Champions! No.23 JRM Racing GT-R Seals GT1 Drivers' Title In San Luis Qualifying Race
Krumm and Luhr's second place also helps to close gap in JRM's hunt for Teams' Championship
A second place from the no.23 JRM Racing Nissan GT-R in the San Luis FIA GT1 World Championship Qualifying Race saw Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr being crowned as the GT1 World Drivers' Champions for 2011.
The German pairing went into the race knowing that any finish of fourth or above would secure them the title after their nearest and only realistic competitor, the no.8 Young Driver Aston Martin, was ruled out of all the weekend's races after a heavy crash in Friday's Pre-Qualifying. Meanwhile, the six points gained by the no.23 JRM today also helped to close the gap between JRM and Young Driver in the Teams' Championship standings to just three points, with a maximum of 43 available in tomorrow's Championship Race.
Elsewhere on track for Nissan, the no.20 Sumo Power GT finished just outside the top three in fourth, with its no.21 sister car seventh, and the no.22 JRM in 16th (although officially ‘unclassified' due to its lengthy stay in the pit lane during the race).
Winning the World Championship hasn't sunk in yet...
It was a great start to the day for the GT-Rs, as all four made it through to the final eight shootout in the morning's Qualifying session: the no.23 ended up taking Qualifying Race pole position, the no.21 third place, the no.22 fourth, and the no.20 seventh, although a five place penalty due to a precautionary engine change in yesterday's Pre-Qualifying saw the no.22 dropping back to ninth on the starting grid.
In the race itself there was, perhaps understandably given what was on the line, a rather cautious start to the race from Krumm in the no.23 JRM, as he gave up position to the no.11 Corvette on the second corner of the opening lap and relinquished his lead. Jamie Campbell-Walter, in the no.21 Sumo Power GT, also lost two places in the opening exchanges to the quick-starting no.37 Lamborghini as well as team-mate Nick Catsburg, meaning the Sumo Power GTs sat fourth (no.20) and fifth (no.21) after lap one. However, the biggest drama involved the no.22 JRM, with the no.40 Marc VDS Ford GT colliding heavily with Peter Dumbreck, forcing the GT-R to come into the pits after incurring body damage.
The three remaining on-track GT-Rs retained their positions until just before the opening of the pit window, when the no.21 overtook the no.20 Sumo Power GT, but Campbell-Walter's good work was soon undone in the pits, when an errant wheel nut greatly delayed the no.21's tyre change and saw it coming back out on track five places down in ninth. There were more successful stops for the no.20 Sumo Power GT, which gained a place to fourth, and the no.23 JRM, which remained in second place.
The second half of the race saw a charge from David Brabham in the no.21 Sumo Power GT as he made up two places to finish in seventh, whilst Enrique Bernoldi was able to comfortably hold on to fourth place during his stint in the no.20 sister car. Great work from the pit crew in repairing the car's opening lap damage brought the no.22 JRM back out on track late on, enabling it to make up a place on the retired no.40 Ford GT by virtue of it having completed more laps.
At the front, the no.23 JRM was able to close the gap to the first placed no.11 Corvette from five seconds after the pit stops to just over half a second in the latter stages, but Luhr decided not to risk an overtaking manoeuvre on a narrow San Luis track, knowing Championship glory was already in the bag with second place and that there is still the matter of a Teams' Championship to be decided tomorrow.
Speaking afterwards, Michael Krumm, no.23 JRM Racing said: "I knew that it wasn't going to be an easy race because of the nature of the track. I was side by side with the Corvette going into the first corner, but the next corner was his - he had nothing to lose and we were trying to get the Championship, so I was never going to take a big risk. The car felt really good out there, so overall I was happy to run in second place.
"Winning the World Championship hasn't sunk in yet because the pressure was so big for us. In Qualifying this morning Lucas and I were both really shaky, but we still did the job, we performed well and we got pole. I still can't really believe it, we just focused on the race and didn't think about the Championship. It's only now that I've realised it's done and we've won. I'm really, really happy!"
Krumm's team-mate, Lucas Luhr, added: "At the end of the race I was closing on the Corvette, but the Championship was at the back of my mind. Race car drivers sometimes forget what it is all about and our engineer reminded me quite quickly over the radio that it's not about the win, but finishing the race. I was still pushing because the GT-R felt good, but I wouldn't have made a move unless he made a mistake.
"I couldn't really sleep last night thinking about the Championship, so I'm pretty sure I will sleep well tonight. Tomorrow we will try to enjoy ourselves without the pressure and have a good race. However, we need to be focused for the Teams' Championship and we have a good chance. We achieved the first goal of getting the Drivers' title and tomorrow we will fight as hard as we can for JRM."
The all-important San Luis Championship Race starts at 13h45 local time tomorrow (GMT+3).