Having climbed nine places during the first half-hour of the three-hour Blancpain Endurance Series race at Silverstone, JRM's Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3 showed more of its potential this weekend. However, a broken front stub-axle - caused by contact when passing cars in the early stages - forced retirement at half-distance.
The Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3 project is a joint association between NISMO (Nissan Motorsports International Co. Ltd.) and JRM (JR Motorsport) and its participation in selected events is a key factor in the car's test and development programme. Following it's successful competitive debut at Magny-Cours in August - the previous round of the Blancpain Endurance Series - followed by entry into a round of the British GT Championship at Donington in September, the GT-R's third race outing at Silverstone was designed to extend its development in a competitive environment.
After driving the car at Magny-Cours, Richard Westbrook was drafted in once again. This time he was joined by Nick Catsburg - who raced at Donington - and Peter Dumbreck, who was to drive the GT3 GT-R for the first time this weekend.
During Friday's practice sessions in changeable weather conditions, JRM used the opportunity wisely to experiment with different set-ups and, intent on establishing the best race-pace possible, continued to try other settings during Saturday's three Qualifying sessions, which consequently led to a starting position of 16th.
Westbrook was to drive the first of the three one-hour stints and reported that he was delighted with the GT-R's set-up after gaining three places on the very first lap. The experienced GT driver was then able to climb a further six places before the 30-minute mark, although this impressive progress came at a price as the relegated competitors resisted Westbrook's advances.
The inevitable contact resulted in what appeared to be light damage to the front-left corner of the GT-R, which led to Westbrook visiting the pits a few minutes before his hour was up when he saw traces of smoke coming from the front of the car. On inspection, it was found that the cause was no worse than debris that had found its way onto the exhaust pipe.
Dumbreck then took over and rejoined the race after the debris had been removed, a set of new tyres had been fitted and fuel had been added. Dumbreck was able maintain the race-pace first established by Westbrook but, after a further 40-minutes, the front-left stub-axle fractured and he carefully guided the car off the track to bring its third competitive outing to a premature end.
Although not able to complete the full three-hours of running, JRM were pleased with the way the car performed and, most importantly, were able to gain a considerable amount of valuable data and information. The development programme for the Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3 will continue with a series of tests ahead of its official launch, with participation in future races yet to be confirmed.Team quotes
Richard Westbrook It's been a very positive weekend. There has been lots of progress made since I last drove the GT-R at Magny-Cours and there's no doubt that it's now a competitive package. I find the car fun and easy to drive and, if we had started the race from a better grid position, I'm sure we could have been very close to the front-runners."
Peter Dumbreck"After working on the set up in practice and qualifying, we were able to maintain an excellent pace during the race. One of the most impressive aspects about the GT-R is how well it uses the tyres, which means that there is little difference between the start and the finish of the stint. I was really enjoying driving the car and it was a shame to have to stop!"
Nick Catsburg"The car feels better every time I drive it. It was therefore disappointed not to be able to race this weekend, especially as it looked like we were on target for a top-six finish."
Andy Barnes - JRM Managing Director"The work we did on the set ups during practice and qualifying really paid off and I was extremely pleased with the pace we were able to maintain during the race. It proved that the development of the car is heading in the right direction. It was unfortunate that there was contact in the early stages of the race, which inevitably led to the retirement. Once again, we were able to gather a great deal of information during the race weekend and I'm confident that what we saw today was a taste of things to come."