JRM Racing shows its potential at Sebring FIA World Endurance Championship Round One Report Mobil 1, 12 Hours of Sebring - 16 & 17 March 2012
JRM Racing demonstrated its Endurance racing potential at this year's 60th running of the Mobil 1 12-hours of Sebring, after the team climbed from the back of the grid to an impressive third overall with less than three hours left to go. Its brand new Honda Performance Development ARX-03a ran perfectly for nine-hours and 20-minutes, until a problem with the car's right-rear suspension meant 15 laps and 30--minutes were lost.
Once back on the track, a great recovery resulted in a final placing of 17th overall, 12th in the FIA World Endurance Championship standings and seventh in the LMP1 category. However, without the time lost a podium finish was definitely on the cards.
As well as the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the classic Sebring event also hosted the opening round of the ALMS (American Le Mans Series), which saw a combined entry of 64 cars.
During the week leading up to the race, the team worked tirelessly to bring the new car up to speed for this unique and bumpy track, with lap times improving for every test and practice session. The progress made meant that David Brabham was able to qualify the car in sixth place overall and fifth of the WEC runners.
Following a spectacular pre-start ceremony on the grid, the race got underway on schedule at 10.30am Florida time, with David Brabham first to drive JRM Racing's HPD. However, on the reconnaissance lap, when he went to swap the engine power map from 'safety car' to race 'mode', the top came off the switch, which meant he had to make a quick visit to the pits.
The team changed the steering wheel and Brabham rejoined the track at the back of the grid for the Formation lap. Battling through the 64-car field, after 40 minutes he had fought his way through to 10th place. With all three JRM drivers scheduled to do a double stint, Brabham swapped with Karun Chandhok one hour, 42 minutes into the race. Chandhok then exited the pit lane in eighth place and, in doing so, became the first ever Indian driver to race at Sebring.
Once used to the traffic - something he had not experienced in F1 - Chandhok delivered a strong performance and, with the car running 100% and the Michelin tyres working well, climbed to sixth place and held position for the rest of his one-hour 40-minute stint. Peter Dumbreck was next in and set about catching the car ahead of him - and managed to get within a few seconds before pitting at the end of his double stint.
With five-hours 15-minutes completed, Brabham took his second turn behind the wheel and then, within minutes, found himself in fifth place when one of the three leading works Audis stopped. Then, as the clock ticked towards the six-hour mark, the fourth-placed Rebellion Lola suddenly came into the pits with a problem, which meant that at thehalf-way point, JRM Racing were up to P4.
Another excellent double stint from Brabham saw him get closer to the HPD ahead of him, albeit the third-placed Muscle Milk car was not registered for the WEC and therefore not eligible to score points. After a copy-book two-hours in the car, Brabham then swapped with Dumbreck at the eight-hour mark and, following another safety car period, he caught right up with the third-placed HPD, driven by ex-JRM driver Lucas Luhr.
As the lights went green and racing recommenced, Dumbreck saw a gap and, whilst Luhr got stuck in traffic Dumbreck seized his chance and snatched third place. Lap-after-lap Luhr attempted to get past, but the JRM HPD was able to stay ahead. But then, after nine-hours and 20 minutes of perfect running, the first problem reared its head, when something broke in the car's right-rear suspension.
Dumbreck came into the pits and the crew did what they could, but a new part was needed. The car was taken back to the team's garage and, after 30-minutes, the team was back in the game. Now with 90-minutes to go, Chandhok took over for the final stint, rejoined the race in 25th place and pushed as hard as he could to make up for some of the lost time.
Lap-by-lap he made up places and, on some parts of the track, was the quickest driver out there. He even survived a last-lap coming together with another car and had to complete the last mile with a puncture. But he made it and crossed the line to provide JRM Racing with a well-deserved finish, first time out with a brand new car.
The timing screens showed that the team had finished 17th overall, 12th of the WEC runners and seventh in the LMP1 category. However, had it not been for the 15 laps lost whilst the suspension was repaired, the outcome would have seen the team finish third - or even second - overall.
Without a doubt the performance by JRM Racing showed the team's potential and the conclusion of the race represented three weeks of supreme effort and hard work for the team. It now prepares for round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the six-hours of Spa, which takes place on 5th May.
David BrabhamOverall the team can be proud of what's been achieved this weekend. To challenge for a podium position in our first race with the new car is fantastic, so we should not be disappointed with the final result. The HPD, the Michelin tyres and the team all worked well and there's obviously great potential there for the future. I really felt at home in the car and thoroughly enjoyed the race."
Karun Chandhok"We had a podium finish on the cards, if not overall, then definitely for the WEC, so it was a great shame not to have made it into the top three. The car felt good for my final stint and to try to make up for lost time I pushed as hard as I could. It's a long time since I've driven two hours of qualifying laps! I have to say I really enjoyed my first taste of sportscar racing and I'm already looking forward to the next time."
Peter Dumbreck"In such a short space of time, the team has turned a new car into a car that can take us to the podium. From the drivers point of view there were no mistakes and we were all on the pace, which is the main thing - especially for Karun and I as we're still learning the car. I had a great battle for third until the suspension problem, which of course was a disappointment, as the car was so strong up to that point. It's great to drive and already a competitive package."
Nigel Stepney (Team Manager and Chief Engineer)We were so close to getting a podium on our first outing and therefore, we can't be too disappointed with the result - especially as it was Sebring. Everyone in the team has worked extremely hard this past few weeks and we could not have asked for more. They did a great job in the race too, as did the three drivers. Our strategy seemed to work, the Michelin tyres performed well and it was only the suspension problem that spoilt an otherwise perfect outcome."
James Rumsey (Team Principal)I was really hoping that the result would reflect the effort put in by everyone in the team - and it so easily could have done. Having to fix the suspension cost us 15 laps and if you subtract that from our final position, we would have finished second. It's disappointing not to have made it to the podium, but our performance underlined the great effort put in by the team for our first race with the new car. I'm already looking forward to the next race at Spa - this time with more time to prepare and test the car."