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Intercontinental GT Challenge

KCMG’s 2020 Plans Coming Together; New Marque Possible

KCMG planning Nissan return for Bathurst but leaving options open for rest of the year…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

KCMG’s GT3 plans for the 2020 season are coming together as the team explores options with other manufacturers in addition to Nissan.

According to team principal Paul Ip, the Hong Kong-based outfit will field a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 in next year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour but could also switch manufacturers for the rest of its program.

The team made its Nürburgring 24 debut last year, bringing Nissan back to the Eifel enduro for the first time in three years.

It also entered the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli, although it appears unlikely that it will return to SRO’s global GT3 championship in a full-season capacity.

“Next year it’s confirmed that we will do Bathurst, and then we will also do VLN and [24 Hours of] Spa,” said Ip. “We are also still thinking about Super Taikyu and another full year in TCR.

“I think, definitely for Bathurst, it’s going to be with the Nissan. We will still have the Nissan.

“If we are going to change manufacturer, we would prefer to really study the car and get more practice to get up to speed first. Going in with a new manufacturer [straight away] is difficult.”

Ip wouldn’t specify whether he would use the Nissan or a different manufacturer’s car for the Nürburgring-based VLN program and the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which like Bathurst is a part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

He recently purchased a Honda NSX GT3 Evo and raced the car for the first time in last weekend’s FIA Motorsport Games with his Hong Kong co-driver Marchy Lee.

However, it’s understood the Honda will mainly be used for Ip’s personal racing program, rather than KCMG’s international effort.

“It’s to be decided,” said Ip. “We are still in discussions with Nissan. I don’t know what the outcome is.

He continued, “One of our wish list items is to compete in big 24-hour races. I’m not saying we will win [the Nürburgring and Spa] this year, but we want to continue to try.

“My next focus is the Nürburgring, so I want to focus on that. Since I’ve got all the cars and equipment, I might as well do Spa which is another great event.”

Ip said KCMG has “shopped around” at other GT3 manufacturers for next season but has not tested any of their cars.

“It’s ultimately about which manufacturer can support our purpose,” he explained. “It doesn’t mean cash or anything like that, it’s more about the engineering development and support.

“The problem is that the Nissan is becoming old now. Mercedes is coming in with a new package, Porsche has come in with a new package too.

“For us to be at the top, it will be difficult. Mercedes is obviously very strong, and Porsche is very strong too. It all depends on what they can offer us.

“The critical part [is that] at the current level, if you’re not working closely with a manufacturer, it’s not possible to win at the top level.

“Whether sharing data between teams, new developments, managing weather conditions, and even to simple things like moving switches to different locations… you need the manufacturer’s help for all of this.”

Class One Ambitions Clear

KCMG also has an aim to compete in the top GT500 class of Super GT, a series in which the team has been involved in the past, but only in the lower GT300 bracket.

However, Ip explained that the lack of available entry slots in the exclusive, manufacturer-driven class has prevented KCMG from expanding its racing program in Japan.

“GT3 has always come up for us, but to be honest I really want to be in GT500, not GT300,” he said.

“We are talking to all three manufacturers about getting a car, but the cars there are very limited.

“If a team doesn’t give up [its entry] it becomes very difficult. But we are still trying to get a GT500 spot, hopefully one day.

“We’ve done GT300 before but that was a long time ago. Maybe we would do GT300 for myself, but if I were to compete with KCMG branding it’s definitely going to be GT500.

“All three manufacturers know that we have the interest, if the opportunity comes up.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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