Raffaele Marciello, driving the #999 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 took victory in the SJM Macau – GT Cup – FIA GT World qualifying race in Macau to start Sunday’s 18-lap contest from pole position.
Joining Marciello on the front row of the grid will be Earl Bamber in the #98 ROWE Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Completing the top three was Dries Vanthoor in the sister #99 Porsche.
A technical issue with the start-line lights meant a 30- minute delay to the start of the 12-lap qualification race, allowing drivers to get out of their cars as temperatures started to climb.
Alessio Picariello struggled to leave the line as the formation lap got underway, the stricken #88 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft Bamboo Racing entry being pushed off the grid to start from the pit-lane.
As the lights went out for the start, Raffaele Marciello in the #99 car led the field away, followed by Dries Vanthoor in the #25 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 LMS.
Vanthoor, however, succumbed early to the tight and twisty circuit, the young Belgian making contact head-on with a barrier after getting a puncture. Weian Chen in the #66 Audi spun and brought out the Safety Car, allowing for safe recovery of Vanthoor’s stricken car.
At the restart, Marciello held off Earl Bamber in the #98 ROWE Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R with Laurens Vanthoor in the #99 Porsche close behind.
However there was disaster for Mercedes after Maro Engel in the #888 car made a mistake passing Kelvin van der Linde’s Audi, making contact with Edoardo Mortara in the #77 Mercedes in the process. The #888 driver collided heavily with Mortata and the barriers to bring out the Safety Car for the second time, Mortara also unable to continue.
Racing resumed with five laps remaining, Marciello again controlling the field from the front. Augusto Farfus Jnr passed Christopher Haase in the #5 Audi for fourth place as the 2018 winner in Macau looked to set up a second victory in 2019.
Earl Bamber stuck like glue to the rear bumper of Raffaele Marciello as the race entered the final three laps, Dries Vanthoor completing the top three who were pulling away from the rest of the field. Marciello resisted the pressure however and started to pull out a small gap to Bamber.
The Italian driver, 2018 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup champion, held on to the lead to take his first win on the streets of Macau.
“Tomorrow we have to take care for the BMW because it’s really quick on the main straight,” said Marciello. “Today was just to stay out of trouble and get pole position for tomorrow where the main goal is.”
The 2019 running of the SJM Macau FIA GT World Cup gets underway at 12:25 local time on Sunday November 17.