andrew McPherson and Ben Porter will also be in Sepang with AMAC Motorsport’s previous-generation Porsche 911, while Sethivan Santos and Adrian D’Silva are also returning. The last one is with EBM owner and two-time Le Mans winner Earl Bamber, who competed in two Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS races in 2017.
Meanwhile, SRO’s new Fanatec Japan Cup concept has proven popular with domestic racing teams and riders looking to add a series of sprints to their existing Super GT and Super Taikyu programs without the need for international travel.
15 applications, each of which must include two Japanese drivers or JAF license holders, are currently validated in GT3 and GT4 classes, while two more cars that are not eligible for Fanatec Japan Cup points are also joining the network starting with Suzuka.
The GT3 contingent includes several high-profile names, including rivals FIA WEC D’Station Racing (Aston Martin), Super GT B-Max (Lamborghini), CarGuy (Ferrari) and LM Corsa (Ferrari), as well as Team Find out who is in the new M4 from BMW.
Two former competitors of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS, ABSSA (McLaren) and Porsche Center Okazaki, are also returning, while Comet’s Honda adds more variety. McMaren team Uematsu completes the original GT3 list.
Six GT4 records have also been confirmed so far. Comet Racing took part in both classes, and two more sets of Mercedes-AMG join it: Team GMB and Team Scala. There are also McLaren for CREF Motorsport, as well as a pair of Toyotas run by Akiland Racing and Koshido Racing.
True Visions Motorsport Thailand and GTO Racing will fight Suzuka, Fuji, Sugo and Okayama, although their current combinations of riders are not eligible for Fanatec Japan Cup points.
Each race requires a mandatory change of rider between 25 and 35 minutes. The top three finishers will receive an additional penalty of 15, 10 or five seconds during the pit stop of the next race.
All 12 of this year’s 60-minute races are broadcast live on YouTube’s GT World SRO platform.
SEPANG SCHEDULE (GMT +8)
Thursday, May 19th
12:00 – 13:55: Test 1
16:00 – 17:55: Test 2
Friday, May 20th
11:00 – 12:00: free exercises
15:30 – 17:00: Official practice and 30 minutes Bronze test
Saturday, May 21st
11:27 – 11:42: 1st qualification
11:49 – 12:04: 2nd qualification
15:15 – 16:15: 1 race
Sunday, May 22nd
12:00 – 13:00: 2nd race
Source. SRO Motorsports Group