Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS returns from a two-year hiatus this weekend (May 20-22) at Sepang, which hosts the opening round of 2022’s campaign.
Travel complications arising from myriad regional coronavirus measures prevented series organiser, SRO Motorsports Group, from staging the championship in 2020 and ’21. But with most countries now relaxing their requirements to varying degrees, Asia’s only pan-continental GT3 series can return to Malaysia for its traditional curtain raiser.
A total of 12 one-hour races split across six events – the same numbers as in 2017-19 – make up this year’s calendar, which includes four rounds in Japan. These outings at Suzuka, Fuji, Sugo and Okayama will also count towards a standalone national ‘championship within a championship’ reserved for domestic teams and drivers.
The provisional entry list reflects the success of this new national-focused format but also the lingering challenges of organising a pan-Asia series post-covid. Eight GT3 cars, fewer than hoped for, compete this weekend before the grid swells considerably for Suzuka and beyond. Indeed, the list of Fanatec Japan Cup-registered entrants – which will also score full-season points – remains provisional and is likely to increase before Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS arrives in the Land of the Rising Sun this July.
Seven of the cars contesting Sepang will also compete in Japan and at Indonesia’s new Mandalika circuit, which closes out the campaign this October.
They include the likes of Triple Eight JMR (Mercedes-AMG), Audi Sport Team X Works and AMAC Motorsport (Porsche), all of whom have previous Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS experience. 2019 Bathurst 12 Hour winners EBM (Porsche) make their championship debut along with Yogibo Racing (Ferrari), a new Japanese team that has strong links to its domestic Super GT series.
Many of the drivers are also seasoned campaigners in Asia. Jazeman Jaafar – one of several home favourites this weekend – also teamed up with Triple Eight JMR in 2019, Shaun Thong was Silver Cup champion in the series’ inaugural season when he raced against new X Works team-mate Sandy Stuvik, and Naoki Yokomizo remains one of only three Japanese drivers to win a race outright.
There’s also the returning Jefri Ibrahim who contests the full season with Triple Eight JMR alongside 2018 overall runner-up Nick Foster. The following year’s Am class champions Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter are also at Sepang with AMAC Motorsport’s previous generation Porsche 911, while the likes of Setiawan Santoso and Adrian D’Silva also return. The latter makes a one-off appearance with EBM owner and two-time Le Mans winner Earl Bamber who contested 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 race teams and drivers eager to add a sprint series to their existing Super GT and Super Taikyu programmes without the need for international travel.
15 entries, which must each feature two Japanese drivers or JAF license holders, are currently confirmed across the GT3 and GT4 classes, while two more cars ineligible for Fanatec Japan Cup points also join the grid from Suzuka onwards.
GT3’s contingent includes several high-profile names, including the likes of FIA WEC competitors D’Station Racing (Aston Martin), Super GT stalwarts B-Max (Lamborghini), CarGuy (Ferrari) and LM Corsa (Ferrari), as well as Team Studie who are entering BMW’s new M4.
Two former Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS competitors, ABSSA (McLaren) and Porsche Center Okazaki, also return, while Comet’s Honda adds further variety. Team Uematsu’s McLaren completes the initial GT3 list.
Six GT4 entries are also confirmed thus far. Comet Racing has committed to both classes and is joined by two more Mercedes-AMG outfits: Team GMB and Team Scala. There’s also a 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 contest Suzuka, Fuji, Sugo and Okayama, although their current driver combinations are ineligible for Fanatec Japan Cup points.
Every race features a mandatory driver change between minutes 25 and 35. The top-three finishers will then serve an additional 15, 10 or five-second Success Penalty during the following race’s pitstop.
All 12 of this year’s 60-minute races are streamed live on SRO’s GT World YouTube platform.
SEPANG TIMETABLE (GMT +8)
Thursday 19 May
12:00 – 13:55: Test 1
16:00 – 17:55: Test 2
Friday 20 May
11:00 – 12:00: Free Practice
15:30 – 17:00: Official Practice & 30min Bronze Test
Saturday 21 May
11:27 – 11:42: Qualifying 1
11:49 – 12:04: Qualifying 2
15:15 – 16:15: Race 1
Sunday 22 May
12:00 – 13:00: Race 2
Source. SRO Motorsports Group