The Mercedes-Benz duo of Renger van der Zande and 2014 Macau GT Cup winner Maro Engel set the early pace at the Macau Grand Prix today in the opening free practice for a race which this year also counts as the inaugural FIA GT World Cup. Second to Engel at Macau last year, van der Zande set the fastest time of the session with a lap of 2:20.796, just 0.242 of a second quicker than his team mate.
Dutchman van der Zande is clearly delighted to be back at Macau: “It’s fantastic, such a thrill! Every second, even coming out pit lane, is a challenge but I’m loving every minute of it. The only shame is that Macau is only four days every year.”
With two FIA titles at stake, for driver and manufacturer, the 29-year-old is confident Mercedes-Benz has the right package: “We have a very good base line from last year, and we know exactly what to do. I’m impressed with the performance of the Pirelli tyres as well.”
Third fastest was three-time race winner Edoardo Mortara of Italy in the new Audi R8 LMS which is making its Asian debut this weekend. Mortara is teamed with German Rene Rast, making his debut in Macau, and Hong Kong’s Marchy Lee for Audi’s assault on the first FIA GT World Cup title for manufacturers.
Newly-crowned GT Asia Series champion Darryl O’Young set the fourth fastest time in the Craft Bamboo Aston Martin Vantage GT3, ahead of 2015 Le Mans 24 Hour winner and Porsche factory driver, Earl Bamber of LKM Racing in one of three Porsche 997 GT3Rs.
Winner of the 2000 Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix and newly-crowned GT 300 Japan Super GT champion, Andre Couto was quickest of the three McLaren 650s GT3s in seventh overall behind O’Young’s team mate Stefan Mucke.