Fuji Speedway is all set to welcome a record-breaking Blancpain GT Series Asia entry next weekend (August 19/20) as the inaugural campaign begins the second half of its 2017 season.
Following events at Sepang, Buriram and Suzuka, 28 GT3 and six more GT4 supercars travel to the foot of Mount Fuji for another two 60-minute races. Among them will be entries from Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche which, together, total four more cars than the 30 that contested this year’s opening event in Malaysia.
At the front all eyes will be on GruppeM’s championship leader Hunter Abbott who enjoys an eight-point advantage over Audi Hong Kong duo Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong. OD Racing’s Mitch Gilbert and Aditya Patel are also in title contention despite the spectacular tyre blow-out that cost them a likely victory during the previous round at Suzuka.
GT4 is even closer with just six points separating the first three crews. EKS Motorsports’ Eric Lo and Byron Tong top the table for now but have Taiwan Top Speed’s Keo Chang plus Craft-Bamboo Racing duo Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin right behind them.
The GT4 class has been exclusively contested by Porsches so far this season, but that all changes at Fuji where Clearwater Racing debut their brand-new McLaren 570S. It will be the first time that the car has raced in Japan while the Singapore outfit and its driver Richard Wee make their championship return after contesting 2017’s opening round at Sepang. The line-up is completed by Mok Weng Sun who, although new to Blancpain GT Series Asia, is a three-time GT Asia champion and former Asian Le Mans Series title winner who currently competes with Clearwater in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Several home-grown teams and drivers will also be fighting for top honours on home soil. Blancpain GT Series Asia’s only full-season Japanese driver crew of Naoto Takeda and Takuya Shirasaka currently lead the GT3 Am Cup standings, and they’re joined on Fuji’s grid by the likes of 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Seiji Ara and former Super GT300 champion Shinichi Takagi.
Elsewhere, Super Taikyu outfits ARN Racing, CarGuy Racing and D’station Racing return for their second Blancpain GT Series Asia outing of the year after all three contested the previous round at Suzuka, while the likes of Porsche Team EBI and Saccess Racing will also be making their championship debuts.
Indeed, Blancpain GT Series Asia’s second event in Japan has proven even more popular amongst local teams and drivers than the first, which was held at Suzuka in June. 13 drivers hail from the Land of the Rising Sun, the joint most of any nation along with Hong Kong competing next weekend.
Fuji also welcomes back Blancpain GT Series Asia’s Sepang race winners Anthony Liu and Davide Rizzo, whose BBT squad has switched from Ferrari to Audi since missing Suzuka, while two FIST - Team AAI BMWs also return for the first time since their scheduled one-off appearance in Malaysia. Both of the squad’s driver crews look strong, with Super GT co-drivers Sean Walkinshaw and Takagi - who together won last weekend’s GT300 race at Fuji aboard an M6 GT3 - split between Jesse Krohn and Jun San Chen, respectively.
Elsewhere, Buriram race winners Rino Mastronardi and Rui Aguas have been reunited in Spirit of Race’s #38 Ferrari, Martin Kodric returns to drive VSR’s Lamborghini alongside Sandy Stuvik, and CMRT’s Aston Martin resumes its Am Cup title chase in the hands of regular co-drivers James Cai and Kenneth Lim.
In GT4, the championship-chasing Keo Chang is rejoined by Jeremy Wang who missed Suzuka, and Eric Zang makes his series debut alongside Ringo Chong in HubAuto Racing’s Porsche.
Both of Fuji’s races will be streamed live on Blancpain GT Series Asia’s Facebook page and website, on SRO’s GT World Youtube channel, and broadcast live across Asia via Fox Sports. Check local listings for details.
10s - Abbott/Buhk - #999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
07s - Stuvik/Kodric - #66 Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3
05s - Lee/Picariello - #7 J-Fly by Absolute Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3
10s - Wang/Chang - #17 Taiwan Top Speed Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR
07s - Lo/Tong - #10 EKS Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR
05s - Tse/Fong - #11 TTR Team SARD Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR
Friday 18 August
13:00 - 13:45: Free Practice 1
15:45 - 16:30: Free Practice 2
Saturday 19 August
08:40 - 09:10: Official Practice
11:35 - 11:50: Qualifying 1
12:00 - 12:15: Qualifying 2
15:35 - 16:35: Race 1
Sunday 20 August
14:25 - 15:25: Race 2