The 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia season opener happening this weekend at Sepang Circuit will see a packed grid of 29 cars in action, with reigning champions GruppeM Racing seeking to defend both their GT3 Drivers’ and Teams’ titles. Having made its mark as the foremost Asian multi-class GT platform with a successful first season in 2017, 21 GT3 and 8 GT4 race cars will fill the grid for the championship’s first race of 2018. The series’ first ever full-season entries from Australia, Japan, Taiwan and Korea will join teams from nine countries in total, fielding race cars from 10 manufacturers between them in total. As further proof of the GT series’ ever expanding global appeal, the 58 competing drivers represent 19 nationalities across 5 continents.
Reigning series champions GruppeM Racing will field their pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3s with new driver line-ups, these being Nico Bastian and Patric Niederhauser in the 2017 championship-winning #999 car, while AMG factory ace Raffaele Marciello and French amateur Brice Bosi pilot the #888 Pro/Am entry. Marciello impressed with GruppeM during his one-off entry at Sepang in 2017 and will be driving the #888 car for 5 of 2018’s 6 races. AMG factory driver Maxi Buhk will take over driving duties at Buriram, while Bastian will be substituted by Markus Pommer at Buriram, Fuji, Suzuka, Ningbo.
Ferrari 488 GT3s will be fielded by Japan’s ARN Racing who proved impressively quick at the previous Suzuka and Fuji rounds, along with Taiwan’s HubAuto Corsa. Lamborghini entries comprise the Huracan GT3s of FFF Racing Team by ACM, and AMAC Motorsport from Australia. Representing Porsche with the 991 911 GT3 R will be Craft-Bamboo Racing; having finished 2017 strongly they will spearhead Porsche’s challenge once again with proven podium finishers Aidan Read, Darryl O’Young and Sandy Stuvik who took the team and manufacturer wins at Shanghai last season.
Audi’s acclaimed R8 LMS GT3 once again holds the GT3 class numerical advantage with 6 full-season entries. With Absolute Racing managing 3 of these entries, another strong participant will be OD Racing Team WRT featuring Mitch Gilbert and Aditya Patel who were last season’s most successful R8 drivers. They took 3 wins including Sepang in 2017 and missed the championship by just 1 point, and will undoubtedly be gunning for overall victory this year. Audi entries of note also include Anthony Liu with Josh Burdon at Absolute Racing, while local hero Alex Yoong will drive with Pro/Am co-driver Lim Keong Wee at Phoenix Racing Asia.
Fans of V12 racing cars will be thrilled by the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 entered by reigning Am Cup champions CMRT Eurasia, as this has proven to be one of the finest sounding GT3 race cars to run at Sepang. Entries of interest to JDM enthusiasts include Arrows Racing’s Honda NSX GT3, and the 2018-spec Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3. Factory squad KCMG will field a pair of GT-R GT3s, with the team being led at Sepang by Platinum-graded Super GT legend Tsugio Matsuda.
Asian regional interest in the GT4 class is still expanding and growing, with 8 full-season entries across 4 manufacturers making up a more diverse GT4 grid for the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia. The numerical advantage still goes to Porsche, with a trio of Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs competing at Sepang. Reigning GT4 champions Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin took the win at Sepang 12 months ago on their way to clinching the Drivers’ title with Craft-Bamboo Racing, and will be seeking to repeat their dominant performance. Joining them on the grid will be GruppeM Racing’s 2 Mercedes-AMG GT4s, and a pair of BMW Team Studie M4 GT4s. Clearwater Racing’s Mok Weng Sun and Richard Wee will round out the GT4 grid with their McLaren 570S GT4, having impressed with a triumphant victory at Fuji last season.