FIA GT1 World Championship - Round Ten Preview Potrero de los Funes, San Luis, Argentina 5th & 6th November 2011
After 18 races and nine rounds, the finale for the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship season takes place this weekend at the spectacular Potrero de los Funes circuit near San Luis in Argentina - and the Sumo Power GT team will be there with the intention of ending its season on a high note. Taking place on the only track in the world that sits in the rim of an extinct volcano and forms the perimeter road around its lake, the circuit provides a perfect venue at which to achieve a memorable conclusion to the year.
A season of mixed fortunes has meant that the team will not be battling for the Drivers' and Teams' titles, although Sumo Power GT has time-and-again proved that it can challenge for podium places - after scoring four this season. Achieving all these top three places has been Jamie Campbell-Walter and David Brabham who drive the team's GT-R no. 21.
Albeit not quite the season the Anglo-Australian paring had been hoping for, they head to the tenth round of the global sportscar championship ninth in the drivers' standings. However, with a possible 33 points on offer, if they were to win both of the weekend's one-hour races, they have a mathematical chance of claiming third place.
It would be fair to say that their team-mates in car no. 20, Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi and Dutchman Nick Catsburg, have had their share of bad luck this season. Even so, this hasn't stopped them from proving they can set front-running times and therefore, nothing would please them more than to be able to show their potential in Argentina - especially Bernoldi, who is eager to do well in his native South America.
Although the best the talented Brazilian can hope for in the Drivers' standings is sixth and, for Catsburg - as he joined the team mid-season - seventh, Sumo Power GT could still claim fourth in the Teams' category. This is because the results for both cars count towards the scores and therefore, there are 57 points still on the table for this title.
However, perhaps the most significant denominator in all of the end of season permutations will be the circuit itself, asis displays a character different from that of any other in the FIA GT1 World Championship - or indeed possibly any championship. This is due to the track's breath-taking undulations and fast corners with few run-off areas, coupled with the spectacular topography that surrounds it.
Also, with it being a public road that services the surrounding villages for most of the year, overtaking becomes a risky business, as moving off the racing line means a trip across the dust and dirt that exists at the side of the road. Combine this with the fact that the whole of its 6.22kms (3.87-miles) is encased by walls, it means there is no room for mistakes.Free Practice and Pre Qualifying takes place on Friday, whilst Saturday hosts Qualifying at 09.00 followed by the Qualifying Race at 13.45. The Championship Race takes place on Sunday, also at 13.45 and will undoubtedly provide a fitting climax to what has been another memorable season for Sumo Power GT.
All times listed are for Argentina. Please subtract three hours for GMT (UK).
Enrique Bernoldi (Car 20)"I enjoyed the Potrero de los Funes track last year, even though I remember it was not such a good result because my car was carrying a lot of weight after winning at Interlagos the week before. I think this year the race in Argentina could be good for me and the GT-R, so my aim is to finally get on the podium and perhaps even on the top step. We have had some bad luck this year, so it would be a great way to end the season - especially as it's in South America."
Nick Catsburg (Car 20)"Some people tell me that the circuit at San Luis is the most spectacular track they have ever been to. And, I must say, everything I see about it on internet looks very cool. I will be spending some time in a simulator to get to know it as best I can and, of course, on the day of arrival I will walk around it too. I'm really looking forward to racing there. In China Enrique and I were on it when it comes to pace. I'm still hoping - and aiming - for a podium in Argentina. I think we are ready for it - and so is our car."
David Brabham (Car 21)"The circuit at San Luis is another I haven't been to this year, but I can see from photos and from the internet that it's a beautiful place. I have recently been to Base Performance and had a session on the simulator there to learn as much as I can about the track before I get to Argentina. The team has worked really hard all year, but Sumo Power GT is yet to win a race this season. Jamie and I have finished on the podium four times, so we have proved that the car - and the crew - has the pace, but the top step has so far alluded us. Therefore, our goal is to achieve our first victory and end our season on a high note."
Jamie Campbell-Walter (Car 21)"I am really looking forward to returning to Argentina. It is a great country and the circuit is one that I really enjoy. It's very challenging and the first part of the lap really suits the GT-R. The second half has this amazing climb through a series of corners surrounded by walls. It's fantastic driving through this section. Brabs and I are going there to win, as we have come so close this year. I really hope we will see a Nissan win the Championship, even though it would be one of our sister team's cars that does it."
Hiroki Furuse (Team Manager)"Our results have shown that, whatever the circuit, our cars can be strong, so at a circuit which is as different as the one we are heading to this weekend, I think we can again, quickly adapt to the conditions. However, it's another challenge for us and, as it's the end of the season, we will be throwing everything we can at the two races so that we finish with a set of good results. It would be just reward for the hard work everyone in the team has put in this year."
Andy Barnes (Team Principal)"It's the end of the season and we've got nothing to lose. It's a case of no holds barred. Therefore, the drivers are going to Argentina to race and, with the line up we've got, I see no reason why a top result should not be on the cards. It will be great do well at the San Luis circuit and to head into winter on a high note."