A past venue of the Japan GT Championships, the seasoned Sepang International Circuit now has another international GT race gracing it, the Asia GT Festival. While the former track event was the only one away from Japan, the latter sees the first Asia GT race outside China.
Interestingly, this racing series goes by two names, a dual identity born by the want of the organisers to take it beyond its native borders. While the three-word moniker is to be used when races are held in Asian venues, the sport is known as China GT in its homeland.
Set to line up the Sepang grid are some 30 GT cars with teams and drivers hailing from across the globe, all trying to close in on a share of the RM5.45 million prize pool. It’s a collection of screaming machines underpinned by substantial racing pedigree, particularly in the Gran Tourer sphere. Audi, Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, McLaren, and Porsche are among the badges to be spotted on track.
Fresh And Raring
Kicking off the 2019 Asia GT Festival calendar, the Sepang race is the culmination of intricate planning by its two main sponsors, Malaysian property conglomerate Country Heights and Goldenport Enterprises, a Beijing-based motorsport-centred company. Representatives from both partners spoke at a press conference held in Selangor in December 2018.
“Through this Asia GT Festival, we want to grow Malaysians’ exposure to a different kind of four-wheeled motorsport racing,” revealed Matahari Lee, Executive Director of Country Heights. “Besides that, our other objective of hosting this race is to provide aspiring Malaysian racers the opportunity to be part of an internationally renowned racing event.” He indicated further that the event would do the country’s automotive lifestyle and motorsports industry a lot of good as well.
Jim Ye, Founder of Goldenport Enterprises, said, “Since last year (2017), we have been planning to broaden the appeal of Asia GT to the region and Malaysia is the best place to start because there are many passionate motorsports fans here. We are thrilled to be here in Kuala Lumpur, which is a city with a rich culture and exciting opportunities.”
Working hand in glove, these two sponsors aim to stage the event in Sepang for the next five years, ensuring that touring car racing is not far from Malaysian motorsport fans.
Within China GT, there are three main touring car classes – specifically GT3, GTC and GT4. These are typically homologated vehicles that are based on mass-produced road cars, so a variety of models are pitted against one another.
Seasoned drivers and teams can be found in the GT3 class, which adheres to the principles of the FIA GT3 balance of performance (BOP) and a driver categorisation system to level out the playing field. Power figures top out at 600hp, making for blistering pace.
The GTC class, which ordinarily consists of cars built for one-make series competitions, takes heed of the factory cup car technical specification pertaining to the model year of the car concerned, with a BOP established by China GT.
Under licence and regulated by the Stéphane Ratel Organisation (SRO) GT4 BOP, with cars that won’t look out of place at a track day, the GT4 class is an assorted one that draws drivers and teams of varying race experience, skill and budget.
Adding much vibrancy to the festival are Malaysia Speed Festival (MSF) specials, including the Saga Cup, Super Street, Super Production and Masters Unlimited. MSF is essentially a motorsports club that allows aspiring racers to let loose in a competitive, yet safe and affordable racing environment. In a seemly move, Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has a strong history with both the Proton Saga and Sepang track, is slated to flag off the Saga Cup.
Proclaimed as a family-friendly, wholesome experience, a casual bit of walking should result in the coming across of food trucks, games and other car-related side events during the three-day festival!
Asia GT Festival
WHERE Sepang International Circuit, Selangor
WHEN 15-17 Mar
TEL 03 8945 5400 ext 5456