SAN LUIS SCORCHER CLOSES FIRST SEASON OF FIA GT1
The first ever FIA GT1 World Championship season that began in Abu Dhabi eighth months ago finished in the heat of San Luis in Argentina today.
The qualifying race took place early this morning and it provided all the expected thrills and spills. The No.4 Nissan GT-R of Seiji Ara and Max Nilsson was garage-bound having an engine change but the No.3 car of Karl Wendlinger and Henri Moser stormed to its best result of the year, taking seventh place from 21st on the grid and setting up a strong start position for the main championship race.
Both Sumo Power Nissan GT-Rs also improved on their grid positions in the qualifying race. Michael Krumm and Peter Dumbreck ran as high as third but the Scot got sideways when he had to go off line to avoid another car - the track is covered in dust in San Luis so as soon as cars go off the racing line they have no grip - but he soon recovered and fought back to sixth place. Warren Hughes had a great run from 18th on the grid right up to eighth but he discovered the same dust when he came in for his pit stop, sliding as he reached his pit box. The loss of time pushed the No.22 car back down the order and Jamie Campbell-Walter brought it home in 13th place.
The championship race was a lot harder for everyone as temperatures soared, having a significant effect on track conditions. Peter Dumbreck got a clean start from fifth and was going great guns until he had a spin on lap eight as he fought for fourth place. This dropped the No.23 Nissan GT-R right down the order and after the changeover Michael Krumm was fighting in the mid pack when contact with another car damaged his power steering and he had to retire.
Jamie Campbell-Walter had a good early run, pitting in 12th place for Warren Hughes to take over. Unfortunately for Hughes he later retired with a gearbox problem, just a few minutes before the end of the race. The final results from today leave the Sumo Power GT team in sixth place in the Teams' Championship.
Karl Wendlinger struggled for grip in the early stages of the race but hung onto 14th place before Henri Moser took over. The Swiss driver had a good fight with an Aston Martin before ultimately retiring after going off at the chicane. Seiji Ara and Max Nilsson were back in the No.4 Nissan GT-R this afternoon. Ara started from the back after an engine change but made his way up to 19th before the pit stops. Nilsson then did a sterling job to cross the line in 13th place.
This afternoon's race brings the curtain down on the first season of the FIA GT1 World Championship. All that is left to do is for the teams to pack up the shipping crates to send the cars and equipment back to Europe before jumping onto planes to travel home, before it all starts again in Abu Dhabi in March!
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAY...
"It's a disappointing end to the season for the whole team; for Nissan, for Nismo, Sumo Power GT, especially all the boys who were up late last night working on the car. It's also unfortunate for the championship result. At the end of the day though they should all be proud of what they've achieved this year. Remember this is year one with a new team, new drivers and new cars. I'm an optimist so onwards and upwards. We've done the hard work now and we know what we need to do over the winter in order to be strong next year."
"I changed down as I went into Turn 11, the rears locked and as I accelerated out I had no second gear. Something must have broken as the car was good before that."
"The track was very different this afternoon. I didn't go into the corner any wider than usual but as I turned in the back started to come around. I got opposite lock on ad thought I had caught it but unfortunately I didn't. The circuit is tight there so I had to do a spin-turn to get out of it."
"It's a shame that I was battling for 13th or 14th today as there was a lot of contact in the middle of the pack. The car was really good so to retire due to contact damage is unfortunate. Without the incidents we could have had a podium today. It was fun to have battles and overtake some cars but disappointing not to score any points. That's racing though."
"The car was great this morning but this afternoon I had no grip at all. I lost a couple of places at the start then all I could do was defend and I got a lot of hits from behind. When Peter spun I went past him but the following Aston had a better run but then hit me in the rear and nearly had me in the wall. It's disappointing as after this morning we were expecting a good final race."
"This afternoon the conditions were very different to this morning. I had a good fight for a few laps with one of the Aston Martins but in the end we touched and that destroyed my front left tyre. I pitted for a new one but soon after I rejoined I got to the chicane and something must have broken as I just went straight on. It was a very slow crash - just 20kph - but it was enough to end my race."
"We had no running this morning due to the engine change and I want to say thank you to the mechanics as they did a great job to complete all the work in time for the second race. I started right at the back and I managed to overtake a few cars even though the circuit conditions were bad. There was very little grip so it was hard to be consistent. I wanted to get a point today so it is frustrating that we couldn't do this."
"We did very little driving here before this race but the guys did a great pit stop and got me out into a good battle. It was a bit stressful as I had a lot of understeer and I had to fight hard. Ramos passed me in the Maserati on the last lap but I got him back!"