FIA GT World Cup Preview Part One

The best in global GT3 racing return to the Macau Guia circuit for the fifth running of the FIA GT World Cup. The best teams and drivers from around the world put themselves to the test on one of the most challenging street circuits in the world. A return of the Silver Cup entries has boosted the grid to 17 cars this year.

The four German car giants are all set to do battle this year, bringing their best teams and drivers with them. It’s a shame other manufactures are not present for this race, but the costs involved make it difficult for many to compete here. Despite this the race will no doubt provide exciting and close racing, as this circuit has a habit of doing. Let’s run down the first half of the entry.

#5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS: Christopher Haase 

Audi factory driver Christopher Haase returns to Macau, this time with long-time factory supported team Phoenix Racing. It was a down year for the German, but he still secured a Dubai 24 Hours victory and 4th in the Nurburgring 24 Hours, showing the achievements he’s already secured in his career.

Haase finished 6th on his debut last year, in a year where Audi finished outside the podium. Phoenix Racing have been a Audi factory supported team for over ten years, and with Haase the only question mark is how the Audi R8 suits the Macau circuit in comparisons to their rivals.

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Haase in action with the Sainteloc team in Blancpain Sprint Series action in May this year. Photo:Motorsport.com.

#7 Zun Motorsport Crew Mercedes-AMG GT3: Adderly Fong

The Zun Motorsport Crew have emerged from the developing Asian GT racing scene, making their debut in the Blancpain GT Asia series in the finale in Shanghai. The team have switched from their usual Audi R8 to a Mercedes AMG GT3 for this event.

Adderly Fong is experienced in GT racing, having raced primarily in Asia for the past few seasons. He is a silver rated driver for Macau, and has a good chance of a class victory in a five-car class. With Macau experience and a well-suited Mercedes AMG GT3, he can impress in the World Cup.

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Adderly Fong in action earlier this year in the Audi R8 Asia Cup. Photo: Audi Media Center.

#10 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS: Charles Weerts 

Team WRT are synonymous with Audi, and are one of the most recognisable teams in GT3 racing worldwide thanks to their immense success. They haven’t won in Macau since 2016, and return with two entries this year. This #10 entry is in the Silver cup class for emerging Belgian talent Charles Weerts.

Weerts was a promising F4 racer in Germany, before switching to GT3 racing this year. Seventh and a win in the Blancpain World Challenge Europe was supremely impressive, given the immense quality on the grid. Weerts lacks experience in Macau, but is still a contender for a Silver cup victory.

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Charles Weerts Team WRT Audi R8 LMS at speed in the Blancpain Endurance Series earlier this year. Photo: Motorsport.com. 

#25 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS: Dries Vanthoor 

The second Team WRT entry is their contender for overall victory, and likely Audi’s best chance of a FIA GT World Cup victory. Team WRT are a premier Audi factory team worldwide, and they’ve brought Dries Vanthoor back to Macau.

Eighth last year on his debut was solid, but this year he will be a contender for victory. Dries is only 21, but already has Bathurst 12 Hour and Nurburgring 24 Hour victories on his resume. He’s firmly stepped out the shadow of elder brother Laurens, and is now a superstar GT3 racer in his own right.

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Dries Vanthoor in his Team WRT Audi R8 LMS at the Spa 24 Hours in July 2019. Photo: Motorsport.com.

#31 Audi Sport Team Rutronik Audi R8 LMS: Kelvin van der Linde

An under the radar contender for victory is this #31 Team Rutronik entry with Kelvin van der Linde. This team have emerged in the ADAC GT Masters series, winning the title comfortably this year with van der Linde and Patric Niederhauser.

The team competed at Macau for the past three years so have plenty of experience with Audi R8 at this circuit. Van der Linde is comfortable in this car and will be on a high from his ADAC GT Masters title, so could spring a surprise in Macau.

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Kelvin van der Linde at the wheel of his Team Rutronik Audi R8 LMS on route to a ADAC GT Masters title this year. Photo: Motorsport.com.

#42 BMW Team Schnitzer BMW M6 GT3: Augusto Farfus 

The undoubted story of the 2018 FIA GT World Cup was the emotional victory for Augusto Farfus, winning the final race for legendary team manager Charly Lamm at Schnitzer. Very sadly only two months later Lamm passed away.

Farfus and Schnitzer return, with this single car entry. Farfus drove superbly to win last year, as it appeared the Mercedes AMG was more ideally suited to Macau. A single car entry is usually restrictive in terms of opportunities to win, but Schnitzer have been a leading light for BMW for decades now and Farfus is a top line driver. Can they repeat their fairytale win last year?

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Augusto Farfus on his way to an emotional win for Schnitzer BMW last year. Photo: Motorsport.com.

#66 Audi Sport Asia Team TSRT Audi R8 LMS: Weian Chan

The fifth and final Audi Sport factory entry is in the Silver cup for Chinese driver Weian Chan. He is not a household name, but has developed in the Chinese GT championship, making his debut at the Blancpain GT Asia level this year. Tenth in the points and a podium is a good first season, giving the increasing professionalism in the championship.

With the might of Audi Sport behind him this drive at Macau will be about gaining experience and trying to exceed expectations of him. He may find it tough with a very good Silver class lineup, but he is still very early in his development as a GT driver.

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Weian Chen racing his Audi Sport Team TSRT in Blancpain GT Asia this year. Photo: Blancpain GT Asia via Twitter.

#77 Mercedes Benz Team Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Edoardo Mortara 

“Mr Macau” Edoardo Mortara returns for the chance of a second FIA GT World Cup title. Mortara won the Macau Grand Prix in 2009 and 2010, and has since added victories in the GT race in 2011,2012 and 2013 to his FIA GT World Cup title in 2017. Every year he is deserving of the pre-race favourite designation, and this year is no different.

The Mercedes Benz AMG GT3 is always very competitive on the Macau streets, and with factory backing matching the local experience of Craft-Bamboo, this combination will be tough to beat.

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Edoardo Mortara leading in his Mercedes AMG GT3 at Macau in 2018. Photo: Motorsport.com. 

#88 Mercedes Benz Team Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Alessio Picariello

Alessio Picariello has been one of the consistently quickest drivers from the Blancpain GT Asia series, and now makes his debut at Macau. Picariello is a silver rated driver, and despite tough opposition has a good chance of a Silver cup victory.

Craft-Bamboo only have one season of Mercedes experience, but with factory support they have quickly adapted to the AMG GT3. The car is very quick in Macau, with this package capable of exceeding outside expectations.

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Alessio Picariello racing in the Blancpain GT Asia series earlier this year. Photo: Blancpain GT Asia.

#91 FIST – Team AAI BMW M6 GT3: Joel Eriksson

Joel Eriksson returns to Macau, but for the first time in FIA GT World Cup. The young Swede reached FIA F3 level, competing in the Macau Grand Prix three times. After an agonizing second place last year, his attention switches to the GT race this year.

FIST – Team AAI are a leading GT racing team in Asia, and have years of experience with Macau. This will be vital as Eriksson knows the circuit, but not this M6 GT3. A podium would be a tough ask against such a quality experienced field, but he has the speed to do it should the opportunity present itself.

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Joel Eriksson racing his BMW M4 in the German DTM series this year. Photo: BMW Motorsport.

That wraps up the first half of my preview looking ahead to the FIA GT World Cup in Macau, I hope you enjoyed reading it! Part two will be on the way very soon so stay tuned for that. If you have any thoughts on this preview leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

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