Teams representing Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have secured a stellar line-up of drivers under the race’s new “professionals-only” rules.
The tightened driver categorization regulations mean that half the field, drawn from throughout the world, will face the starter for the first time under the GT World Cup rules.
Only four drivers remain in the cars or teams with which they contested last year’s World Cup.
Five, including last year’s race winner, have made changes to new machinery.
Professional drivers of 13 nationalities will race for 13 different teams, reinforcing the event’s status as a true World Cup to be decided over one 70-mile (18 lap) sprint.
Twice Macau F3 winner Felix Rosenqvist will seek to become the second driver to win F3 and GT races at the 3.85-mile track.
Runner-up in last year’s FIA F3 World Cup, and winner in both 2014 and 2015, he makes his Macau GT debut in the only Ferrari in the field – a 488 GT3 entered by U.S.-based works-connected team Scuderia Corsa.
Edoardo Mortara is the only driver to have already won both categories.
This year driving for Mercedes-AMG GT3 after racing Audi in 2016, he won in F3 in 2009 and 2010 and then claimed three successive GT races – all before the FIA World Cup concept was realised.
Mortara’s 2017 Mercedes-AMG teammate Daniel Juncadella won Macau F3 in 2011 and this year is in strong contention to claim the dual title.
Reigning FIA Formula E Champion Lucas di Grassi will pilot a HCB-Rutronik-Racing Audi R8LMS at Macau and is also aiming to become a winner in both F3 and GT having taken victory in the single-seater category in 2005.
Inaugural FIA GT World Cup winner Maro Engel (Mercedes-AMG GT3) is one of the four drivers to stay with the same manufacturer. He has switched to the Asian-based Gruppe M Racing team which has just claimed both the drivers and team victory in the Blancpain Asia GT championship.
Engel’s teammate will be Raffaele Marciello, former FIA F3 European Champion and multiple podium scorer in the Blancpain GT Sprint and Endurance series for Mercedes-Benz.
Italian Mirko Bortolotti, joint winner of the 2017 Blancpain GT series in Europe, will remain with Italy’s FFF Racing Team driving the only Lamborghini Huracan GT3 in the field.
Blancpain GT Series Sprint champion and former FIA Formula E driver Robin Frijns will make his Macau GT debut replacing winner of last year’s unusual and dramatic encounter – Laurens Vanthoor – as teammate to Nico Muller in the Belgium-entered Audi Sport Team WRT R8LMS. Vanthoor will represent the Porsche works team Craft Bamboo Racing this year.
Hong Kong-based Canadian Darryl O’Young is the fourth and final driver to remain with his existing marque, partnering Vanthoor in the sister Craft Bamboo Racing 911 GT3R.
Mortara’s switch to Mercedes-AMG and Vanthoor’s to Porsche head up a round of changes including Renger Van der Zande, who moves from Mercedes-AMG to Honda – which is running an NSX at Macau for the very first time. Hiroko Yoshimoto also switches from Ferrari to Porsche.
There are two international star newcomers to the 2017 FIA GT World Cup field in the form of the FIST Team AAI BMW M6 teammates. German fans will be cheering twice DTM champion Marco Wittman, and Bathurst 1000 winner Chaz Mostert will be drawing plenty of attention from Australia.
Tom Blomqvist, third in the support BMW event at Macau in 2010, adds to the BMW M6 entries in the FIA GT World Cup, and there will be one final special BMW taking to the track in the form of Augusto Farfus and his M6 Art Car – the latest in a long line of iconic-liveried BMW machines.
FIA World Endurance Champion, two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb winner Romain Dumas is another top-level driver to take to the 2017 FIA GT World Cup grid.
Drivers will compete in two races, a qualifying event over 12 laps and the main Cup decider over 18 laps.
In contrast to multi-stint endurance events where compromises are required, Macau’s single-driver protocol means cars are tuned precisely to their driver and specified aggressively for the short race distance.
Drivers face one of the longest and fastest straight in street racing and 19 corners including the incredibly tight Melco hairpin. The circuit is regarded as one of the most challenging in the world.
FIA GT Commission President Christian Schacht said: “This year’s FIA GT World Cup has a hugely impressive line-up of top-level manufacturers and drivers, which shows how well established this event has become in global GT racing. The changes we have made in the last year to raise the level of competitors has undoubtedly been successful, and there is fantastic anticipation from everyone involved to see how the world’s headline GT race will play out.”