The majority of Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli-registered driver crews contesting August’s BH Auction SMBC Suzuka 10 Hours have been confirmed.
A 22-strong #IntGTC entry for Asia’s round of the world’s only global GT3 championship was originally revealed in April. However, the latest list includes several intriguing changes and additions to some of the line-ups representing 2019’s eight full-season manufacturers.
The biggest switch concerns Mercedes-AMG’s championship-leading trio of Maxi Buhk, Raffaele Marciello and Maxi Goetz who have been partially split for Suzuka. Maro Engel joins Buhk and Marciello at GruppeM Racing, while Goetz switches to a Craft-Bamboo entry that also includes Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman.
That change ensures Engel, Marciello and GruppeM have the chance to claim consecutive Suzuka 10 Hours victories together.
Their 2018 co-driver, Tristan Vautier, is paired with Strakka Racing’s Lewis Williamson and Gary Paffett just as he was at Laguna Seca, while Mercedes-AMG’s fourth crew comprises home favourites Kamui Kobayashi, Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka who again join forces at Goodsmile Racing.
Mercedes-AMG’s fifth entry, which is only eligible to score Bronze Drivers’ Championship points, is shared by SunEnergy1’s familiar duo of Kenny Habul and Mikael Grenier. The identity of their co-driver will be known in due course.
Porsche’s two full-season crews remain unchanged, although their pro line-ups are split across two teams. Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour winner Earl Bamber Motorsport returns with Romain Dumas, Sven Muller and Mathieu Jaminet, while Absolute Racing runs Matt Campbell, Dennis Olsen and Dirk Werner.
That same duo occupies joint-second in the standings with California 8 Hours winner Nick Foster whose HubAuto Corsa co-drivers are still to be confirmed. Tim Slade, who joined Foster at Bathurst and Laguna Seca, has a clashing Australia Supercars commitment, while the Ferrari’s third seat was previously shared by Nick Percat and Miguel Molina. Maranello’s other two #IntGTC representatives are both Japanese Pro/Am entries.
The same clash preventing Slade’s participation also applies to Chaz Mostert whose BMW Team Schnitzer seat is filled by the team’s VLN driver, Nick Yelloly.
Nissan’s full-season squad, KCMG, has reverted to its Bathurst line-up after recalling Tsugio Matsuda who was unavailable for Laguna Seca. He joins fellow home favourite Katsumasa Chiyo and Josh Burdon aboard the Hong Kong team’s #35 GT-R, while Alex Imperatori, Oliver Jarvis and Eduardo Liberati remain unchanged in #18.
Two-thirds of Honda’s line-up has altered since its first official #IntGTC outing in California where Mario Farnbacher claimed pole position. He and Renger van der Zande make way for Marco Bonanomi and Hideki Mutoh, who also raced the NSX at Suzuka last season. Fellow Honda Super GT driver Bertrand Baguette completes the trio.
Audi Sport announced its three line-ups last week, while Bentley will confirm a third driver for its #108 Continental following July’s Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Most drivers for all three additional international entries not registered to score #IntGTC points have also been confirmed.
Strakka Racing field Christina Nielsen, Adam Christodoulou and an as yet unknown third driver in its second Mercedes-AMG; Alex West, Chris Goodwin and Côme Ledogar will race Garage 59’s new Aston Martin; and AMAC Motorsport has entered a previous-generation Porsche for Andrew Macpherson, Ben Porter and Brad Shiels.
A total of 37 cars are already confirmed for this year’s 48th Summer Endurance Race, which takes place on August 23-25. The Japanese round follows #IntGTC’s longest outing of the season – the Total 24 Hours of Spa – on July 25-28, while the revived Kyalami 9 Hour closes out 2019’s globe-trotting campaign on November 21-23.