FIA GT1 World Championship - Round Nine Report Goldenport Circuit, Beijing, China 9th & 10th September 2011
Driving the JRM Racing Nissan GT-R no. 23, Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr scored an impressive third place in this weekend's round nine of the FIA GT1 World Championship, which was held at the Goldenport circuit in Beijing. Added to this, they also claimed a hard-earned fourth place in the earlier Qualifying race, meaning that the combination of the two scores sees the two Germans end their weekend leading the Drivers' Championship by 11 points.
Team-mates Peter Dumbreck and Richard Westbrook in Car 22 also delivered a strong performance, claiming seventh in both races. However, due to the Young Driver Aston Martins finishing first and second, JRM Racing now lies second in the Teams' Championship, just eight points behind - with just one round to go.
After scoring two second places last week at the Ordos Circuit in Inner Mongolia, the JRM Racing team headed further East to Beijing for the second of two rounds in China. Whereas the layout of the Ordos circuit was a more conventional size and design, the Goldenport venue was a different matter, with shorter straights, tighter corners and a narrower track.
JRM arrived at the circuit - which is situated 26km from the centre of China's capital city - as leaders of both the Teams' Championship and, in the case of Krumm and Luhr, leaders of the Drivers' Championship as well. Therefore, the team knew they would have a tough two days ahead of them, especially at a circuit such as Goldenport.
With the track recently upgraded in order to accommodate the Championship, Friday morning's practice session saw the first time that a GT1 car had ever ventured onto its 2.4km of asphalt. The team used this and the Pre-Qualifying session that followed to set up its cars and allow the drivers to acclimatise to the track.
The short lap distance meant that each of 18 cars was separated by fractions of a second and, happy with the set-ups on its two Nissan GT-Rs, hopes were high for a good outcome in qualifying. However, car 23's session was over in Q1, when loss of grip saw Luhr plunge into the gravel trap on the outside of turn one. Westbrook got car 22 through to Q2 and Dumbreck would have made it through to Q3 if it was not for traffic, ending the session in ninth and just 0.033 seconds away from claiming P8.
Qualifying RaceWith rain clouds as far as the eye could see, it was clear that Saturday's two races would be run in the wet and, during the morning's warm up session, adjustments were made to the car's set ups to suit the conditions. However, due to a number of teams changing their engines out of sequence with the Championship regulations, car 23 was elevated to P13 on the grid, with car 22 starting from P9.
When the lights shone green through the spray and the pack thundered into turn-one, it was a miracle there was no contact between the cars. Both the JRM Nissans made a strong start and, at the end of the first lap, Dumbreck - who was first to drive in 22 - held onto ninth and Krumm in 23 was already up to 11th - and then claimed 10th two laps later.
From hereon a series of spins on the waterlogged track predictably saw cars stuck in the soft gravel traps on the outside of the corners. One such incident on lap three brought out the Safety Car for six laps and, when racing resumed, Krumm then passed two more cars, which meant that at the end of lap 14, car 23 was seventh and car 22 ninth.
With other incidents taking place, both JRM Racing GT-Rs were one place higher by the time they pulled into the pits for the compulsory mid-race change of drivers and tyres. Two excellent stops by the crews saw Luhr - now in no. 23 - emerge in fourth with Westbrook in no. 22 holding station.
Now embroiled in a battle between three Aston Martins and a Lamborghini, Luhr momentarily claimed third place when the Italian car was given a drive-through penalty for a pit lane infringement. However, the following Aston Martin barged its way past and, not wanting to spoil what was going to be a good result, Luhr opted not to fight back and was delighted to end the Qualifying Race in fourth - nine places higher to that of his and Krumm's start position.
Westbrook admitted that he could not find the same level of grip with car 22 and therefore, he and Dumbreck were more than satisfied to get through a treacherous first race unscathed and all set for the second, which started just four hours later.
Championship RaceWhen cars lined up for the second of the two one-hour races, it was still raining. So much so, the first three laps were spent with the grid of 18 cars circulating line-astern behind the Safety Car. When racing finally commenced, Luhr - who was first to drive in car 23 - made a clean start from P4, but due to the poor visibility in the spray, Westbrook in car 22 got caught up with other competitors in turn one, the contact resulting in a punctured front-left tyre.
With no choice but to change the wheel, Westbrook made an unscheduled pit stop and returned to the track in 15th place, by which time another Safety Car period was in progress in order for the cars to be cleared from turn one. With the weather and deep gravel hampering the recovery of the stricken GT1 machinery, it was another ten laps before racing resumed - and then two laps after that the pit-stop window opened.
