JRM Racing finish second in 2011 FIA GT1 Teams’ Championship
FIA GT1 World Championship – Round Ten Report
Potrero de los Funes, San Luis, Argentina
5th & 6th November 2011
Driving JRM Racing’s Nissan GT-R no 23 Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr became 2011 FIA GT1 World Champions this weekend, when they wrapped up the title in the first of the two one-hour races at the unique Potrero de los Funes circuit in Argentina. They amassed enough points on Saturday to secure the crown - whatever happened in Sunday’s race two - and it was just as well they did, as their car ended race two in the wall when Luhr was hit from behind during a massive start-line accident.
This left GT-R no. 22, driven by Richard Westbrook and Peter Dumbreck, to battle it out for the remainder of the race and to try and secure the Teams’ Championship title as well. But once again for the British pairing, things didn’t quite go their way and although it was a gallant effort, their eighth place finish was three points shy of enabling JRM Racing to fulfill its dream of achieving both the Drivers’ and Team’s titles.
The venue for the season’s grand finale could not have provided a more spectacular backdrop, as the 6.22km (3.87-mile) circuit, situated close to the city of San Luis, sits in the rim of an extinct volcano. And, as a public road that runs around the perimeter of a lake for most of the year, the undulating track is made even more demanding due to the dust that gathers on its edges, which are flanked the whole way round by safety walls.
The cars took to the track for the first time on Friday for Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying, the team pleased with the pace of both its GT-Rs. Then, later in the day, the news came through that Krumm and Luhr’s closest rivals for the Driver’s title, Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke, were withdrawn from the weekend’s racing after Mucke had slammed the Aston Martin into one of the circuit’s many walls in the second of the one-hour 20-minute sessions and had damaged it too badly to continue.
This retirement also meant that only one of the Young Driver AMR cars would be able to challenge for the Teams’ title and, as JRM Racing went to Argentina lying eight points behind them in the standings, the quest for this accolade was made a little easier. However, having looked at the data, the team decided to swap the engine of car 22 as a precautionary measure on Friday evening, which would inevitably mean a five-place gird penalty for Dumbreck and Westbrook.
Saturday morning’s Qualifying sessions proved to be a successful affair for both JRM Nissans, when car 23 went through to Q3, where Luhr set a series of blistering laps to plant the GT-R no. 23 in Pole Position, half a second ahead of the Exim Bank Team China Corvette of Francesco Pastorelli and Yelmar Buurman. Car 22 also made it through to Q3 and, after Westbrook recorded the fourth-fastest time, he would start the afternoon’s Qualifying Race from P9.
With Turner and Mücke side-lined, it meant that Krumm and Luhr would need to finish fourth or higher to be assured of the Drivers’ title. Therefore, when Buurman edged the Corvette ahead on the run down to the first corner, Krumm made sure he kept out of trouble and tucked his Nissan into second place.
Dumbreck was also trying his best to keep away from an incident, but the dirty outside part of the track saw the cars ahead of him loose traction and consequently, places. His relegation through the field saw him caught in a battle he didn’t want to be part of and, as he exited turn six, a spinning Ford GT rammed into the right-rear wheel of the GT-R.
The heavy impact severely bent the car’s suspension and Dumbreck limped back to the pits, where the engineers set about repairing the damage and get car 22 back in the race. Meanwhile, Krumm was consolidating his second place and, following a perfect mid-race pit-stop to change all-four wheels and tyres, Luhr joined the track closer to the leader.
As the race progressed Luhr hauled-in the Corvette – now being driven by Pastorelli – and, with just four laps to go, the gap between the leading pair was less than a second. Even though Luhr had the pace to overtake, his sights were firmly set on claiming the title and he held position to the chequered flag to secure him, Krumm and JRM Racing the FIA GT1 World Championship for Drivers.
Because Westbrook completed the final ten laps of the first race successfully, he and Dumbreck were credited with P16 for the start of the Championship Race. And, with car 23 starting from P2, hopes were high that JRM Racing would make up the three points they needed to overhaul Young Driver AMR for the Teams’ title – especially as they only had the one Aston Martin running.
But in GT1 racing nothing is predictable and, with the pole-positioned Corvette starting slowly, the pack behind bunched-up and inevitably a number of cars touched. Luhr was consequently hit on the left rear, the impact turning car 23 through 90 degrees before it careered across the track and slammed heavily into the wall on outside.
Westbrook in car 22 managed to pick his way through the debris of the four cars caught up in the incident, which now meant that there was just one JRM GT-R to fight for points in the Teams’ Championship. The carnage that remained inevitably brought out the Safety Car and the operation to clear the stricken machinery and bits of bodywork took six laps.
