The Sepang 12 Hours, a joint organisation between the Sepang International Circuit and the SRO Motorsports Group, will be part of the new Intercontinental GT Challenge, to be launched in 2016. The blue riband event of the Asia-Pacific endurance scene will therefore act as a prologue to the new series, highlighting the global attractiveness of GT3 racing.
The 2015 edition of the Sepang 12 Hours was officially launched today, during a press conference at the Ruang event centre in Shah Alam, just outside the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. At the press conference, Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of the SRO Motorsports Group, and Dato’ Razlan Razali, CEO of Sepang International Circuit, underlined the importance of the co-operation between their two organisations for the future of the Sepang 12 Hours.
“We are extremely happy to see that our co-operation with the Sepang International Circuit on the Sepang 12 Hours project is bearing fruit”, said founder and CEO of SRO Motorsport Group Stephane Ratel. “This is an important event for us, since we want to create high profile GT3 events in the Asia-Pacific region. This year the Sepang 12 Hours will still be run as a stand-alone event, but next year it will play an important part in the success of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.”
When the SRO Motorsports Group announced its partnership with the Sepang International Circuit to co-organise and co-promote the Sepang 12 Hours at the beginning of this year, the aim was to develop the Sepang 12 Hours to become one of the must-attend events on the international motorsports calendar. One look at the entry list shows that both SRO and SIC have succeeded in their plans. The 2015 edition will be an excellent base to further strengthen this partnership during the years to come, an important condition to organise and promote high profile GT events on an intercontinental level.
“We are proud to collaborate with the SRO Motorsports Group in organising the Sepang 12 Hours”, said SIC CEO Dato Razlan Razali. “By moving the 12-hour endurance race away from August, thus changing its name from the Malaysia Merdeka Endurance Race, and organising the event at the end of the year, we aim to enable participation by more world class drivers and established endurance race teams. With the SRO Motorsports Group’s vast experience in organising major international endurance and sprint races, we are confident that the race will potentially become a key event in the world endurance racing calendar.”
High level entry list
With major teams from both Europe and the Australasian region at the start of the Sepang 12 Hours, in addition to some of the best Asian teams, the gruelling race has become even more difficult. Teams and drivers in both Touring Cars and GT3 machinery now not only have to cope with the notorious heat and humidity, but the level of racing will force them to keep their wits about them at all times.
Although the GT3 category is the best represented on the starting grid, the battle for GTC, GT4 (with Team Proton Lotus bringing a Lotus Exige V6) and Touring Car honours will be at least as fierce. The Sepang 12 Hours has always seen a cohabitation of several racing categories and that has not changed for 2015. Audi, Bentley, Ferrari, Honda, Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren, Mercedes, Porsche, Subaru and Toyota bring the total of prestigious brands on the entry list to eleven, all represented by top teams. All of these exciting racing machines are in the hands of GT- and Touring Car-specialists, with several former (and reigning) champions at the start.
Singapore-based Clearwater Racing will do everything in its power to take its third consecutive overall victory, and with a driver line-up including last year’s winner Gimmi Bruni, triple Sepang 12 Hours-winner Mok Weng Sun, 2015 Blancpain Endurance Pro-Am champion Matt Griffin and GT World championship stalwart James Calado, the #1 Ferrari deserves its status of favourite.
But the competition will be tough. With Maxi Buhk, Vincent Abril, Stéphane Ortelli, Laurens Vanthoor, Christopher Mies and Christopher Haase all on the entry list, there are several Blancpain GT Series champions at the start, all competing for factory-supported entries from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and Bentley Team M-Sport. And that is not all. The McLarens of FFF Racing Team by ACM should not be counted out, nor should be Team AAI HubAuto’s Mercedes, with Japanese aces Hiroki Yoshimoto and Nobuteru Taniguchi at the wheel. And what about the Phoenix Racing trio of Winkelhock, Mayr-Melnhof and Thiim, driving an Audi R8 LMS. A similar car will be entered by sister team Audi Hong Kong powered by Phoenix Racing Asia, with local hero (and former F1-racer) Alex Yoong sharing the car with Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong. Throw in former winner Peter Kox at the wheel of the B-Quick Racing Audi R8 Cup and it is clear that the level of racing in this year’s edition of the Sepang 12 Hours will be extraordinary, to say the least.
A top-notch event like the Sepang 12 Hours deserves a suitable TV coverage, and we are glad to announce that several networks have shown big interest in the race. In South East Asia, Fox Sports Asia will show large parts of the race live through Fox Sports 3, Fox Play as well as showing the full race live on their website. Afterwards highlights will be broadcast, just like on the Astro network. Motors TV will show the race completely live in all their territories. 7 Australia will show highlights of the race, and the same goes for Fox Latin America. In the USA CBS Sports will show highlights, while the whole race can be followed live through the online Motor Trend/ Torque channel. Fans in the Middle East and Africa can see the highlights through BeIn and Fox Sports Africa broadcasts. For those unable to watch the Asian endurance classic on television, there will be a live feed on the official website, www.sepang12hours.com, and on the Blancpain GT Series website, with expert commentary from David Addison and Jack Nicholls. The race will obviously be covered through the usual social media channels as well.
Intercontinental GT Challenge presented
The launch of the 2015 Sepang 12 Hours was also an excellent opportunity to further introduce the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which will be launched by the SRO Motorsports Group next year. Stephane Ratel took the opportunity to unveil the new logo of the series and give some more information about the Challenge itself.
Together with the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, Circuit of the Americas 6 hours and Total 24 hours of Spa, the 2016 edition of the Sepang 12 Hours will be part of the inaugural calendar of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the first-ever global GT3 Series. This new Challenge is aimed at manufacturers, who are encouraged to use local teams to represent them in these leading GT3 races, as it is more cost- and time-effective to fly engineers and drivers around the world rather than cars and equipment.
Both a manufacturers’ and a drivers’ title will be awarded in the Pro category, while a Drivers’ title will be awarded in Pro-Am. The events will all have common technical regulations and the BOP will be managed by SRO. The Intercontinental GT Challenge will represent the highest achievement in long distance GT racing. By uniting these iconic events in one series, the level of racing at each round will certainly increase, improving the attractiveness of the event to fans, sponsors, media, drivers and teams alike. A large TV coverage is projected all over the world.