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Weekly Racing Roundup (1.16.23)

News and notes including GTWC Australia schedule, 24H Le Mans Virtual recap and more…

Photo: Jack Martin Photography/GTWC Australia

***Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia powered by AWS has announced a six-round calendar for the 2023 season, which will open with the Bathurst 6 Hour on April 7-9. That will be followed by visits to Perth (April 28-30), Phillip Island (May 12-14), Sydney Motorsport Park (July 28-30), Queensland Raceway (Aug. 11-13) and the Adelaide street circuit (Nov. 23-26). The sprint race formats and an additional endurance round will be confirmed at a later date.

“For both competitors and fans, it offers a great mix of Supercars and SpeedSeries rounds, including high-profile events and circuits perfectly suited to GT racing,” said Ben McMellan, head of operations at Australian Racing Group which co-runs the series with SRO Motorsports Group. “We saw a fascinating end to the 2022 season, and with interest high in the class, we are expecting more challengers to come and try and grab the silverware in all of the different classes.”

***Felipe Drugovich, Felix Rosenqvist, Luke Bennett and Chris Lulham won the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual for Team Redline, however the Motorsport Games-run event was shrouded in controversy after two lengthy red flags and disconnection issues for several entries. According to event producer Gerard Neveu, the red flags were caused by “security breaches” after some competitors accidentally shared IP addresses in the public domain.

***Later in the race, some cars experienced disconnections from the servers, including the No. 1 Redline Oreca 07 featuring Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen who aired disappointment with the event’s organization on a live stream. Some cars were given laps back, however laps were not returned in cases where fewer than four cars were disconnected at the same time.

***Neveu said: “We obviously feel very sorry for all the affected competitors including Max Verstappen, and understand their frustrations, but we cannot change the regulations mid-race, even if it’s for a double world champion who we fully respect, as this would be very unfair on all the other competitors.” Neveu added that Motorsport Games has asked esports platform rFactor 2 to launch a “full investigation” into the race.

***Toyota has finalized its Super GT driver lineup with confirmation that Ukyo Sasahara will team up with Giuliano Alesi in the No. 37 Toyota GR Supra GT500. Sasahara arrives at Toyota after spending the last three seasons as part of Honda’s GT500 roster.

***Bentley has announced a new motorsport director who will oversee the British manufacturer’s GT3 customer support activities. Ansar Ali, formerly of McLaren Special Operations, replaces Paul Williams as head of the Mulliner and racing divisions. Williams is now the Chief Technical Officer of Mulliner, which produces bespoke Bentley road cars.

***Aaron Morgan and Bobby Trundley will continue to co-drive Team BRIT’s specially-adapted McLaren 570S GT4 in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship. Team BRIT was set up to provide opportunities for drivers with physical and psychological disabilities. Trundley was born with severe autism while Morgan has been paraplegic since a motocross accident in his teenage years.  The pair finished second in last season’s GT4 Pro-Am standings.

***Charlie Fagg and Sam De Haan have been confirmed in an Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 for the upcoming International GT Open season. 2021 GT4 European Series champion Fagg recently competed in the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Am class, while De Haan is set for his McLaren debut having previously driven Aston Martins and Lamborghinis with other teams.

***After running in an Audi entry last year, Tony Bates and David Reynolds have switched to a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for next month’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. They will share Volante Rosso Motorsport’s Pro-Am machine with Jordan Love, who has appeared in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS.

***Six sports car drivers are among the 33 young athletes selected for Motorsports Team Germany, an initiative that provides financial support and other career assistance from German organizations ADAC and DMSB. Finn Gehrsitz, Max Hesse, Jan Marschalkowski, Laurin Heinrich, Daniel Gregor and Theo Oeverhaus will all benefit from the program this year.

***John Wickham, team director for Bentley’s overall Le Mans victory in 2003, has passed away at the age of 73 after a long illness. Wickham also teamed up with Richard Lloyd to run the factory Audi Sport UK squad in the British Touring Car Championship and co-founded the short-lived Spirit F1 team that ran in the 1980s.

On this weekend: Roar Before the Rolex 24 (Daytona), 24H Series (Yas Marina)

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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