Because of the delay and, due to the running order of the cars becoming confused during the Safety Car period, the team felt that the race should have been red-flagged and re-started.
Racing resumed 30-seconds before the pit-stop window opened and, now lying in third place, Westbrook came in to swap with Dumbreck and change tyres. An excellent pit stop saw car 22 return to the circuit in 2nd place behind the sole Young Driver Aston Martin of Thomas Enge.
Then, three laps later, Enge came into the pits to serve a drive through penalty which had been applied when his team mate Alex Müller had overtaken most of the cars in the field as they slowed down to observe the Safety Car conditions. With Dumbreck now elevated to first place it looked as though the Teams’ title was back in JRM’s grasp.
But, having reassessed the start of the Safety Car period, officials deemed that Westbrook had also made up places when he shouldn’t and responded by applying a similar penalty to that of the Enge. Following the drive-though, Dumbreck rejoined the track just behind the Aston Martin and, after four laps edged his was past.
He then went past a Ford GT on the next – and last – lap to finally cross the line in a hard-earned eighth place. After some confusion regarding the allocation of points for the Teams’ championship - because of cars not eligible to score points finishing first and second – it transpired that the Hexis Aston Martin team had done enough to clinch the title by just three points, after finishing third and fifth in the race.
It was a bitter blow for the JRM team as they could have easily taken the title had it not been for the removal of car 23 in the start-line accident. However, all the team travel back to the UK with their heads held high, having secured the FIA GT1 World Championship for Drivers and finished runners-up in the Teams’ Championship, in what was only the second year of competition for the JRM Group as a whole.
Michael Krumm (Car 23)
“This has been a very big weekend for me and it hasn’t really sunk in yet that we are World Champions. It’s been a fantastic year. It didn’t start so well and for a while things didn’t look so good. But then, after winning in the Algarve, we went on to win the Tourist Trophy race at Silverstone, which was our most exciting and biggest victory of the year. We then scored a double victory at Paul Ricard, which turned around the championship for us. Then to win the championship here in Argentina is just incredible, although it was a shame the opportunity to win the Teams’ Championship was taken away from us. I must thank JRM, Nissan and NISMO for giving us such a great car which allowed Lucas and I to win the Drivers’ Championship and for this, I am very, very happy.”
Lucas Luhr (Car 23)
“In Saturday’s race it was important we did what we had to do to take the Championship and that’s why we were happy to settle for second, even though the car was so good we could have won. Sunday’s race was simple. I started, had just shifted into fourth and then was hit on the left side of the car and ended up in the wall. Even so, we’ve had a great year and having four wins is more than everyone else, which of course has been the key to the championship. At some circuits the GT-R is stronger than at others, but we’ve been able to get decent results wherever we have been. I have to say a big thank you to the team, Nissan, NISMO and to Michael for such a great year.”
Richard Westbrook (car 22)
“After our disappointment in the Qualifying Race it was a great shame to see such a mess at the start of today’s race. Thank heavens everyone walked away from it unhurt. Considering the confusion afterwards, I think that the drive-through penalty was harsh. We had such a good car for this weekend we expected more and, after such a frustrating year, it was a pity we didn’t get the chance to really show what we could do at this great San Luis circuit.”
Peter Dumbreck (Car 22)
“To have our race result ruined by someone else’s mistake on Saturday and then again on Sunday, was extremely frustrating to say the least. The team gave us a great car this weekend and both Richard and I felt we could push. I was able to do this in today’s Championship race and, if it hadn’t been for the drive-through, I’m confident we could have won the race and the Teams’ title.”
Nigel Stepney (Team Manager and Chief Engineer)
“We almost did what we set out to achieve this weekend. It is absolutely fantastic to have won the Drivers’ World title in what is only our company’s second season of competition and this is credit to everyone involved: Michael, Lucas, the team here in Argentina and the rest of the team back home at our HQ in Rye. I must also thank NISMO for their support and for helping us gain a world title.”
“Unfortunately, our bid for the Teams’ Championship was taken out of our hands by the actions of others at the start of the Championship Race. But even so, we should not be disappointed with second place. It’s still a great achievement and, if things had been just a little different – such as the race being red-flagged and restarted as it should have been– then we might well be going home with two world titles. Roll on next year!”
James Rumsey (Team Principal)
“To claim the Drivers’ title in the first of this weekend’s two races was fantastic and set us up well for the fight for the Teams’ title on Sunday. But to have the result dictated by the poor driving standards of others – not for the first time – is unacceptable. I have to admit that I’m gutted. We did everything we possibly could do to take both titles here in Argentina. So, to get us where we are the team has done a fantastic job – not just for this weekend, but for the whole season and, as far as I’m concerned, they are the Champions!”