JRM Nissan GT-R takes both victories on a perfect weekend.
Round 7 of the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship was held at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France on the weekend of July 16th and 17th, 2011. Both races were won by the No.23 JR Motorsports Nissan GT-R driven by Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr. Second and third of both races in alternating order were the No.7 and No. 8 Aston Martins of Young Driver AMR.
The remaining Nissan GT-R's followed in 4th in both the Qualifying Race (No.22) and the Championship Race (No.21).
Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr in the JR Motorsports Nissan GT-R No.23 won the Qualifying Race at a scorching hot Paul Ricard. The German pair led home Tomas Enge and Alex Müller in the Young Driver Aston Martin No.7 with Enge pulling off an audacious last-lap move on the pole-sitting No.22 JRM car of British duo Richard Westbrook and Peter Dumbreck. The Young Driver Aston Martin No.8 of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke was third as Mücke also got past Westbrook at the wheel of the No.22 Nissan GT-R to take the final place on the podium.
The Sumo Power GT-R's finished the race in ninth (No.21 car) and tenth (No.20).
In temperatures above 30° C in the south of France, the first race of the seventh round of the championship produced another absorbing contest.
Domination for Nissan in the morning's Qualifying session saw three GT-R's occupying the front two rows of the Qualifying Race grid, with the No.22 JRM in pole, No.23 JRM second and the No.21 Sumo Power GT fourth. Further back, the No.20 Sumo Power GT, with Nick Catsburg partnering with the flu-suffering Enrique Bernoldi, started the race in 11th place.
The race start saw the two JRM Nissan GT-R's coming through the first corner cleanly to retain their 1-2 positions, but there was less opening lap joy for the Sumo Power GT-R's. The No.21, with David Brabham starting behind the wheel, lost two positions in the early hustle and bustle for track position before the No.20, driven by Bernoldi, found itself spinning on-track and rejoining at the back after being involved in a melee half-way round lap one that knocked several cars out of the race.
That incident saw the safety car coming into play for much of the first half of the race whilst the debris was cleared away, and by the time the car exited the track the pit window was nearly open. However, there was still time left for Brabham in the No.21 Nissan GT-R to execute an audacious overtaking move to wrestle fifth place from the No.11 Exim Bank Team China Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
As ever, the ten minute long pit window provided a high degree of excitement, and this time the No.23 JRM, with Krumm replacing Luhr, was the main Nissan beneficiary, with great work by the car's pit crew allowing it to leap-frog the No.22 JRM into first. Elsewhere in a heavily congested field, the No.21 Sumo Power GT found itself dropping two places to seventh, whilst the No.20 made up one place to re-emerge in its original starting grid position of 11th.
The early stages of the race's second half saw a strong head-to-head battle between the two JRM Nissan GT-R's whilst both cars bedded in their fresh tyres, with Westbrook in the No.22 coming close to overtaking Krumm in No.23 on several occasions before the German found himself able to pull away lap-by-lap. Slightly further up the field, Campbell-Walter was driving like a man possessed in making up two places to fifth in the No.21 Sumo Power GT.
It was at this stage that the tire degradation for which the Circuit Paul Ricard is so infamous really became noticeable, as the No.21 starting visibly struggling to stay on track with the No.41 Ford GT close on its tail. Campbell-Walter managed the car admirably for several long, hard laps before the lack of grip eventually forced him to drive off-track, something which the race stewards deemed worthy of a drive-through penalty that ended up costing the car four places.
However, it was the degradation of the No.22 JRM tires that was arguably even more dramatic as, holding second place going into the final lap, the loss of traction was such that the car was unable to effectively defend its racing line, and Westbrook found himself being muscled out of the way by both Young Driver Aston Martins. This left the No.23 JRM Nissan GT-R clear to take victory by a full nine seconds.
The winner of the Championship Race last time out at Navarra, the All-Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport Lamborghini No.37 of Nicky Pastorelli and Dominik Schwager retired when the engine lost power 20 minutes from the end. The German team took the decision to garage the car and assess the problem in an effort to save the engine for the Championship Race. The No.38 of Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock, the drivers' championship leaders, was similarly affected and finished seventh.
The Marc VDS No.41 of Fred Makowiecki was the sole surviving Ford GT runner in fifth with the No.47 DKR of Dimitri Enjalbert and Michael Rossi the highest-placed of the two Corvettes in eighth.
Speaking afterwards, Lucas Luhr said: "I got a really good start that brought me right up close to Peter: I saw him struggling a bit going into the first corner, and could perhaps have overtaken him, but I took it a bit easier than I might perhaps have done otherwise as he's my team-mate and obviously we didn't want anything to happen between us. I kept behind him until the pit stop and then stayed out one lap longer, and happily our boys did a good stop that allowed Michael to come out in front. All in all it's a good day."
"This is the first time we've won a Qualifying Race this season, although we've had two Championship Race wins after starting second. Let's hope it's not actually a bad omen as we want to win again tomorrow!"
Lucas' team-mate in the No.23 JRM, Michael Krumm, added: "It was an incredible turnaround and the boys did an amazing job in the pits. The target for us was to come out in the lead and stay there. It proved a lot more difficult than I expected as I struggled to get my tyre pressures up and Richard caught me up and was almost past me two or three times."
"It was a hard battle but no contact was made. Once the tyres were up to pressure I could gain a bit of a gap. It feels great to win but the Championship Race tomorrow is certainly the main focus."
Richard Westbrook said of the No.22 JRM's fourth place: "It's a shame that we couldn't hold on to second and lost two places on the final lap - I was actually really struggling out there for the last four laps. However, fourth place certainly isn't a disaster and it puts us in a decent position for tomorrow when we'll be aiming to put things right."