FIA GT World Cup Preview Part 2

This is the second half of my preview for this week’s FIA GT World Cup on the streets of Macau. You can find part one of my preview here. Despite only being a 17 car grid, it’s stacked with the best teams and drivers from Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche. Let’s look at the second half of the grid.

#97 Solite Indigo Racing Mercedes Benz AMG GT3: Roelof Bruins

South Korean Roelof Bruins makes his debut at Macau, off the back of winning the Blancpain GT Asia title this year. Bruins has cemented himself as one of the best amateur drivers in Asian GT racing, and now makes his international debut.

He continues with his Solite Indigo Racing team, taking advantage of silver rated drivers being allowed back. Against a very tough international contingent, he may struggle to win the class. The experience gained from racing against this high quality will only enhance his driving for the coming years.

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Roeflof Bruins celebrates his Blancpain GT Asia series title with co-driver Manuel Metzger. Photo: Blancpain GT Asia series.

#98 ROWE Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Earl Bamber

ROWE Racing made the switch last winter from BMW to Porsche, and now take up the mantle of a factory supported Porsche entrant. They have a two-car line-up, with this #98 entry in the hands of New Zealander Earl Bamber. He primarily races the GTE spec 911 in the IMSA series, but has plenty of GT3 experience.

Earl is one of the quickest Porsche drivers on the planet, although the marque has struggled at Macau. Their last podium was in 2016 and they’ve never won the FIA GT World Cup. The car has good traction, but Macau is so difficult because you need top speed as well as traction and downforce to be quick here.

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Earl Bamber at speed in the KUS Team Bernhard GT3 Porsche at the Spa 24 Hours in July. Photo: Motorsport.com

#99 ROWE Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Laurens Vanthoor

The second ROWE factory supported Porsche is this #99 entry for Laurens Vanthoor. The Belgian is coming off a stellar 2019 GTLM title in the IMSA WeatherTech series, with co-driver and friend Earl Bamber.

Vanthoor is a legend of GT3 racing, and famously won this race in 2016 after flipping his car, bringing out the red flags. He also has Le Mans and Nurburgring 24 Hour titles to his name, along with the IMSA GTLM crown. If Porsche can overcome previous shortcomings in this race, any of their four entries can win this race.

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Vanthoor pushing his Porsche 911 GT3 R to pole for the Nurburgring 24 Hours in June 2019. Photo: Porsche.

#888 Mercedes Benz Team GruppeM Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Maro Engel 

GruppeM Racing are a titan of Asian GT racing, and now receive factory Mercedes support for a chance of a World Cup title. They have two entries, with a stellar driver line-up. German Maro Engel is a long-time Mercedes factory driver, and is arguably the best pound for pound Mercedes GT3 driver on the planet.

He returns to a happy hunting ground, having won the inaugural edition in 2015 and has finished on the podium in all four editions. The Mercedes AMG is well suited to Macau, and based on previous form they should enter as favourites. The competition within Mercedes is tough, but never discount Engel for victory.

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Maro Engel at the wheel of his Black Falcon Mercedes AMG GT3 at the final round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Barcelona. Photo: Motorsport.com

#911 Absolute Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Alexandre Imperatori

This #911 entry has a strong local flavour, with Chinese team Absolute Racing fielding Chinese based Swiss driver Alexandre Imperatori. He has made his career in Asian motorsport, competing in Super Formula and Super GT. Imperatori raced for another Porsche team in Blancpain GT Asia, but joins Absolute for Macau.

He has also competed in a KCMG Nissan GT-R in the Intercontinental GT Challenge this year, so has plenty of GT3 experience. Imperatori doesn’t have the high-profile name like Vanthoor and Bamber, but can spring a surprise this weekend.

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Alex Imperatori impressed in Blancpain GT Asia in a Porsche, including this win in Buriram. Photo: SRO. 

#912 Absolute Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Kevin Estre

Kevin Estre returns to Macau for the first time since 2016, looking for a first FIA GT World Cup win. Estre has earned tremendous success in the FIA World Endurance Championship, with GTE Pro class and Le Mans 24 Hours titles in 2018.

He was stunning and played a crucial role in the GPX Porsche teams win at this years Spa 24 Hours, arguably the biggest GT3 race on the planet. Estre has consistently proved his class in the past two years, so don’t be surprised if he adds a FIA GT World Cup title to his resume.

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Kevin Estre brings the GPX Porsche home for a momentous Spa 24 Hours win for Porsche. Photo: Porsche. 

#999 Mercedes Benz Team GruppeM Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Raffaele Marciello

Team GruppeM have Mercedes support for Macau, and have brought a very good line-up with them. Alongside Engel is Italian Raffaele Marciello, who has proven himself as arguably one of the quickest GT3 drivers in the world.

Since switching to GT racing in 2017, he has been a top talent at this level, with a Blancpain World Challenge Europe title last year. Marciello is always quick at Macau, but has yet to solidify it with a podium. His bad luck won’t last forever, and he has as good as chance of victory as anyone in this field.

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Raffaele Marciello racing his AKKA ASP Mercedes in the Blancpain World Challenge Europe series this year. Photo: Motorsport.com

That wraps up my preview for what will be an entertaining FIA GT World Cup race at Macau. The circuit always provides action, and this year will be no different. A huge thank you to all websites cited for their photographs, and for all of you who read this blog. If you have any comments either leave them below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

 

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