Four current and two former stars from the Autobacs Super GT Series will take part in the 64th running of the Macau Grand Prix on the weekend of November 19, 2017, which includes the historic Formula 3 Grand Prix, and the FIA GT World Cup, both run on the demanding 6.1 kilometer Guia Circuit.
Yuhi Sekiguchi, Kenta Yamashita, and Sho Tsuboi will lead the Japanese contingent in the Formula 3 race, while Hiroki Yoshimoto will represent Japan in the all-pro GT World Cup – two events stacked with top-flight talent from top to bottom.
The Macau Grand Prix has been won by legends of the sport including the likes of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. It’s also been won by a list of notable former drivers in Super GT – such as John Nielsen (1984), David Brabham (1989), current driver Jörg Müller (1993), Ralf Schumacher (1995), Ralph Firman (1996), Peter Dumbreck (1998), current driver André Couto (2000), and Oliver Jarvis (2007).
Though the entry list for the Macau F3 Grand Prix is down to just 22 cars and drivers, it by no means is lacking in talent – certainly not with McLaren F1 protegé Lando Norris, the reigning European Formula 3 Champion and one of the top young stars in motor racing, slated as the favourite to win the race.
Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh ace Sekiguchi will be the most experienced driver in the field, making his fifth entry in the Macau Grand Prix (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015). He will try to better his personal best finish of fourth in ’11, in one of three Volkswagen-powered entries from the B-Max Racing Team. Sekiguchi has also been a championship contender in each of his first two Super Formula campaigns.
He won’t be the oldest driver in the field, however – that honour will go to Ryuji “Dragon” Kumita, the reigning All-Japan Formula Three National Class Champion. At 50 years young, Dragon makes his Macau GP debut for the team that he partially owns.
B-Max Racing Team have also recruited Kenta Yamashita, one of the breakout stars of last year’s Macau Grand Prix, to their team for his fourth appearance. He finished fourth for ThreeBond with T-Sport in 2016. In 2017, Yamashita returned to Super GT full-time with VivaC Team Tsuchiya and Lexus Team WedsSport Bandoh, and made the step up to the Japanese Super Formula Championship.
B-Max Racing will be without the services of the 2017 All-Japan Formula Three Champion, Mitsunori Takaboshi, however. It’s the first time since 2014 that the current Japanese F3 maingame champion won’t be on the grid at Macau.
TOM’s will bring a two-car entry, led by Japanese F3 runner-up Sho Tsuboi. Tsuboi led all drivers in race wins in 2017 in a valiant second-half run to finish second behind Takaboshi in the standings. With one race left, he and co-driver Yuichi Nakayama are second in the GT300 Drivers’ Championship.
Alongside Tsuboi, will be the debuting Ritomo Miyata, the 18-year-old Toyota Young Driver Programme (TDP) prospect making his Macau debut – and more than likely, a Super GT star of the future.
Former GT500 podium finisher Tadasuke Makino will switch over to the German-based Motopark team for his second Macau GP appearance, after completing his first full season in European F3. The 19-year-old will also have a compatriot on his squad, as 18-year-old Marino Sato makes his Macau debut.
The seven Japanese drivers will look to join their countrymen Takuma Sato (2001) and Keisuke Kunimoto (2008) as former winners of this great race.
The last of the Japanese F3 representatives will be Álex Palou of Spain, driving in his first Macau GP since 2014 for ThreeBond with Drago Corse. The 20-year-old was a race winner in Japanese F3 and in the much more powerful Formula V8 World Series cars in 2017.
In the third FIA GT World Cup held at Macau, the rules have been revised and the race is now a true all-pro affair. It is reflected in the 20-car entry list and the quality of the drivers competing, a who’s who of top talents.
Hiroki Yoshimoto will represent his partners at HubAuto Racing, not in a Ferrari 488 GT3 as he drove in Super Taikyu, but in a Porsche 911 GT3-R. He is in the midst of a resurgent season at LM Corsa in GT300.
Yoshimoto will also be joined at HubAuto-Porsche by former Toyota Team SARD GT500 driver, Romain Dumas – now a two-time Le Mans winner and former World Endurance Drivers’ Champion at Porsche.
Also in the field are Super Formula rookie sensation Felix Rosenqvist, no stranger to Macau as a two-time F3 Grand Prix winner, making his GT World Cup debut for American-based Scuderia Corsa Ferrari – the reigning IMSA GT Daytona champions.
GT500 star Andrea Caldarelli co-owns the FF Racing Team by ACM Lamborghini Huracán GT3 which will be driven by Mirko Bortolotti, the reigning Blancpain GT Series champion. Augusto Farfus, the third driver at BMW Team Studie at Suzuka this year, will drive for BMW Team Schnitzer and their M6 GT3.
Keep an eye also on the Macau debut of the Honda NSX GT3, driven by Renger van der Zande – it may be coming to a Super GT circuit near you in 2018.