***Officials from the ACO and GT Asia announced Saturday the formation of the Michelin Asia GT Challenge, which will award a combined GT/GT3 class champion from the 2016/2017 Asian Le Mans Series and 2017 GT Asia Series. The top three teams for the 12-event, 19-round series will receive “significant prize money” from Michelin, with the champion also getting an automatic invite to the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours.
***The auto-invite is in addition to the one awarded for the 2016/2017 Asian Le Mans Series GT champion. Under the agreement, champions from GT Asia and the Asian Le Mans Series GT will additionally receive a free entry to the other series for the following season.
***A number of teams already take part in both championships, including Absolute Racing (pictured above), Clearwater Racing, FFF Racing by ACM, Team BBT and Team AAI.
***The newly announced alliance takes a direct shot to SRO Motorsports Group’s expansion to the Asian continent, with its planned Blancpain GT Series Asia championship, which will launch next year with a similar format currently utilized in GT Asia.
***The ACO’s partnership with GT Asia will go beyond the Michelin Asia GT Challenge as it will also lend its Balance of Performance for the GT3-based class, as well as have common scrutineering procedures.
***A warmup session has been added to the schedule, set to run from 8:45-8:55 a.m. local time.
***Tomorrow’s race will see GT cars complete a minimum of three pit stops, each with a minimum reference time of 136 seconds (from pit in to pit out). All three stops must be preformed prior to the final 30 minutes of the race. LMP3 and CN class competitors must complete four stops, but instead have to be completed in the first three hours and 45 minutes.
***New colors have been applied to the No. 99 Wineurasia Ligier JS P3 overnight, following a sponsorship deal that did not materialize. The Richard Bradley, William Lok and Philippe Descombes-driven LMP3 entry was due to race in a bright pink livery for the “Hello Kitty” brand. Graphics were on the car on Thursday before being removed prior to the start of on-track activity.
***Algarve Pro Racing has expanded into a two-car LMP2 operation for the first time, with it utilizing the former So24! by Lombard Ligier JS P2 Judd for its No. 24 entry of Tacksung Kim, Andrea Roda and Matt McMurry. It is the same chassis that WRT ran in September’s European Le Mans Series round at Spa-Francorchamps.
***Onroak Automotive President Jacques Nicolet is on-site this weekend in Zhuhai, in support of his customer teams.
***Team AAI could run a second McLaren 650S GT3 in the next round at Fuji, with the team’s second chassis on-site this weekend in its container. OD Racing also has a second chassis in China.
***Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Oreca 03R Nissan will be on display in the Shanghai paddock next weekend. Jackie Chan has been named Grand Marshal for the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report