This year marks the return of FIA racing to the streets of Macau for the first time since 2019 and, therefore, the first edition of the FIA GT World Cup in four years.
All five winners of the event held between 2015 and 2019 are due to battle for their second FIA GT World Cup glory, along with a star-studded line-up of some of the world’s best closed-roof specialists, each seeking to triumph on the 6.120-kilometre circuit.
This year’s edition of the FIA GT World Cup will host a grid of 21 cars, with machinery from five different manufacturers and a total of 12 Platinum-ranked drivers, making it arguably the strongest field since the event first ran in 2015.
Headlining the entry list and Mercedes-Benz’s fleet of AMG GT3s is the most recent FIA GT World Cup winner, Raffaele Marciello. The 28-year-old is one of the most decorated and formidable GT3 racers of his era, who – in addition to his 2019 Macau triumph – won two GT World Challenge Europe crowns, as well as Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup and ADAC GT Masters titles. On top of this, prior to making GT racing the focus of his career, Marciello also clinched the FIA Formula 3 European Championship in 2013.
Seeking his second triumph on the streets of Macau, and first with a roof over his head, will be Mercedes’ GT regular, and 2011 Formula 3 winner, Daniel Juncadella.
Another vastly experienced racer from Mercedes’ stable who should be in the mix is the winner of the inaugural FIA GT World Cup, Maro Engel, whose relationship with the three-pointed star dates back to his Formula 3 stint in the mid-2000s and includes spells in some of the world’s most competitive closed-roof series such as DTM and Australia’s Supercars Championship.
Jules Gounon will be making his Macau debut, but the Andorra-based Frenchman is a force to be reckoned with behind the wheel of a GT car. His resume includes a hat-trick of Bathurst 12 Hours victories, an ADAC GT Masters title as well as two GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup titles in a row.
Seeking its revenge in Macau is BMW, with a pair of M4 GT3s. One car will be operated by Rowe Racing and the other by Team WRT. Both BMW and WRT have been victorious in Macau in the past, but on different occasions. BMW won in 2018 with Augusto Farfus, while Team WRT triumphed in the memorable 2016 edition but running an Audi and with current Porsche racer Laurens Vanhtoor behind the wheel.
The Brazilian was triumphant in the 2018 FIA GT World Cup, taking a win for BMW in a Schnitzer Motorsport-operated M6 GT3. The 2022 DTM champion Sheldon van der Linde will be making his Macau debut driving the Team WRT entry.
Audi’s hopes of winning its second FIA GT World Cup will rest on start driver Eduardo Mortara. The 36-year-old is considered a Macau specialist, having won at the Guia Circuit an impressive seven times, taking back-to-back victories in Formula 3 in 2009 and ’10, and winning the 2017 FIA GT World Cup for Mercedes. He also scored a hat-trick of GT Cup victories from 2011 to 2013 for Audi, before the event earned FIA World Cup status, and won in the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup support race. Now back with Audi, the Swiss racer will be seeking yet another Macau triumph.
Porsche is set to challenge for its maiden FIA GT World Cup victory with a fleet of seven cars. The manufacturer’s challenge will be headlined by a pair of its FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar class star drivers, 2016 FIA GT World Cup winner Laurens Vanthoor, as well as FIA WEC LMGTE Pro champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Kévin Estre.
Another WEC Hypercar regular, although representing Cadillac in the series, who is set to drive a Porsche in Macau is Earl Bamber. The two-time Le Mans winner will be making his fifth FIA GT World Cup appearance for Porsche, on this occasion driving a car operated by his eponymous Earl Bamber Motorsport outfit, although entered under a D2 Racing Team banner. The New Zealander came third in 2019 but has tasted Macau victory having won a Porsche Carrera Cup Asia race back in 2013, passing rally legend Sébastien Loeb on his way to win.
Porsche’s line-up will be completed by FIA WEC regular and Nürburgring 24 Hours winner Matteo Cairoli as well as Gold-ranked drivers Thomas Preining (this year’s DTM champion, 2018 Porsche Carrera Cup Germany title winner) and Alessio Picariello (European Le Mans Series GTE class title winner and FIA WEC regular), with the latter of the two making his second FIA GT World Cup outing, having competed in a Mercedes in 2019.
Ferrari will challenge for victory with its new 296 GT3, aiming for the first FIA GT World Cup triumph for a non-German manufacturer. The prancing horse’s effort will be led by its stalwart factory driver and two-time Le Mans class winner Daniel Serra, whose career highlights also include a hat-trick of titles in his domestic, but very competitive, Stock Car Brasil series.
The FIA GT World Cup takes place from November 16-19 with two 30-minute practice sessions followed by a single qualifying session of the same duration. Racing action will be held across two heats, with a 12-lap qualifying race followed by a 16-lap title-deciding main race. – www.fia.com