Published on August 16th, 2016 | by Amirul Mukminin0
GT Asia’s Foundations set for 2017 with Strong Team Support
Hot on the heels of the most competitive season of the GT Asia Series in the six year history of the category, comes news of an expanded program for 2017 and confirmation from many of Asia’s leading teams of their commitment to that program.
Citing increased competition, the success of the live global television programming and the depth of driving talent coming from all quarters of the world, Motorsport Asia Limited CEO David Sonenscher explained that plans are well underway to take the Series to another level in 2017.
“There’s no question that the GT Asia Series has come of age in season 2016,” Sonenscher admitted. “A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to build the championship this year, and we’ll continue that development as the season progresses heading into next season. Since the start of this year, we’ve fielded quite a number of enquiries from teams – both existing and new – about the details of the 2017 calendar, so we’re unveiling those dates in the coming weeks to allow them to start planning well in advance for the new season.”
It’s a move that has been universally welcomed by teams and competitors with acknowledgment from some of the region’s most successful teams that they are committed to GT Asia into 2017 and beyond.
“So far the 2016 season has seen some outstanding racing – the best we’ve ever seen in the GT Asia Series,” Ingo Matter, Team Principal Absolute Racing said. “It’s great that planning has begun for the 2017 season, and all I’ve heard is that next year will be a very positive step forward for the category.
“From our perspective we’re not only going to continue with the program we already have, but we’re also looking at increasing our involvement. GT Asia is a great championship, the events and venues are fantastic and the atmosphere around the Series – certainly this year – is great, especially the new involvement with media and FOX Sports Live. One of our goals for next year is to help increase the field sizes, and from what I hear that message has been heard by a number of teams in the region who are looking to join us in 2017, and for one, I welcome the competition.”
Even before they’d claimed their maiden win in the 2016 Series, FFF Racing Team by ACM’s Team manager Alf Boarer was already in the planning stages for the 2017 season, with discussions already underway with potential drivers to join the Lamborghini Huracan operation next year.
“It’s our intention to run a two car team next year – two Lamborghinis – and we want to come back again and enjoy it. The racing in GT Asia is now at the same level as the leading championships in the rest of the world. We’re committed to GT Asia 100% no question, we want to do it and we’re really looking forward to it.”
“I think the media program and the way the Series has been developed this year for GT Asia has been fantastic, and I see that the Series is looking to expand that message again for 2017 to attract more competitors and get the message out to a wider audience,” Marchy Lee, Team Principal (and driver) of Phoenix Racing Asia admitted. “From Phoenix Racing Asia’s perspective, we want competition, and we’ve certainly had that in the GT Asia Series this year, and that ongoing challenge will see us commit to the future of GT Asia going forward.”
Meanwhile 2015 GT Asia Series champions Craft-Bamboo Racing have also reaffirmed their position within the category, CEO Richard Coleman quick to confirm their intent.
“GT Asia is part of the lifeblood of Craft-Bamboo Racing, it is the premier Pan-Asian series and a platform that is very important to us for our partners. The improved live TV this season has been excellent and things have been on the up for some time.”
Alongside the established teams, some of those that have campaigned part-time programs in 2016 to get a feel for the popular Asian championship have also confirmed they are looking for a full-time entry in 2017.
“There’s no question that our Plan A is to come back into GT Asia in 2017 with a two-car operation and go after the championship,” Miedecke Stone Motorsport’s George Miedecke explained at the conclusion of their two-race programme recently in Japan.
“The competition is world class and the opportunities to compete on some of the best circuits in the world and be competitive against some of the best teams on the planet is a huge attraction and we’re certainly focused on being on the grid in 2017.”
Plan B Motorsport’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi confirmed he too was looking to GT Asia in 2017, citing a desire to compete in the outright GT3 class after winning multiple races in GTC during 2016. “There’s no question the outright class is where I want to be,” the Thai star admitted. “We’ve had a great time in the Ferrari 458 Challenge car this year, but we want to run with the leaders, and to do that we need an outright car and certainly my aim is to be in GT Asia battling for the podium in 2017.”
Three-time champions Clearwater Racing too have echoed their commitment to the 2017 season, although there is no secret that the Ferrari team have their focus set on a global WEC program next year and may not compete in Asia at all, however plans are in the pipeline for a two car team in GT Asia should they proceed locally.
“It’s great that we’re already getting commitments from teams for 2017, that gives us a good indication that we’re heading in the right direction,” David Sonenscher agreed.
“Like any competitive endeavour though there’s always challenges, and we’ve certainly not been immune from that, but what we’ve established in Asia takes an immense amount of planning and experience in the market.
“My focus is the teams – our stakeholders – so our job is to continue to offer one of the best GT championships in the world and to keep looking for ways to improve the program, and I think what we have proposed for 2017 will more than achieve that.”
Recently Motorsport Asia Limited revealed the introduction of a new category for the 2017 GT Asia Series focused on amateur drivers – with two levels of competition and valuable prize money – whilst the new season will also see a restructure of the Silver-Silver driver classification to bring the competition closer together, allowing the true Pro-Am teams a stronger chance of Race and championship victory.
They also revealed that next season an iconic street race will be introduced to the already popular race programme to ‘step things up’ another level.
“We’re just finalising our 2017 calendar now – which we will reveal in the coming weeks – I think it will provide teams with a lot of incentive to compete next year at some of the best venues in Asia,” Sonenscher added.