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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Sepang Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from Sepang…

Photo: Porsche

Photo: Porsche

***A total of 25 cars are set for this weekend’s Intercontinental GT Challenge title decider in Sepang, featuring factory or works-supported efforts from Porsche, Audi and McLaren GT. Click Here for the final entry list.

***No major incidents were reported over the course of the six hours of available track time on Thursday, between two official Free Practice sessions and a two-hour long Paid Practice earlier in the day. The No. 27 Nexus Infinity Ferrari 458 GT3 caught fire in Paid Practice but returned to action for FP2.

***The grid features a number of unique Asian-based entries, including a Super GT300-spec Toyota Prius, competing with its hybrid system disabled, in the GT3 category. Per regulations, GT300 cars are permitted to race, due to a tie-in with the Japanese championship.

***Porsche has come out in force with two Manthey Racing-entered Porsche 911 GT3 R with an all factory driver lineup. It marks the car’s first time on Yokohama tires outside of Super GT, where multiple 911 GT3 Rs are Yokohama-shod.

***All teams are on Yokohama tires, the second consecutive year at this event. The Japanese tire manufacturer serves as the exclusive provider for the Malaysian enduro. Both the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour and Total 24 Hours of Spa are exclusively supplied by longtime SRO Motorsports Group partner Pirelli.

***The Porsche 911 GT3 R is the German manufacturer’s first customer GT racing car that’s been specifically developed for five different tire brands: Michelin, Pirelli, Continental, Falken and Yokohama. The cars, like selected others, have come straight from last month’s FIA GT World Cup in Macau.

***As is the case in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, GT3 teams will have minimum pit stop times. The window of 74-94 seconds will be enforced, leaving full-service stops at a minimum of 1 minute and 34 seconds, from pit-in to pit-out. GTC class cars will also adhere to the rule this weekend.

***The Sepang Circuit has received considerable upgrades since last year’s race, with several corners having been resurfaced, along with new curbing, run-off areas and a complete upgrade of the last corner, all undertaken by Italian circuit designer Dromo.

“We put our best efforts and our design skills to improve the show, without changing the original layout,” said Jarno Zaffelli, Head of Circuit Design, Dromo. “The last corner modification is the best example. By raising the inner curb by one meter, the classic racing line is no longer the fastest. This will probably add some spice to the race, for the particular profile will allow some amazing overtaking maneuvers.

***Fred Makowiecki makes his return to a SRO Motorsports Group-run championship for the first time in more than three years. The 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship runner-up last competed in a SRO event in 2013, in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup race at Silverstone in an Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.

***As is the case for nearly every trip to Sepang, one of the major talking points is the weather, with temperatures in the mid-80s Fahrenheit with 85 percent humidity. Rain is in for forecast for Saturday, after last year’s race that was red-flagged for nearly three hours due to heavy rain.

***Should the race be red-flagged, teams will be allowed to return to the pits and garages to undergo repair work, if necessary.

***Drivers who had not competed in a Blancpain GT Series race this year were required to complete the Sean Edwards Test on Thursday. The safety initiative has been established in honor of GT star Edwards, who was killed in a coaching accident in 2013.

***Further news on the new-for-2017 Blancpain GT Series Asia Cup will be revealed tomorrow during a meeting with prospective teams. It’s understood a number of existing European-based Blancpain GT teams are expected to fill the grid.

***Three Porsche factory drivers on hand in Sepang will be testing the new Porsche 911 RSR at Daytona on Tuesday and Wednesday. Michael Christensen, Patrick Pilet and new signing Laurens Vanthoor, who is taking part in his last race for Audi this weekend, will be joined by Dirk Werner in the pair of CORE autosport-run entries for the second official IMSA pre-season test.

***Manthey Racing will also be present at the test next week, as well as the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but with a customer-based Porsche 911 GT3 R effort for GT Daytona. NGT Motorsport will be providing operations support for the German squad.

Laurent Mercier contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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