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Intercontinental GT Challenge

HubAuto Targeting Full Season, Depending on Restrictions

HubAuto Racing intends to return to full-time IGTC competition this year, travel-depending…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

HubAuto Racing intends to complete the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season but its ability to do so will depend on how global travel restrictions play out.

Team owner Morris Chen explained that the Taiwanese outfit, which entered four of the five IGTC rounds in 2019, “wants to fight for the championship” with Mercedes-AMG this year but is up against “very challenging” coronavirus pandemic control measures.

HubAuto is contesting the IGTC-opening TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa this weekend with Maximilian Goetz, Maximilian Buhk and Yelmer Buurman driving the No. 50 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

After Spa, the remaining Intercontinental GT Challenge rounds take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 17 and Kyalami on December 4.

HubAuto Racing’s crew is a mixture of Taiwanese, Malaysian and Australian members, all of whom currently face two-week quarantines upon returning home from abroad.

While the quarantine periods are shorter than the gaps between IGTC races, significant operational and human impacts are already brought up by everyone needing to isolate.

This weekend marks HubAuto’s first Spa outing with Mercedes after fielding a Ferrari in the last two editions. The team ran its new AMG in the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series.

After only entering Spa and the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour during last year’s IGTC, HubAuto is looking to expand on its latest brand relationship by completing the season.

“We did a pretty good job in Asian Le Mans earlier this year,” Chen told Sportscar365.

“I think Mercedes also saw the performances of our team. The last two years at Spa we had crashes and technical problems, but the first time we entered the race we qualified P5.

“Maybe Mercedes saw our performances in IGTC in the past, because we won the [2019] California 8 Hours. So they wanted to see if we can be a supported team for the IGTC series.”

Asked if HubAuto intends to complete the IGTC season, Chen said: “This is our plan, but we will see how the restrictions go.

“We have to do quarantines when we go back home, every time in a hotel. It’s difficult, not only physically but mentally.

“Some of my crew, including me, are from Taiwan. Some are from Malaysia. Some are engineers from Australia, and all these countries have quarantine rules.

“Going to America and South Africa is not so difficult, it’s just returning because in between the races we have to quarantine.

“For the next round in the United States, we probably have to ship everything there by air, so the cost is much higher.

“But we’ll try our best: if we can, we want to fight for the championship.”

Chen added that Mercedes-AMG is assisting HubAuto Racing to help ease the team’s planning for the IGTC.

“They are helping us to sort out these problems,” he said.

“AMG give us pretty good support. So if we want to review the car, we can take it to HWA and make some space there. It’s possible, just not easy.”

Shipping Delays Forced Team to Skip Test

HubAuto Racing’s IGTC travel challenges started before Spa, as the team was forced to miss the official test days at the Belgian circuit last month due to shipping problems.

The team shipped its container, which included the car and equipment, from Malaysia in early May but the vessel on which it was stored experienced delays due to congestion.

A late docking in Singapore ensured HubAuto missed its connection to a ship bound for Europe, prompting the team to find an alternative mode of transport at short notice.

“It got delayed getting into port which lost us time, and it was too late to put it on an extra boat, so we just put it all on a plane,” team director Philip di Fazio told Sportscar365.

“We flew from Singapore. International shipping is just a nightmare at the moment, so we ended up flying everything here and everything arrived quite late.

“But getting here from Asia is just like that now: it’s been like that for two years.”

Despite missing the official test, and its Spa kit only arriving last week, HubAuto doesn’t feel disadvantaged compared to the rival teams that have had relatively smoother preparation periods for the 24-hour race.

“Of course it would have been nice to do that test, but the drivers know the car really well and the circuit,” said di Fazio.

“The team knows the circuit. From experience with other GT cars on different tracks and tires, and how that varies compared to Spa, we can make pretty good simulations on what to expect.”

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

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