> Top Australian team reveals full-season entry with Mercedes-AMG GT3
> His Highness Prince Jefri Ibrahim and Jazeman Jaafar also confirmed
Australia’s most successful team, Triple Eight Race Engineering, will make its Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia debut in 2019 with a Pro-Am crew featuring Shane van Gisbergen, Jazeman Jaafar and Prince Jefri Ibrahim of the Johor Royal Family.
The Brisbane-based squad, which has entered a Mercedes-AMG GT3, is best known for its record-breaking exploits in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship where it has amassed no fewer than eight drivers’ championships, nine teams’ titles, seven Bathurst 1000 wins and 184 race victories since its 2003 debut.
However, its experience also extends to domestic GT racing where it has twice leant expertise to teams competing at the world-famous Bathurst 12 Hour. Triple Eight along with Maranello Motorsport won the event outright in 2017 before finishing fourth in partnership with Scott Taylor Motorsport earlier this year.
Van Gisbergen, who won the 2016 Supercars drivers’ crown with Triple Eight and was also part of its Bathurst line-up in February, joins His Highness Prince Jefri Ibrahim for Blancpain GT Series Asia’s Buriram, Suzuka and Yeongam rounds.
Meanwhile Jaafar, a 2016 European Blancpain GT Series runner-up with Mercedes-AMG and now FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 front-runner, begins the year with the Prince at Sepang before also competing at Fuji and Shanghai’s season finale.
“It’s really exciting that Roland [Dane] and Triple Eight are expanding into Asia and GT racing,” said Van Gisbergen who, coincidentally, pipped Jaafar to 2016’s European Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup crown by a single point. “To be driving alongside Prince Jefri will be really cool, he’s come to Australia for a few of our races and I’ve been over to England with him for driver training, so he’s a good mate.
“Of course, my focus is still going to be fully on our Supercars campaign and making sure I’m giving myself and the team the best opportunity to win races, but it was in 2016 when I won my Supercars title, the Blancpain GT Endurance championship and the Bathurst 12 Hour, so racing as much as possible seems to be the best form of training for me. I feel like I’m at my best when I’m always in the car, so it’s a great opportunity for me to expand my racing in 2019 and have a lot of fun doing it. I think we’ve got a great platform in the Mercedes GT3 car, it seems to be an all-rounder that suits most types of tracks.”
Meanwhile, His Highness – whose own Johor Motorsports Racing team is also involved in the project – is looking forward to racing with a driver of Van Gisbergen’s pedigree.
“I feel very proud and honoured to be part of Triple Eight and their project to expand into Asia,” he said. I’m also very happy with the partnership between Johor Motorsports Racing and Triple Eight, it will be an interesting journey for us. Having Shane onboard as one of the drivers will be an asset for me to learn as much as I can, as he is a very experienced racer and also at the same time we all have a very good relationship between Roland, the team and myself. I will definitely be giving 100 percent.”
Triple Eight’s Managing Director Roland Dane added that Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia presented the ideal opportunity for his team’s first full-season GT campaign.
“GT racing is something I’ve been looking at for a few years now and our two campaigns in the Bathurst 12 Hour have cemented in my mind that it’s something I want Triple Eight to be involved in on a longer-term basis,” he said.
“Asia has always been a special part of the world for me, I’ve enjoyed doing business there for the best part of 30 years, and I’ve kept an eye on Asia’s Blancpain GT championship since its inception in 2017. There’s no doubt the category is going from strength to strength and it presents an opportunity for Triple Eight to broaden our portfolio and give the staff here a chance to build their own motorsport experience, which will hopefully only serve to improve the knowledge base within Supercars.
“Prince Jefri has been a big supporter of Triple Eight and we’re greatly looking forward to working with him, as well as Jazeman and the team at SRO Motorsports Group.”
Triple Eight’s Asia personnel are the same as those overseeing its Dunlop Super2 campaign. The group is spearheaded by Team Manager Andrew Simpson and Race Engineer Romy Mayer.
Triple Eight’s Mercedes-AMG joins Audi, Ferrari, Honda, Lamborghini, McLaren and Porsche on the entry list for the upcoming season, which begins at Sepang in Malaysia on April 6/7.