After the most competitive season in the six-year history of the GT Asia Series the championship has come down to the final round with 13 drivers in with a mathematical chance of victory. And whilst Shanghai International Circuit had been slated as the replacement for the unfinished Zhejiang venue for the 21-23 October event, a last-minute change of direction by the local promoter has forced one more change for the region’s leading GT championship.
“It’s frustrating to think that we’ve had the most competitive season ever in GT Asia, yet we’re forced to battle for a venue for the final round,” Motorsport Asia CEO David Sonenscher admitted.
“After it became clear that Zhejiang would let us down despite assurances all year from the parties involved in its construction, we went looking for an alternative venue, however we were limited by dates and obviously choice of venues. We also had to avoid clashes with other championships that some of our teams were involved in.
“The best bet was to stay in Shanghai, and we agreed terms to run there and in fact made financial deposits to ensure that happened, but just last week the promoter changed their mind for no obvious reason. It was always going to be challenging to fit into someone else’s program, but we made it work and were preparing to finalise the program when this happened.”
Despite the setback, Shanghai International Circuit made a date available on Wednesday, 19 October and Thursday 20 October with the full F1-layout available to GT Asia for the season final.
“It’s frustrating when these things happen, but sadly it has been very much outside of our control,” Sonenscher explained. “Perhaps you could point at the decision to work with the new Zhejiang committee as a catalyst for all of this, however despite concerns from some parties mid-year, all the way through to August we had assurances from the circuit that it would be completed.
“Sometimes showing faith doesn’t work out for you, and unfortunately for us, that has put us into a position where we have had to make a tough decision.
“This just highlights again the challenges of operating in a part of the world where motorsport is still very much in its infancy - these things happen.
“Despite the setback, the date change provides us with a number of positives that will ultimately ensure a better event. We now control the whole program as the event is ours, so it allows us a lot more freedom and opportunity to focus our attentions than an event in which we are scheduled amongst other categories.
Practice (2x 90-minute sessions) and qualifying will run on Wednesday, 19 October, whilst the final two rounds of the season will run on Thursday 20 October.
“2016 has been an incredible season for us despite some of the challenges. From the live coverage we’ve achieved around the world which saw an incredible 6.3-million viewers in China alone for the Shanghai round (a figure that doesn’t include the LIVE Star Sports Chinese audience), to the millions of viewers through FOX Sports LIVE throughout Asia, it’s been a real watershed year and we want it to end on a high to complete the season.
“Setbacks like this are things as a promoter you have to expect, we just didn’t expect a double hit for the final round, but it is-what-it-is and we have to deal with it the best way possible and focus on continuing to evolve the championship.
“Plans are already in place for 2017, and we look forward to announcing the calendar for next year very soon, although competitors and fans can expect to visit some of Asia’s leading circuits once more with a focus on GT Asia being one of the primary categories.”
2016 GT Asia Series - calendar
Rnd#1/#2, 13-15 May - Korea International Circuit (South Korea)
Rnd#3/#4, 10-12 June - Buriram International Circuit (Thailand)
Rnd#5/#6, 1-3 July - Okayama International Circuit (Japan)
Rnd#7/#8, 15-17 July - Fuji International Speedway (Japan)
Rnd#9/#10, 19-21 August - Shanghai International Circuit (China)
Rnd#11/#12, 19-20 October - Shanghai International Circuit (China)
The GT Asia Series is sanctioned by the FIA as an International Series and is clearly recognised as the Region’s leading GT Championship. It is solely managed and promoted by Motorsport Asia Ltd and is backed by Singha, Michelin, KW Automotive, Motul, Race Room, Panta, YOFC and Tunewear.