Opening the door to GT4

66th Macau Grand Prix Special | Co-ordinated by Sérgio Fonseca

Greater Bay Area GT Cup

The 66th running of the Macau Grand Prix only has one change in its programme. The Greater Bay Area Lotus Cup gave room to the brand new Greater Bay Area GT Cup. What was a single-make race is now a more exciting GT race that is reopening the doors of the Guia Circuit to the successful GT4 category.

For those less familiar with the motor racing hierarchy, the GT4 category is positioned one rank below GT3. It is popular with private race teams around the world due to its low cost and ease of entry. Teams purchase from manufacturers race cars that are modified versions of production vehicles and enter them into races. GT4 cars are eligible to participate in a variety of races across the globe, including this year’s Macau Grand Prix.

The last time we saw a GT4 car racing in the Guia Circuit was ten years ago in the Macau GT Cup race. The shape of the category changed a lot in recent years. Increased manufacturer interest in recent years has resulted in a wider range of cars that are eligible to race in the GT4 series, including the brand new Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS MR, the BMW M4 GT4, the Audi R8 LMS GT4 and the Mercedes-AMG GT4.

Back in the day, the Macau GT Cup was the favorite race of many enthusiast amateur drivers from the Asian region. With the introduction of the FIA GT World Cup, and the arrival of professional drivers and factory teams, those racers had been put aside – until today. This Greater Bay Area GT Cup reopens its doors to these cars in order to make the competition available to as many drivers as possible.

“Racing a GT car in Macau is always very challenging. The GT3 World Cup is for professionals only, so I am very glad that Macau Grand Prix has a dedicated a GT4 race to amateur drivers like myself”, says the Hong Kong-born Macau driver Kevin Tse Wing Kin, who took part in the Macau GT Cup and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Cup races in the Macau Grand Prix in the past.

Coming from a different background, in his case the Macau Touring Car Series, local driver Mak Ka Lok also found a place to compete in this new race. “I moved to Lotus Cup last year because it is a one-make race and you can aim at good results with confidence because you don’t have to rely only on the performance of the cars and its modifications”.

This lower-cost formula of GT racing has been working well all over the world. It was first introduced to the two “2019 Macau Racing Festival” qualifying weekends organized by the Associação Geral Automóvel de Macau-China (AAMC) in May and June at the Guangdong International Circuit. The Macau ASN seems to be taking this new category seriously, partnering first with Lotus Cup organizer Lotus Cup, and appointing the FIA World Endurance Championship Race Director Eduardo Freitas for the events.

“GT4 will definitely work in Macau. We can still have a glamorous GT3 race for the professionals and then a less expensive GT4 race for the amateur drivers. We have a two-tier GT race showcase in Macau, which will serve as a great spectacle for the viewers”, says Tse, who will drive a Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the race.

Ka Lok, who also took part in some China GT Championship races this year in preparation for the Macau Grand Prix, also agrees: “It will have a good development in the future because it runs with a friendly budget for the teams. There are many brands in the market and the performance is equalized by a BOP system”.

The GT4 category keeps growing. There 18 different SRO-homologated GT4 cars, and brands like Toyota and Lotus are launching new cars next year. The Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and the Mercedes-AMG GT4 are on a MOP 1.7 million range, but there are cheaper options in the market, like the Ginetta G55 that goes slightly over a MOP 1.2 million. A very active global second-hand market makes it quite attractive for buyers.

“The idea is very good, but let’s see how the race develops in the future”, says Ingo Matter, the Team Director of Absolute Racing, the China-based team that runs in Audi R8 GT4 and Porsche Cayman GT4 cars in several Asian series. “Back in the day everyone tried to get an entry into Macau GT Cup, and you can have the same thing here. Of course, we have to make sure the rules are effective to prevent the costs from rising, but the first step has been taken”.

The GT4 category is based on SRO-regulated Grand Touring cars. The SRO steady regulations and Balance of Performance (BoP) are key to the worldwide success of the category. Curiously, the London-based SRO Motorsport Organization is the co-coordinator, in partnership with AAMC, of the FIA GT World Cup, but this year’s Great Bay Area GT Cup runs with their own set of regulations and particular BoP. A possible link between Macau Grand Prix and SRO for this race would make sense if the aim is to take this race to another level.

“Certainly this is not impossible”, says Benjamin Franassovici, the Series Manager of the successful SRO-organised Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia and FIA GT World Cup Coordinator. “We have a good relationship with Macau’s organisers and oversee Asia’s only GT4 championship. So why not?”.

For all intents and purposes, this first edition of the Great Bay Area GT Cup promises to be a great addition to an already electrifying race weekend.