> Provisional entry list: Motegi
First Suzuka, now Motegi: the mid-season Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS double header continues this weekend at the home of Japanese motorcycle racing.
Cars and equipment were packed into their transporters and containers on Sunday evening, arrived at Motegi the next day, were unloaded Tuesday and will begin testing on Thursday at a circuit that’s completely new to most of the non-Japanese teams and drivers.
Mobility Resort Motegi, to give the venue its full title, is best known for its MotoGP race, but also hosted 13 consecutive CART and IndyCar events up until 2010 on its now disused oval that gave the circuit its former ‘Twin Ring’ name.
The domestic Super GT and Super Formula series are also annual visitors to a track known for its heavy braking and stop-start nature. However, this weekend the focus is very much on Fanatec GT Asia, which begins the second half of its regular and Fanatec Japan Cup campaigns.
Damage incurred at Suzuka has resulted in Team 5ZIGEN’s withdrawal. Otherwise, all 33 cars scheduled to contest rounds seven and eight have made the 400-kilometre journey north-east to Tochigi Prefecture for two 60-minute races this Saturday and Sunday.
INTHRAPHUVASAK ON TOP AS 2023 ENTERS ITS SECOND HALF
AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak continues to lead the overall drivers’ standings, albeit by an increased margin of 10 points from Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim and Luca Stolz (Triple Eight JMR) following events at Suzuka where the Thai and his stand-in co-driver Klaus Bachler won the opening race. Inthraphuvasak’s regular partner, Alessio Picariello, returns this weekend.
There’s also a change at Craft-Bamboo where Fabian Schiller joins Anthony Liu for the first time since they won together at Chang. Liu added a second victory to his season’s tally last weekend with Dani Juncadella and must serve the maximum 15-second pitstop success penalty this Saturday as a consequence.
The changes continue at R&B Racing where Patrick Pilet makes way for Dennis Olsen. The Norwegian again partners championship contender Lu Wei, who has slipped 23 points behind Inthraphuvasak.
Absolute’s second Porsche isn’t in the title hunt but it too has a new name above the door: factory ace Matteo Cairoli replaces Alexandre Imperatori at Motegi and Okayama before the Swiss returns for Sepang.
Elsewhere, the Fanatec Japan Cup drivers’ championship could be decided on Sunday, although that’s very unlikely. Plus with BMW M Team Studie’s Tomohide Yamaguchi and Seiji Ara would need to win both races whilst relying on their D’station and Porsche Center Okazaki rivals to non-score. That particular ‘championship within a championship’ concludes at Okayama in August.
The destination of the inaugural Fanatec China Cup crown, on the other hand, looks unlikely to be resolved until Sepang if the current standings are anything to go by. Sun Jingzu and Franky Cheng Congfu (Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute) are level pegging with Yuan Bo and Leo Ye Hongli (R&B Racing) at the top of the championship but could yet be caught by Cao Qi and Ling Kang (Phantom Pro Racing) who were unlucky not to score more heavily last weekend.
Given their driver gradings, it’s perhaps no surprise that Climax Racing’s Hu Yuqi and Bian Ye sit bottom of the Fanatec China Cup standings. However, their speed and consistency sees them top the overall Am class championship by nine points from Suzuka winners Andrew Macpherson and Ben Porter (AMAC Motorsport).
The only additional entry this weekend is CarGuy Racing’s Ferrari, which missed Suzuka owing to Takeshi Kimura’s European Le Mans Series commitments. He and Kei Cozzolino previously competed at Fuji and could well work themselves back into Fanatec Japan Cup contention before Motegi’s weekend is out.
And Team Uematsu’s McLaren is also back after missing Suzuka. As at Fuji, Tadao Uematsu will race the car solo but still make a simulated driver change during the mandatory pitstop.
Qualifying and both races are live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel, while J Sports has the latter live on Saturday afternoon and Sunday lunchtime.
Thursday 20 July
12:15 – 14:15: Test #1
15:00 – 17:00: Test #2
Friday 21 July
11:30 – 12:30: Official Practice 1
15:00 – 16:00: Official Practice 2
16:00 – 16:30: Bronze Test
Saturday 22 July
10:25 – 10:40: GT4 Qualifying 1
10:47 – 11:02: GT4 Qualifying 2
11:12 – 11:27: GT3 Qualifying 1
11:34 – 11:49: GT3 Qualifying 2
12:05 - 12:25: Pitwalk
15:20 – 16:20: Race 1
Sunday 23 July
11:40 – 12:40: Race 2
SUCCESS PENALTIES (RACE 1)
15s – #37 Craft-Bamboo Racing + #50 YZ Racing with BMW M Team Studie
10s – #88 Triple Eight JMR + #718 Checkshop Caymania Racing
05s – #4 R&B Racing