> 40 cars and 12 GT3 manufacturers confirmed for Rounds 3 and 4
> Provisional entry list: Fuji International Speedway
A championship record 40-car entry assembles at Fuji International Speedway this weekend for Rounds 3 and 4 of 2023’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS campaign and season opening Fanatec Japan Cup event.
The overall number comfortably tops the series’ previous best of 34 cars, which also raced at Fuji in 2017, while 36 GT3s is believed to be a joint record for any race in Japan. The same number contested 2019’s Suzuka 10 Hours.
That number also includes 12 of the 13 manufacturers with currently homologated GT3 models. Only Bentley is missing from a list comprising Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Honda, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG, Nissan and Porsche.
Not since 2018’s Total 24 Hours of Spa has an SRO Motorsports Group grid featured such variety.
Two Toyota GT4 entries takes the total number of manufacturers to 13 – another championship record.
SRO’s GT World YouTube channel has live qualifying and race coverage this Saturday and Sunday, while both 60-minute races are also live across Japan on J Sports, in Southeast Asia via SpoTV and on China’s major streaming platforms Huya, QQ, Douyu, Iqiyi and Billibilli.
JAPANESE STARS JOIN THE PARTY
20 of the 25 entries that contested Fanatec GT Asia’s Thai season opener now travel to Fuji where some of Japan’s best GT teams and drivers are making their first appearances of the year. All can score points counting towards their overall GT3 or GT4 championships, while exactly half are also eligible for the Fanatec Japan Cup and four more contest the Fanatec China Cup.
Two podiums at Chang see AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Alessio Picariello top the early drivers’ standings from Chang’s race winners Anthony Liu and Fabian Schiller (Craft-Bamboo Racing), and Prince Abu Ibrahim and Luca Stolz (Triple Eight JMR), who are separated by a point in second and third.
All three cars are likely to be contenders again this weekend despite the GT3 class featuring 17 local entries eager to make home advantage count. 16 of them are eligible for the Fanatec Japan Cup.
Chief among them are reigning Fanatec GT Asia and Japan Cup champions Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino who have swapped their title-winning Ferrari 488 for a new 296 GT3. The duo claimed both pole positions, a victory and third place finish at Fuji last season, which contributed significantly to their championship success.
They renew their rivalry with Triple Eight JMR and Prince Jefri Ibrahim, who won Fuji’s second race last season, and prominent Japanese teams such as Plus with BMW Team Studie, ABSSA Motorsport, Porsche Center Okazaki, and two-time race winners D’station Racing.
Reigning Silver class champion Naoki Yokomizo is also back, albeit with a new team and co-driver. Piti Bhirombhakdi is no stranger to Fanatec GT Asia, but the team – Maezawa Racing – is brand new. It is owned by one of Japan’s most recognisable entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Yusaku Maezawa.
KCMG is not eligible for the Fanatec Japan Cup but its Honda, shared by team owner Paul Ip and Edoardo Liberati, makes its first appearance of the year at Fuji.
The NSX is one of four GT3 models helping to swell the manufacturer count this weekend. K-Tunes Racing’s Lexus RC F and BINGO Racing’s Corvette C7 both raced at Okayama last season but are seldom seen otherwise, while the venerable Nissan GT-R is now primarily confined to Japan where it remains highly competitive. Two compete at Fuji courtesy of RUNUP SPORTS and TEAM 5ZIGEN.
Elsewhere, GT3’s Am class will be hotly contested by six entries. Climax Racing’s Hu Yuqi and Bian Ye lead reigning champions Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter after two of the 12 races, but both Porsches will face tough local opposition from Team Uematsu (McLaren), Comet Racing (Ferrari), The Spirit of FFF Racing (Lamborghini) and RUNUP SPORTS (Nissan).
In the Fanatec China Cup, R&B Racing’s Bo Yuan and Ye Hongli enjoy a slender early lead over Ling Kang and Cao Qi (Phantom Pro Racing), and Sun Jingzu and Franky Cheng (Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute). Just four points covers the top-three.
There are also two high-profile driver changes at Fuji where reigning Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and Fanatec GT Europe champion Daniel Juncadella replaces fellow Mercedes-AMG factory driver Schiller at Craft-Bamboo, and Richie Stanaway deputises for Broc Feeney who has Supercars commitments with Triple Eight in Australia.
Meanwhile, four entries will contest Fanatec Japan Cup’s GT4 season opener.
Reigning Am champion Masayoshi Oyama returns with Akiland Racing and its Toyota, which is joined by a second GR Supra entered by K-Tunes. Former GT4 champions, YZ Racing with BMW Team Studie, make their class comeback with Super GT racer Manabu Orido, and there’s also a Porsche on the grid courtesy of series debutants Checkshop Caymania Racing.
FUJI SPEEDWAY TIMETABLE
Thursday 15 June
10:40 – 12:10: Test #1
13:10 – 14:40: Test #2
15:30 – 17:30: Test #3
Friday 16 June
12:30 – 13:30: Official Practice 1
15:00 – 16:00: Official Practice 2
16:00 – 16:30: Bronze Test
Saturday 17 June
09:10 – 09:25: GT4 Qualifying 1
09:32 – 09:47: GT4 Qualifying 2
09:57 – 10:12: GT3 Qualifying 1
10:19 – 10:34: GT3 Qualifying 2
14:25 – 15:25: Race 1
Sunday 18 June
12:00 – 13:00: Race 2
SUCCESS PENALTIES (RACE 1)
15s – #37 Craft-Bamboo Racing
10s – #77 Craft-Bamboo Racing
05s – #911 AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing