***A total of 15 cars are set for this weekend’s FIA GT World Cup in Macau, in the fourth edition of the FIA-sanctioned event on the Guia Circuit. While five GT3 manufacturers are represented, it marks the lowest overall grid in GT World Cup history.
***Macau rookies Dries Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet were the first two GT3 drivers to find the wall this weekend, with both having minor incidents in Thursday’s opening Free Practice. Vanthoor lost control of his No. 88 Team WRT Speedstar Audi R8 LMS at Police Corner, with Jaminet checking up moments later and brushing the wall in his No. 991 Craft-Bamboo Porsche 911 GT3 R.
***Left-front bodywork damage was sustained to the Audi, which also lost its rear wing in the accident, while Jaminet’s Porsche had cosmetic damage to the left door (pictured below). Both cars will return to action for Free Practice 2 on Friday.
***Steering issues for the No. 999 GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Raffaele Marciello saw the Italian complete only three laps in FP1. The newly crowned Blancpain GT Series champion was unable to make the turn at Melco Hairpin, causing one of several traffic jams during the session.
***FP1 pace-setter Robin Frijns said the track felt “quite green” in the session, which was halted only once. “We got quite some laps in,” Frijns said. “The car feels quite OK so let’s see how qualifying [goes] tomorrow.”
***The FIA’s Balance of Performance for the event sees several notable changes, with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 running 20 kg lighter (1340 kg) than its race configuration last year. It’s come, however, with a 1 mm smaller air restrictor (35 mm x2).
***The Mercedes was handed a 30 kg weight increase following qualifying last year, with the Honda NSX GT3 having also been adjusted in 2017.
***Porsche’s BoP remains unchanged year-to-year, even with its 2018-spec Evo, while the Audi gets a 10 kg increase (1265 kg) and the BMW M6 GT3, which is also now in Evo spec, receiving a 10 kg weight break (1305 kg) but countered with a turbo boost reduction.
***Nissan’s 2018-spec GT-R NISMO GT3, meanwhile, is new to the event and also weighs in at 1305 kg.
***Following last year’s carnage-filled event, which saw nearly two-thirds of the field wiped out in an opening lap pileup in the Qualifying Race, race car insurance has been an increased talking point in the paddock, with Head of Audi Sport customer racing’s Chris Reinke admitting it’s become a “big thing” for customers.
***Reinke said insurance is something manufacturers even consider for the race. “Because it’s the end of the year, and economically, [people] have a problem to react to budget movements that late in the year, it’s for us [as a manufacturer] even something to consider,” he said.
***Pirelli, which has been the exclusive tire provider since the GT World Cup’s inception in 2015, has brought its P Zero DHD2 tire to Macau for the first time. The new-for-2018 tire has been used in the majority of SRO Motorsports Group-run GT3 races this year.
***In the event of rain, which has been in the forecast, Pirelli has the Cinturato WH wet weather tire on hand.
***Drivers from the three FIA World Cup races, including Earl Bamber, Dries Vanthoor, Augusto Farfus and Edoardo Mortara, took part in a Taijiquan session in pit lane on Wednesday under the guidance of Master Lei Man Iam (pictured above). A master of Chinese Wushu level 8 and international Wushu coach level 9, Lei is a descendent of the first-generation of the Chen-style Taijiquan in Macao.
***In addition to the GT World Cup, two other FIA-sanctioned World Cups are in action this weekend in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup and FIA Formula 3 World Cup, which has served as the event’s centerpiece for the better part of its 65-year history. The Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix, in its 52nd year, is also part of the unique event. All drivers lined up for a group photo (below) on Wednesday afternoon.
***Macau is home to more major casinos than Las Vegas, with many of the Nevada landmarks, including MGM Grand, The Venetian, Wynn, and Sands, having opened up resorts in the Special Administrative Region of China, which generates more than $33 billion in gaming revenue annually.
***Friday’s GT World Cup action will be streamed live on the FIA’s Web site, with Free Practice 2 set for 12:30-1 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. CET/Thurs., 11:30 p.m. ET) and qualifying at 4:10-4:40 p.m. (9 a.m. CET/3:10 a.m. ET).