JR Motorsports finishes second in both races.
The first event of the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship took place on March 26th at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. Martin and Makowiecki in the No.41 Marc VDS Racing Team Ford GT won the Qualifying race, while Piccione and Dusseldorp in the No.3 Hexis AMR Aston Martin DBR9 won the Championship race.
The Nissan GT-R's had a rather successful inaugural weekend. In the Qualifiying race, the No.22 and No.23 Nissan GT-R's of JR Motorsports and the No.20 Sumo Power GT-R closely missed the victory by scoring positions two through four. The remaining No.21 Sumo Power GT car of Brabham and Campbell-Walter finished in 8th position. The No.22 Nissan GT-R of JR Motorsports also placed second in the Championship race with a gap of a mere 0.5 secs to the winner. As the best of the remaining Nissan GT-R's, the No.21 Sumo Power GT car finished in 9th position.
Marc VDS Racing's No. 41 Ford GT of Maxime Martin and Frederic Makowiecki claimed the victory in the qualifying race, resisting heavy pressure from the No.22 JR Motorsports Nissan GT-R, which finished a mere 1.5 seconds behind the leader.
It was all smiles in the Nissan camp as JR Motorsports had both their cars in the top 3 finishers, with Richard Westbrook and Peter Dumbreck in the No.22 Nissan GT-R pushing the Ford all the way to the chequered flag, while team mates Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr in car No.23 held on to take third. The weekend marked JRM's GT1 debut, with the team replacing Swiss Racing as the second Nissan outfit alongside Sumo Power GT. Runby the same company as Sumo Power GT, the team showed no signs of inexperience however.
Despite misty condition caused by a sand storm, the first race of the season was action packed from start to finish and the battle for the lead between the Ford GT and the Nissan GT-R provided some nailbiting entertainment for the teams and spectators alike.
Racing together for the first time, Maxime Martin and Frederic Makowiecki in the No.41 Ford GT started from second and held position until the pitlane opened, despite an encounter with the No.7 Young Driver AMR car of Tomas Enge and Alex Müller, which had missed its breaking point after the start and tapped the inside of the No.41 Ford GT, before spinning on the exit of turn one.
The following chain reaction first caused the No.37 All-Inkl.com Lamborghini Murcielago of Pastorelli and Dominik Schwager - demoted five places after claiming the pole in qualifying - and then the No.47 DKR Engineering Chevrolet Corvette to have contact with Enge's No.7 Aston Martin DBR9, ruling all three cars out of the race.
As the field reassembled it was the No.8 Aston Martin Young Driver of Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner which set about establishing an early lead, with the No.41 Marc VDS Ford GT second and the No.22 JRM Nissan GT-R in third.
The order remained consistent at the front until the pit stop window opened on lap 12, when disaster befell the No.8 Aston Martin as a slow pit stop dropped them behind the Ford GT, before a problem with the left-front tyre caused them to retire completely from the race.
An excellent first stop by the Marc VDS Racing Team allowed the No.41 Ford GT to jump into the lead. The No.22 Nissan GT-R of Dumbreck and Westbrook meanwhile had opted to stay out one lap longer, and the move almost paid dividends as it rejoined the track side by side with the No.41 Marc VDS Ford GT. A frantic battle for position ensued over the next series of corners, with Maxime Martin eventually emerging in the lead but under severe pressure from the Nissan GT-R. That pressure remained for the duration of the race, with the gap between the lead two cars only exceeding one second on the penultimate lap.
There were similarly enthralling battles throughout the field, particularly at the start as a five way battle for fourth raged between Nissan, Chevrolet and Lamborghini. The No.20 and No.23 Nissan GT-R's eventually came to the fore, but there was late drama as JR Motorsports' Lucas Luhr and Michael Krumm in No.23 dived down the inside to snatch third from their No.20 Sumo Power GT sister car of Enrique Bernoldi and Ricardo Zonta.
Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldorp finished fifth in the No.9 Young Driver Aston Martin DBR9, ahead of Winkelhock and Basseng' All-Inkl Lamborghini Murcielago 670 R-SV and DKR's Corvette of Mike Hezemans and Nicky Catsburg, who had completed an impressive 360 spin when fighting for position in the early stages of the race.
Eighth meanwhile went to the No.21 Sumo Power GT Nissan GT-R of David Brabham and Jamie Campbell-Walter, the duo fighting back from problems at their pit stop to make up two places in the final seven laps.