Joel Eriksson finished seventh on his debut in the FIA GT World Cup at the fabled Macau Grand Prix on Sunday, putting pressure on a raft of previous winners of the esteemed event.
Eriksson, who competes for BMW in the DTM, was drafted into the Bavarian manufacturer’s FIA GT World Cup programme for the first time on the back of previous success at the unique Macau street track in Formula 3.
Armed with a completely different beast this time around in the shape of the larger BMW M6 GT3, Eriksson belied his inexperience to get swiftly up to speed, qualifying ahead of reigning FIA GT World Cup champion and team-mate Augusto Farfus to lead the BMW charge.
On a weekend when the BMW cars could not match the outright pace of the leading contenders, however, Eriksson and Farfus were restricted to 11th and 12th respectively on the grid for Saturday’s Qualification Race.
Unfortunately, an ABS system failure hurt Eriksson’s chances of making progress in the 12-lap qualifier, forcing the 21-year-old to brake early into the track’s heavy braking zones and slashing his overtaking opportunities.
Eriksson still managed to come home ninth, two places ahead of where he’d started, and duly slotted into P9 as the field lined up for the start of Sunday’s do-or-die 18-lap finale.
Once there, Eriksson continued to run at a similar pace to the experienced Farfus – the Swede’s fastest lap roughly a tenth quicker than the Brazilian’s – on his way to seventh at the chequered flag.
Farfus finished fourth, having made up significant ground in the Qualification Race.
Eriksson, who competed for the Asian-based FIST-Team AAI, came home two seconds behind his BMW stablemate and just fractions behind multiple Macau F3 and GT winner Edoardo Mortara (Mercedes). Eriksson finished ahead of another FIA GT World Cup champion, Germany’s Maro Engel (Mercedes).
“I think we have reason to be relatively pleased with this weekend, and I’m happy with my performance driving a GT car around here for the first time,” says Joel Eriksson. “It’s a massive difference to F3, especially in the mountain section where it’s even more narrow and challenging in GTs. I was able to keep up with Augusto, who as the reigning champion is a proven winner around here, and to actually be ahead of him in qualifying exceeded my expectations.”
The 2019 FIA GT World Cup was won by Mercedes driver Raffaele Marciello ahead of Porsche duo Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand).
“It’s a shame we couldn’t take the fight to the quickest teams this weekend,” Joel Eriksson concludes. “We were not fast enough in the twisty bit in the mountain, but we had good top speed that compensated for some of it. In the end it wasn’t enough, but we did our best and I really want to thank BMW and FIST-Team AAI for the opportunity. Hopefully I can be back in Macau again next year – this race is incredible.”
Joel Eriksson now travels on to Shanghai, where he will contest a round of the Asian Le Mans Series next weekend aboard the same FIST-Team AAI BMW M6 GT3 he drove in Macau.
RESULTS (top five)
FIA GT World Cup | Macau Grand Prix
Guia Circuit (Macau)
1: Raffaele Marciello (ITA), Mercedes, 18 laps
2: Laurens Vanthoor (BEL), Porsche, +3.818s
3: Earl Bamber (NZL), Porsche, +4.700s
4: Augusto Farfus (BRA), BMW, +23.618s
5: Christopher Haase (GER), Audi, +24.268s
7: Joel Eriksson (SWE), BMW, +25.978s