One of the region’s biggest endurance races, the Shanghai 888, will headline GT World Challenge Asia’s fourth season next year following confirmation of the championship’s 2020 calendar.
Updates to the provisional schedule issued in July see Thailand’s round at Buriram reinstated and Shanghai now hosting separate sprint and endurance events.
Its second, the season-ending Shanghai 888, represents China’s most prestigious GT endurance race. The event’s traditional six-hour duration has been halved for GT World Challenge Asia, which has only staged 60-minute, non-refuelling races since its establishment in 2017. Indeed, the three-hour format is considered a more manageable step for teams and drivers accustomed to a sprint racing environment. Each entry’s two drivers will collectively complete four roughly equal stints, while the final top-10 positions are worth double the points of a traditional 60-minute race.
The biggest shake-up in the championship’s short history extends to the rest of next season’s calendar. Sepang and its traditional test day once again open the campaign in late March, before Buriram – returning to the schedule after initially missing out on a 2020 date – moves three weeks earlier. This is to accommodate Fuji, which has shifted from July to May as a result of its Tokyo Olympics commitments.
Suzuka’s traditional mid-June date and in-season test remains unchanged. However, Fuji’s switch allied to Yeongam dropping off the calendar allows teams to enter Asia’s only Intercontinental GT Challenge round, the Suzuka 10 Hours, without incurring additional logistical costs.
It’s then on to China, and specifically Shanghai, which hosts a traditional sprint round on September 12/13. Teams and drivers then return five weeks later for the championship’s first-ever endurance race.
Championship organisers, SRO Motorsports Group, have also ensured no clashes occur between GT World Challenge races staged is Asia, Europe and the US next year. While teams and drivers compete for their own continental titles, manufacturers can score points across all three series that count towards a separate, global championship.
Elsewhere, amateur drivers competing in both GT3 and GT4 will have an optional extra 30 minutes of track time on Fridays. Such ‘Bronze Tests’ have proven popular in Europe by helping amateurs better familiarise themselves with the track each weekend.
GT4 will also evolve in 2020. Following three years as a strictly amateur category, Pro/Am partnerships featuring a maximum of one Bronze and one Silver driver will be accepted. As in most other classes, one of the two crew members must be an approved Asian driver.
Meanwhile, Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia will expand its support series commitment to encompass five of GT World Challenge Asia’s six rounds. Only the Shanghai 888 event will be without the one-make championship for Huracan Super Trofeo Evo models.
Benjamin Franassovici, championship co-director: “2020’s calendar represents GT World Challenge Asia’s biggest shake-up since its inception three years ago, but we firmly believe the time is now right to take the next step in its development. Adding one of Asia’s most prestigious endurance races to the schedule is a logical move towards truly establishing Asia as a GT destination in its own right, as well as offering teams and drivers an opportunity to spread their wings on a continental level before potentially competing elsewhere, just as the likes of Craft-Bamboo, HubAuto Corsa, FFF Racing and GruppeM Racing have already done.
“I’m also delighted to see Fuji remain on the schedule next season despite its lack of availability due to the Olympics. The circuit is one of our most popular rounds for race-by-race teams and drivers, and always attracts a significant entry, so re-jigging the calendar to ensure its inclusion while also preventing a Super GT clash has been a priority from the start.
“That posed some logistical hurdles for Buriram, which I’m happy to confirm have been overcome. The event is always well attended and we enjoy a good working relationship with the venue team.”
Giorgio Sanna, Head of Motorsport Automobili Lamborghini: “Lamborghini Super Trofeo has been linked with SRO since the 1990s, so we are proud to be able to continue to offer our sporting customers a successful platform in the Asian GT racing scene for the next year, providing our teams and drivers with the best services, and also creating a synergy with the GT3 championships where we stand out. Furthermore, the Asia region is a very important market for Lamborghini, with a huge potential both for racing and road cars. Super Trofeo is the best calling card to engage new customer teams and amateur drivers – it offers the fastest one-make GT series available at a budget that is also unbeatable.”
The entry process for 2020’s GT World Challenge Asia campaign opens this week, although early indications already suggest strong demand for full-season places.
2020 GT WORLD CHALLENGE ASIA CALENDAR
March 28/29 – Sepang (Malaysia) – 2x 1hr races
April 25/26 – Buriram (Thailand) – 2x 1hr races
May 23/24 – Fuji Speedway (Japan) – 2x 1hr races
June 20/21 – Suzuka (Japan) – 2x 1hr races
September 12/13 – Shanghai (China) – 2x 1hr races
October 17/18 – Shanghai 888 (China) – 1x 3hr race
Source. SRO Motorsports Group