23 was the first of the two JRM GT-Rs to come in with Luhr, who had only actually raced for three laps, handing over to Krumm. Four laps later Westbrook, who had now passed three cars, made his stop to swap with Dumbeck. With both of the stops carried out in a shade over 20 seconds, 23 returned to the track back with the leading quartet, whilst 22 was elevated to seventh by the time the field had re-grouped after the pit activity subsided.
As the second half of the race progressed, both Krumm and Dumbreck found themselves in battles but, with rain still falling, continued to adopt a cautious approach whilst pushing as hard as they could. Krumm made an excellent move to pass the Ford GT that had won both races last weekend in Ordos, whilst Dumbreck was tussling with a Corvette.
But then, with just five minutes of the race to go, the Safety Car was deployed once again as more cars found there way into the gravel traps. Amazingly, as the convoy of cars slowed down to follow the lead vehicle, the Aston Martin leading the race spun off on the outside of turn one, which meant Krumm was elevated to third and Dumbreck to seventh.
Now, with a variety of cars off the road and requiring attention, the Safety Car period remained in place until the chequered flag and, with no over taking allowed, the team were delighted to see car 23 record a podium finish in what was undoubtedly the toughest race of the season so far. The result meant that Krumm and Luhr came away from Goldenport with an 11-point lead in the Drivers' Championship and, with 22 crossing the line in seventh, JRM now lie second in the Teams' Championship, just eight points behind the leaders - Young Driver AMR, who's Aston Martins were first and second in both races this weekend.
The team now prepares for the all-important tenth and final round of the series, which takes place on 5th & 6th November at the spectacular Potrero de los Funes circuit near San Luis in Argentina. And, with both the Teams' and Drivers' titles at stake, JRM Racing will be there fighting to claim both these FIA GT1 World Championship crowns.
On Sunday after the race at Goldenport, JRM Racing - together with the all other GT1 teams - took part in a spectacular promotional event in the centre of Beijing between the National Stadium (better known as the Birds Nest) and the Water Cube. The event marked the first time a motor race had ever taken place in this area and was designed as a test event in respect of the GT1 cars returning next year for a proposed night-time race around the roads in the Olympic Park.
Team QuotesMichael Krumm (Car 23)"We are really happy with the result. Of course, we came here to win, but considering we didn't make it beyond Q1 - for the first time this year - and the conditions at the track, to finish third in the Championship Race is better than we could have hoped for. It was a tough day and I pushed has hard as I could up to the risk level and it meant I had a few moments. But today has been good for us, good for the team and good for Nissan - and I'm delighted that we head to the final round leading the Drivers' Championship.
Lucas Luhr (Car 23)"Considering I planted the car in the gravel in Q1, to finish third in the Championship Race is fantastic. I have to say that the weather seemed to help. Our car was more competitive in the rain, but it was difficult to stay on the track sometimes as the conditions got so bad. Our pit crew did a brilliant job in both races, as did Michael who made up so many places in race one and then fought well against the Aston Martins in race two, which means we retain our lead in the Championship and gives us a great chance of claiming the title in Argentina."
Richard Westbrook (car 22)"It's been extremely wet today. Because we started in the middle of the field it was difficult to see because of the spray - especially at the start of the races. It was a case of trying to keep out of trouble, which we almost did. I had to come into the pits to change a wheel in the second race, which put us back to 15th but, with the Safety Car sessions and then getting our heads down and having a great pit stop, we were able to get back up to seventh. Although it was a short tight and twisty track, I really enjoyed driving it, as it was something different and a real challenge."
Peter Dumbreck (Car 22)"Our car was certainly better than most in the wet, but I was still not completely comfortable in the conditions we've experienced today. It was a case of keeping it on the road and not pushing too hard. It was a good recovery today, going from 15th after the puncture up to seventh after the pit stop and I'm glad we were able to score some points and in doing so, help JRM in the Teams' Championship."
Nigel Stepney (Team Manager and Chief Engineer) "It all came good in the end, even though things didn't start too well in Qualifying. It's all about not giving up and to keep working to make the cars better, whatever the conditions. I was pleased with the drivers, who kept on the track throughout the two races. I'm also pleased with the team and the speed of the pit stops. We were concerned that this weekend would be tough for us - which it was - but it's worked out well in the end as Michael and Lucas still lead the Drivers' Championship and we are a close second in the Teams' standings, which is a string position to be in with one round to go."
James Rumsey (Team Principal)"The result this weekend puts us in a strong position for the 10th and final round of the Championship in eight weeks time. It's also inspired us with confidence that if we can score good results on track like Goldenport - and in such bad weather - then we can be competitive anywhere. I'm therefore very happy with what we have achieved here and now look forward to fighting for the Teams' and Drivers' titles at the season finale in Argentina."