Mixed fortunes for Sumo Power GT in China

 FIA GT1 World Championship - Round Eight Report Ordos, China 3rd & 4th September 2011

Round eight of the FIA GT1 World Championship at the intriguing Ordos Circuit in China started off very promising for the Sumo Power GT team, when a third by David Brabham and Jamie Campbell-Walter in car 21 and a fifth by Enrique Bernoldi and Nick Catsburg in car 20 for Saturday's Qualifying Race was just what the team had been hoping for.

Brabham and Campbell-Walter followed this up with a seventh place in Sunday's Championship Race, but a spin which landed car 20 in a gravel trap in the early stages put pay to any kind of result for Bernoldi and Catsburg this time round.It really was a case of 'into the unknown' for Sumo Power GT and the other nine GT1 teams when they made trip to Inner Mongolia for this weekend's two one-hour races at the 3,751km circuit on the outskirts of Ordos city. Having been unsure if the tight and twisty nature of the track would suit the GT-R, the team was pleasantly surprised when car 21 topped the time sheets following Friday morning's Free Practice - and car 20 was not far behind.

With a lot of work carried out on set-ups during the practice sessions, the team was set and ready to go for Saturday morning's Qualifying. And its efforts paid off, with both cars getting through to the Q3 shoot-out between the fastest eight: car 20 qualifying on P4 and 21 on P5.

Qualifying RaceOn a track that is narrower than most, has a series of tight corners in the first sector and was covered in dust, the probability of the cars being damaged on the first lap was fairly high. As it turned out, only a small amount of contact was made - thankfully none of it involving either of the two Sumo Power GT GT-Rs.

Bernoldi, who was first out in car 20, had seized the moment and elbowed his way up to third as cars completed the first lap, with Brabham in car 21 holding station in fifth. Whilst the Brazilian found he had a lack of grip under braking in certain areas, the Australian did not. And, more than happy with the way his GT-R was performing, Brabham pulled off a classic overtaking move on the Lamborghini ahead of him to take fourth place on lap nine.

He then went in pursuit of his team mate and, just a few laps before the pit stop window opened for the compulsory mid-race change of drivers and tyres, he overtook Bernoldi who was still having issues trying to slow his car down for some of the corners. Following the stops, Campbell-Walter took over car 21 and Catsburg car 20, both GT-Rs re-joining the race in the same positions they left it.

With Campbell-Walter pleased with the car he stepped into, he went on to consolidate his third position, unable to catch the leaders, but able to pull out a gap on Catsburg - who was experiencing the same retardation problems to that of Bernoldi. Although the Dutchman was able to cope with the situation, he was soon to be caught by Stefan Dusseldorp in an Aston Martin.

Visibly, Catsburg was under pressure, which he dealt with admirably by using the GT-Rs superior straight-line speed and an excellent display of defensive driving. However, it was not quite enough and, on the very last lap, Dussledorp slipped past. This meant that car 20 crossed the line in fifth place, whereas 15 seconds ahead of it car 21 took the chequered flag in third place to score a well-deserved podium position for the Sumo Power GT team.

Qualifying Race results (pdf) <http://www.rpmpromotions.com/jrmotorsport/GT1QualifyingRaceResults.pdf

Championship RaceStarting from P3 and P5 for the Championship race mean that the two Sumo Power GT-Rs were perfectly poised for a good fight at the front of the field. A clean start by Campbell-Walter in car 21 saw him hold position throughout the now familiar 'busy' first lap and then proceed to consolidate the position as his stint progressed.

Although Catsburg got off to a good start, he found himself in the heart of the action and on a number of occasions was bumped by an Aston Martin as it eventually forced its way past. The young Dutchman was clearly able to run with the pack around him and was confident he could win back the place.

However, on lap three - whilst battling for position - Catsburg was edged wide onto the dirty part of the track. With little grip, the car suddenly spun and duly planted itself in the deep gravel trap on the outside of the turn eight. Although less than a metre away from the tarmac, Catsburg was stuck and the 'beached' GT-R had to be pulled out of the way - the incident provoking a Safety Car period between laps seven and nine.

The Sumo Power GT baton was now in the hands of Campbell-Walter who was in a comfortable third place when he handed over to Brabham in the mandatory mid-race pit stop. Having become synonymous for their speed in changing all four wheels and getting the car back on the track as quickly as possible, it was a surprise to see car 21 up on its air jacks for 10-seconds longer than usual.

The cause of the delay turned out to be a problem with one of the wheel nuts and so, when Brabahm joined the race he found himself frustratingly in seventh, albeit able to run at a pace that would have seen him pull away from the cars around him - if only if he could have passed the Lamborghini in front.

Another Safety Car session before the end of the race, because of repairs that were needed to fix a broken kerb, brought the field closer together and, with just three laps to go, Braham made a move on the car ahead of him. Although momentarily getting past, he could not keep the Lamborghini at bay and therefore ended his race in seventh.

For Sumo Power GT, it was not the end to a weekend where initial performances had promised more. However, the team was pleased to know that, if things go according to plan, the two GT-Rs are on the pace to score podium positions.

The team now packs up and heads south to Beijing for the second of two rounds in China, round nine of the FIA GT1World Championship taking place on Saturday at the Goldenport circuit. Following this, the team will prepare its cars for a major publicity event, which is scheduled to take place outside the famous Birds Nest Olympic stadium on Sunday evening to promote the Championship and its teams.

Championship Race results (pdf) <http://www.rpmpromotions.com/jrmotorsport/GT1ChampionshipRaceResults.pdf

Highlights from both races can be watched on the team's website: www.sumopowergt.comhttp://www.sumopowergt.com/

Team Quotes

Jamie Campbell-Walter (Car 21)"I was very pleased to get a third place in the Qualifying Race, but the pit-stop in the Championship Race dropped us back, which was a great shame. The GT-R felt really good and I think that, if everything had gone according to plan, we could have easily scored a double podium this weekend."

David Brabham (Car 21)"We had the pace for two good results this weekend. Having scored a third in the first race, I know we could have done the same in the second. It is really unusual for us not to have a good pit stop, as they are normally some of the fastest in the championship, so I'm sure the experiences gained in Ordos will make us stronger for Beijing."

Enrique Bernoldi (Car 20)"We did a lot of work setting the car up before the races and we found some extra pace which was good for this circuit. Saturday's race started well for us, but of course, it was disappointing not to be able to race today. We will now have to wait for Beijing and, if we get a problem-free weekend, I think we can be closer to the front."

Nick Catsburg (Car 20)"Enrique and I had a good run in Saturday's Race and I was quite pleased with fifth. The car felt the same as it did for the Championship Race, so I was quite positive we could do the same or better. I was fighting for position and then I was pushed wide and spun. If the gravel had not been so deep, then I could have definitely got going again and I'm sure we could have scored some points."

Hiroki Furuse (Team Manager)"I'm pleased with the pace of our cars this weekend. However, after qualifying well and then scoring a podium position in the first race, we didn't make the most of the opportunities. Even so, I feel positive about this coming weekend in Beijing."

Andy Barnes (Team Principal)"Both cars had good pace this weekend, which was great to see at a circuit as technically demanding as Ordos. They team did a great job with set-ups and it was another case of the results not reflecting the performance. If we can get everything right, both on the track and off it, then we've proved that a podium position is there for the taking."