Shanghai. Porsche took a podium finish in the world’s most important GT3 race – the FIA GT World Cup – at the 63rd Macau Grand Prix at the weekend. However, the four-day event was not without its share of drama for the six-car line-up of factory and customer entries.
Kévin Estre, part of the official Porsche factory entry with Manthey Racing, finished second, while team mate and two-time Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and Le Mans 24 Hours champion Earl Bamber ended up fourth after the shortened and twice-suspended race.
Philip Ma of GruppeM Racing was 16th and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia regular, Modena Motorsports’ John Shen, whose Porsche 911 GT3 R (Type 997) joined the five Porsche 911 GT3 R (Type 991) cars, finished 17th. Craft Bamboo Racing team mates Darryl O’Young and Richard Lyons were unable to start today’s FIA GT World Cup following incidents in Saturday’s Qualification Race.
Although this was the marque’s strongest entry yet, the challenges faced by each of the drivers were a reminder of the unforgiving nature of the legendary 6.2km Guia street circuit. On Lap 2 of today’s FIA GT World Cup, the Safety Car was called out following an incident at Fishermen’s and after circulating behind the Safety Car for two laps, the race was suspended. A second incident at the restart again suspended the race for a second time and the World Cup was not restarted, with results declared after four laps.
Shen’s frustrations began during Friday’s Qualifying session as he tried in vain to find a space in the traffic to put in a quick lap. Starting Saturday’s Qualification Race from the back of the grid, a determined Shen sought to establish a rhythm, but on Lap 4 ran into trouble. “All of a sudden, I felt a little tap and that was the end of my race,” he said.
Shen’s Modena Motorsports team immediately set about repairing the damage in time for today’s race. “It’s been a challenging weekend,” said Shen, who has been racing GT cars at Macau since 2005, and has competed in every Macau GT Cup since the race first began in 2008. “Everyone wanted to finish 18 laps. After having only done four laps in the Qualification Race, my goal today was to prepare and practice for next year. I wanted to improve my lap times. My season in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia was great this year, but of course I wanted Macau to be a fantastic race and a great end to the season. I think every driver is a little disappointed.”
Ma agreed. “I expected at least to do a few laps today. The whole weekend was a bit of a challenge. During the practices, I think my lap times were improving so that was good. The Qualification Race could have been better and, although I had a small incident, at least I could finish the race.”
Ma, a former Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Class B champion, has had limited outings in 2016, and the Hong Kong driver had been hoping to close his season on a high note. “I didn’t do a full season this year – just a few races – so I was a bit rusty.”
Bamber, who previously found success on the Guia Circuit by winning the Porsche 911 50th Anniversary Carrera Cup Asia race in 2013, and most recently raced with the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia as a guest driver at this year’s season finale, also faced difficulties in today’s race. From second on the grid, Bamber battled for the lead at the start when he made contact with a rival. The New Zealander was later handed a five-second penalty for the incident. Later, at the restart Bamber stormed into the lead, but the race was soon suspended for a second time after the second place runner – whom Bamber had passed cleanly – made an error and hit the barriers. Bamber’s time penalty dropped him down to fourth, dealing him a bitter blow.
While the weekend did not go as planned, the race showcased the close link between the marque’s factory and customer racing programmes. Commented Porsche China Motorsport Manager Alexandre Gibot: “Although we didn’t get the results we were aiming for, or the opportunity to give the crowds a real show, being a part of the Macau Grand Prix presents an opportunity for our Porsche China customer racing drivers to connect with the global Porsche motorsport family at one of the most exciting race meetings of the year.”
Macau GT Cup – FIA GT Cup
- 912 / Kévin ESTRE* / FRA / Manthey Racing / Porsche 911 GT3 R (991)
- 911/Earl BAMBER* / NZL / Manthey Racing / Porsche 911 GT3 R (991)
- 98 / Philip MA / HKG / GruppeM Racing / Porsche 911 GT3 R (991)
- 68 / John SHEN / CAN / Modena Motorsports / Porsche 911 GT3 R (997)
DNS 88 / Richard LYONS / GBR / Craft Bamboo Racing / Porsche 911 GT3 R (991)
DNS 99 / Darryl O’YOUNG / HKG / Craft Bamboo Racing / Porsche 911 GT3 R (991)
* Manufacturer Entry