Friday, December 9, 2016

2016 Sepang 12 Hours Preview

This weekend's Sepang 12 Hours marks the 17th running of the endurance race and this year's edition marks the third and final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

Thirteen of the twenty-car cars entered for the race belong to the GT3 class. Audi won last year's race with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and this year Audi is represented by two Team Phoenix entries. Laurens Vanthoor is the only returning driver from last year's winning driver combination and he will head the #15 Audi with Christopher Haase and Robin Frijns joining him as co-drivers. Haase won the 2010 Sepang 12 Hours with Peter Kox and Tunku Hamman in the Arrows Racing Lamborghini. Vanthoor also leads the drivers' championship with 33 points and looks to bookend his 2016 season with another endurance race victory after winning the Dubai 24 Hour in January. This will be Laurens Vanthoor's final race with Audi as he will move to Porsche for its IMSA GTLM program in 2017.

René Rast, Markus Winkelhock and Pierre Kaffer will drive the #16 Audi. Rast started his season with a victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona in the GTD class with Magnus Racing and he is coming off his first class victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship after he won in LMP2 at Bahrain with G-Drive Racing. Winkelhock and Kaffer both haven't won since 2014. Winkelhock's most recent victory was the 2014 24 Hours of Spa with Vanthoor and Rast as co-drivers. Kaffer's most recent victory was at Virginia International Raceway in GTLM was Risi Competizione Ferrari. 

Bentley leads the Intercontinental GT Challenge manufactures' championship with 51 points; two over Mercedes-Benz but Bentley has not entered a car for the finale. The lone Mercedes-Benz entered for Sepang is the #52 SAITAMA TOYOPET Green Bravo SLS AMG with former IndyCar driver Naoki Hattori leading the PRO-AM line-up with Taku Bamba, Takayuki Hiranuma and Shogo Matsuyama. With Mercedes as the de facto leader in manufactures' championship, Audi trails the fellow German mark by four points and McLaren is 15 points behind Mercedes-Benz. 

K-PAX Racing will be the lone McLaren on the grid and the #9 650 S GT3 will feature Pirelli World Challenge champion Álvaro Parente; Supercars and Blancpain Endurance Series champion Shane Van Gisbergen and Blancpain Endurance Series champion Côme Ledogar. Parente and Van Gisbergen won the Bathurst 12 Hour with Jonathon Webb, the first round of the International GT Challenge in February. Van Gisbergen trails Vanthoor by six points in the drivers' championship. 

Five Ferraris are entered at Sepang with the #50 Spirit of Race 488 GT3 of Michele Rugolo, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Pasin Lathouras leading the prancing horses and is the only all-pro line-up. Asian Le Mans Series regular Nexus Infinity will have Adrian Henry D'Silva, two-time Sepang 12 Hours winner Dominic Ang Ding Xiong and Garnett Patterson in the #27 458 GT3. Carlo van Dam, Frank Yu, Piti Bhirom Bhakti and Tanart Sathienthirakul will drive the #11 Singha Motorsports Team Ferrari 488 GT3. Super GT driver Hiroki Yoshimoto leads the #35 HubAuto Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 with Morris Chen, Shinya Hosokawa and Hiroki Yoshida rounding out the line-up. The only AM entry in GT3 is the #75 T2 Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3 of Gregory Teo Bee Tat, David Tjiptobiantoro and Christian Colombo. 

Manthey Racing comes with two Porsche 911 GT3Rs. Le Mans winners and future full-time Porsche LMP1 drivers Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber join Patrick Pilet in the #911 Porsche. Frédéric Makowiecki, Richard Leitz and Michael Chistensen will drive the #912 Porsche. Porsche leads all manufactures with four victories in the Sepang 12 Hours but has not won the event since 2008. 

The final two GT3 entries are full-time Super GT entries in the GT300 class. JLOC entered the #88 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 for Manabu Orido, Kazuki Hiramine and Adrian Zaugg. The final entry is the #30 APR Toyota Prius for Koki Saga, Kota Sasaki and Hiroaki Nagai. APR won once in Super GT this season and Saga finished second in the GT300 championship with co-driver Yuichi Nakayama 

The remainder of the Sepang 12 Hours entry list is composed of three GT4 entries, four GTC, four touring cars and two MARC Focus V8s.

The Sepang 12 Hours will begin at 11:00 p.m. ET on Friday December 9th. 

1. Over or Under: 3.5 retirements at the Sepang 12 Hours?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Michael Caruso scored 129 points at Homebush.
2. Over: Two LMP3 cars finished on the lead lap in class at Fuji.
3. Over: 33 drivers completed 600 laps or more at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
4. Under: Three Americans were mentioned in the story on the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout.

1. The #30 APR Toyota Prius finishes in the top eight overall.

Last Week's Predictions 
1. Someone other than Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup will win at Homebush (Wrong. Whincup won race one from Homebush and Van Gisbergen won race two).
2. There will be at least four European drivers represented in the three class winners (Correct. Nine European drivers were represented across LMP2, LMP3 and GT at Fuji.).
3. The Ryno Racing Ginetta finishes in the top five overall (Correct. Both Ryno Racing Ginetta finished in the top five overall).
4. A driver between the ages of 18 and 19 win the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout (Correct. Nineteen-year-old Oliver Askew won the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout).
Last Week: 3/4 Overall: 28.5/53