In part two of this year’s FIA GT World Cup manufacturer focus FIA.com looks at the efforts of a trio of German manufacturers – BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche – as they gear up for the 70th Macau Grand Prix weekend.
Their line-ups are rich in talent and achievement throughout and include the likes of FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar-class regulars, an outright two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, a freshly crowned DTM champion as well as several FIA GT World Cup winners, the most recent one included.
PORSCHE GOING ALL IN AS SEVEN-CAR EFFORT TARGETS MAIDEN WIN
Out of these three brands, Porsche is the only one yet to have the FIA GT World Cup in its trophy cabinet and is set to challenge for its maiden victory with a fleet of seven cars, the most of any manufacturer in this year’s edition.
Its effort will be headlined by a pair of its FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar class 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, who will drive HubAuto Racing and TORO Racing entries respectively.
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 the 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 first place.
Porsche’s line-up will be completed by another FIA WEC regular and Nürburgring 24 Hours winner, Matteo Cairoli, as well as this year’s DTM champion and 2018 Porsche Carrera Cup Germany winner Thomas Preining. European Le Mans Series GTE class title winner and yet another FIA WEC regular, Alessio Picariello, will also count on Porsche power.
“I’m excited. I have a lot of respect for the track. I’ve never been there and racing in such an iconic surrounding will be a great experience,” says Austrian Preining, who recently sampled the Porsche 963 LMDh prototype in the official post-season FIA WEC Rookie Test in Bahrain.
But despite being one of the most highly-rated young guns from Porsche’s stable, the man himself has rather modest ambitions ahead of his Guia Circuit debut. “It will be about learning the track and adjusting as fast as possible. I don’t go there with the aim or the ambition to win. I go there with the ambition to learn a lot and extract the maximum,” says the 25-year-old, who has street racing experience from Monaco and the Norisring.
The final car from Porsche on the grid will be the R&B Racing entry of Chinese racer Leo Hongli Ye.
BMW TO SEEK REVENGE WITH ITS M4 SET FOR MACAU DEBUT
Seeking its revenge in Macau is BMW, with a pair of M4 GT3s. The car had its race debut in the Dubai 24 Hour race last year and it will be its first time in action on Macau’s 6.276-kilometre track layout.
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 ran an Audi and with current Porsche racer Laurens Vanhtoor behind the wheel.
Brazilian Farfus was triumphant in the 2018 FIA GT World Cup, taking a popular win for BMW in a Schnitzer Motorsport-operated M6 GT3, with long-time team boss Charly Lamm, who passed away only two months later, getting a fairytale send-off after 40 years with the team.
“How can you go to Macau, to the biggest sprint GT racing on the planet, and not set yourself for the victory?” questions the Brazilian.
“It is the first time for us with the new car. We need to be realistic, we need to learn, but definitely, our target is to go there and then fight for the victory,” he reassures.
“The M4, is a completely new car in all aspects, from the engine, the gearbox, all the geometries, and the dimension of the car. We’ll have to be very smart as the track evolves a lot over the course of the weekend, but we are up to the challenge,” concludes the 40-year-old, who this season has been juggling driving the M4 in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with the M Hybrid V8 LMDh prototype in the GTP class of IMSA SportsCar Championship.
The 2022 DTM champion, Sheldon van der Linde, will be making his Macau debut driving the Team WRT entry.
THREE-POINTED STAR READY TO DEFEND THE WORLD CUP
Headlining Mercedes’ fleet of four 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. In addition to his 2019 Macau triumph – Marciello 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, also with Mercedes power, he clinched the FIA Formula 3 European Championship in 2013.
“The race is one of the best races all over the world. It is an honour to start there and I am looking forward to defending my title,” said the 28-year-old.
“It is very special to go there as the event is run as the FIA GT World Cup again. Macau will be amazing this year and I am happy that I get the chance from Mercedes-AMG to go there,” he concluded.
Seeking his second triumph on the streets of Macau, and first with a roof over his head, will be another Mercedes’ GT regular and 2011 Formula 3 winner, Daniel Juncadella.
A further vastly experienced racer from the manufacturer who should be in the mix is the winner of the inaugural FIA GT World Cup, Maro Engel. His relationship with the brand 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 résumé 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.
The FIA GT World Cup gets underway on Thursday, November 16, with two 30-minute free practice sessions. A single qualifying session of the same duration follows on Friday to set the grid for Saturday’s 12-lap Qualification Race at 15:50 local time. The 16-lap FIA GT World Cup starts at 12:05 on Sunday (all times UTC+08:00). – www.fia.com