***Raffaele Marciello’s pole for Saturday’s FIA GT World Cup Qualifying Race came after just completing three flying laps between the pair of Free Practice sessions due to technical issues for his No. 999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. “It has been a very difficult weekend for us until now,” Marciello said. “More or less, qually was my first time on track of the weekend.”
***A steering-related issue put the newly crowned Blancpain GT Series champion out of action on Thursday, while Marciello managed to only complete a handful of laps before his front splitter delaminated in FP2. The team opted to replace the entire front clip and splitter prior to qualifying.
***Marciello, whose 2:16.800 lap time put him as the only driver to dip below the 2:17 barrier, admitted he likely could have gone one or two-tenths quicker had he had more time in qualifying. Sportscar365 understands that Mercedes-AMG had projected pole-time to be in the low 2:17s.
***It marked the Italian’s second pole in Macau, five years after grabbing top qualifying honors for the F3 race.
***Mercedes-AMG claimed three of the top-four positions on the grid, with BMW Team Schnitzer’s Augusto Farfus sandwiched between Marciello, Maro Engel and Edoardo Mortara on the grid. “Looking at how strong the Mercedes are, [it] shows how good the BoP is for them,” Farfus said. “They put three car in the top-four. I’m the only car there. They have things in their hands.”
***All three factory-backed Audis have found the walls this weekend, with Robin Frijns having an incident in qualifying, following Dries Vanthoor’s spin in FP1 and Chrisopher Haase bringing FP2 to an early end.
***Haase said his incident, which happened in the final corner, “looked worse” than it was, with only bodywork and toe-link damage to his Audi Sport Team Rutronik entry, which qualified eighth for Saturday’s 12-lap Qualifying Race.
***The trio of KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s have continued to struggle, with the No. 18 car of Alexandre Imperatori quickest of the three entries in 11th. Oliver Jarvis, who qualified 14th, told Sportscar365 they’ve been battling grip-related issues.
***A FIA data audit completed following Thursday’s FP1 determined the Nissans were within the Balance of Performance window, suggesting that no BoP changes will be made to the car.
***Jarvis makes his return to Macau for the first time in 11 years, after being unable to take part in the event due to his full-season commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship, which has clashed in recent years. He told Sportscar365 his deal with KCMG is an extension of his outing with the team in August’s Suzuka 10 Hours.
***As was the case in Suzuka. both of the Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Rs are not running Porsche’s 2018-spec Evo kit. However, unlike Suzuka, the BoP between the two car specifications are identical, with an apparent top-speed advantage to the new-gen model.
***February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour will mark the final professional race outing for Porsche’s current-gen car, which will be replaced by the all-new 911 GT3 R next year. As in recent editions, the race will run to the previous year’s SRO-managed Balance of Performance, therefore prohibiting new-for-2019 cars or Evos.
***SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel, as well as Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia series manager Benjamin Franassovici, are on-site this weekend. SRO works with the FIA as the GT World Cup promoter.
***Earl Bamber’s No. 912 gold-and-red-liveried Porsche, sporting the colors of the Chinese ‘Year of the Dog’, is carrying a special Ironman-inspired graphic on the nose, which has gathered significant attention by fans in the paddock all weekend.
“The car is made in gold, like Ironman, so they put it on there,” said Bamber, who initially thought the graphic, sent to him via text message by Manthey CEO Nicky Raeder last week, was a joke. “I didn’t realize they were going to leave it on there permanently!”
***Bamber’s teammate Laurens Vanthoor, meanwhile, is wearing a special Macau-inspired helmet design, including a FIA GT World Cup winner’s wreath that has 2016 positioned upside-down, in reference to his unusual victory that year. His car in last year’s event featured “this side up” graphics.
***Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser said Andreas Seidl’s departure was a “surprise” and that the German manufacturer had “different plans” for the ex-Porsche LMP1 team principal, who was believed to have been in line for a top-ranking executive position within Porsche’s motorsports department.
***Former Porsche LMP1 Vice President Fritz Enzinger has taken over Seidl’s duties on an interim basis, including serving as team principal for Porsche’s Formula E program, until a permanent solution is found.
***Despite the recent shakeup, Walliser said the integration of Porsche’s GT and ex-LMP1 motorsport departments will go on as planned. “Over the last year we’ve worked a lot together,” he said. “We had people from each department helping each other. There were a lot of LMP guys that supported the GT effort this year at Le Mans and doing a lot of testing projects on the new car.”
***While having been on-site in Macau on Friday, Walliser heads to Shanghai on Saturday for the FIA World Endurance Championship round, where Porsche is currently leading the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am championships.
***A pair of electric prototypes will complete demonstration laps this weekend in promotion of the newly launched XPT Chinese Electric Car Championship. The series, which is backed by Geely-owned Mitime as well as NIO, is planning six-round championship next year in a dual class prototype/touring car format.
***The championship’s season finale is slated to take place in Macau next year with up to 20 cars, according to Yi-Hood Racing founder and CEO Leo Zhang, whose company is serving as the series promoter of the all-electric championship.
***Farfus, who announced on Thursday his departure from DTM, admitted he could end up in WTCR next year in addition to his GT racing commitments with BMW. The Brazilian told Sportscar365 that he “would like to” mount a TCR program but indicated it would be dependent on scheduling, with WTCR yet to reveal its 2019 calendar.
***The WTCC veteran, as well as fellow BMW GT driver Nicky Catsburg, have been linked to Hyundai’s factory program in WTCR.
***Longtime FIA official Tim Mayer is serving as chairman of the stewards for the GT World Cup this weekend. The event has seen a significant presence of FIA personnel, with the F3 and WTCR events also being World Cups.
***Saturday’s Qualifying Race will be streamed live on the FIA’s Web site, with coverage beginning 1 p.m. local time (6 a.m. CET/12 a.m. ET). The 18-lap main race is set for Sunday at 12:25 p.m. (5:25 a.m. CET/Sat. 11:25 p.m. ET)