Coming off a mixed season which included victory in just their third event in the Asian region’s leading GT category, the team battled the intense heat and humidity last month during the Sepang 3-Hour without any great reward for their early practice pace, but for Shanghai – a circuit that many of their team know intimately – they are expecting a return to form.
Prior commitments will keep Andrea Caldarelli from rejoining the three-car McLaren 650S GT3 outfit, which has again seen a driver shuffle with the return of Fu Songyang [Sean Fu] to the #5 car, whilst the team will also be buoyed by the arrival of Portugese McLaren factory star Alvaro Parente.
“Unfortunately I have a prior commitment that keeps me from rejoining the team, but we have shuffled the driver lineup, and Tonio [Liuzzi] will jump from the #55 into my seat alongside Sean, whilst Alvaro will take his place alongside Hiroshi,” Caldarelli explained.
The final of the three FFF entries will once more be filled by the Australian pairing of Nathan Antunes and Rod Salmon, who have been in the seat of the #15 car since Fuji.
The pair are locked in a battle for the 2015 Australian GT crown, with Antunes fighting Nurburgring 24-Hour star Christopher Mies for the title in the car owned by two-time Bathurst 12-Hour champion Salmon.
“We had a tough run last time out at Sepang with a fuel pressure issue which kept us from showing our true pace, but we’re coming to grips with the McLaren now, and without the heat of Malaysia, and being back to two sprint races, I think we have a great opportunity to show how quick we can be,” Antunes admitted.
With China settling into Autumn, conditions are expected to be much better suited to the twin-turbo 3.8-litre McLaren V8 powered 650S. 12-months ago Hiroshi Hamaguchi was one of the early pace setters at Shanghai in practice in his McLaren MP4-12C, something he hopes to emulate again this weekend.
Shanghai also showed great reward in 2014 for drivers with local knowledge, something Hamaguchi and the team will be looking to emulate, and with all three cars back to their pristine best after Sepang where they suffered a litany of minor issues including an electrical gearbox failure for early pace-setters Liuzzi and Hamaguchi, the expectation from the team this weekend is high.
They will also be buoyed by news that McLaren claimed victory in the Nurburgring round of the Blancpain Endurance Series last weekend, with Hamaguchi’s 2014 team-mate Rob Bell behind the wheel, whilst Parente – a former British F3 champion – was an innocent party in an incident which eliminated his team mid-race whilst running with the leaders.
All the action will be played out online this weekend, with updates on Facebook, featuring images and video each day. The event will also be available to view either live, or delayed, however all details will be available via; www.facebook.com/fffracingteambyacm
2015 GT Asia Series – Championship Points
GT3 (after round seven of 11)
1. Adderly Fong/Keita Sawa (95-points), 2. Anthony Liu/Davide Rizzo (93), 3. Darryl O’Young (91), 4. Piti Bhirom Bhakdi (70), 5. Jonathan Venter (63), ?6. Mok Weng Sun (61), 7. Carlo Van Dam (60), 8. Jacky Yeung/Duncan Tappy (52), 9. Richard Wee (51), 10. Richard Lyons/Frank Yu (42), 12. Hiroshi Hamaguchi/Vitantonio Liuzzi (38), 15. Sean Fu (25), 17. Andrea Caldarelli (17), 22. Andre Couto (8), 23. Rod Salmon/Nathan Antunes (7)
Event#05 2015 GT Asia Series?
Shanghai International Circuit, China
Times (CST – GMT +8)??
Friday, 25 September ?
08:30 – Practice #1 (45-minutes)
10:45 – Practice #2 (45-minutes)
14:20 – Qualifying #1 (15-minutes)
14:45 – Qualifying #2 (15-minutes)
Saturday, 26 September ?
12:00 – Race#1 (60-minutes)
Sunday, 27 September ?
16:45 – Race#2 (60-minutes)
2015 GT Asia Series – calendar
Rnd#1/#2, 15-17 May – Korea International Circuit (South Korea)
Rnd#3/#4, 26-28 June – Okayama International Circuit (Japan)
Rnd#5/#6, 17-19 July – Fuji International Speedway (Japan)
Rnd#7, 4-6 September – Sepang International Circuit (Malaysia) – 3-Hour
Rnd#8/#9, 25-27 September – Shanghai International Circuit (China)
Rnd#10/#11, 23-25 October – Buriram International Circuit (Thailand)
NON-CHAMP, 20-22 November – Guia Circuit, Macau (MGP)
The FFF Racing team by ACM is proudly supported by Epicuro, FrontiArt, Alpinestars and Info Agency.
About FFF Racing Team by ACM; FFF Automobile is a global leader in the Chinese Automotive market and is managed by Fu Songyang. The other – ACM – is owned by Andrea Caldarelli. The Italian, a world-renowned racer, has successfully competed in Asia and Europe in a career that has ranged from single-seaters to GT cars.