On Saturday 17 April 2010 the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi made motorsport history by hosting the first ever FIA GT1 World Championship event and one year later the venue is staging the opening race of the 2011 season but this time on the shorter 'Corkscrew' circuit rather the longer Grand Prix track.
In 2010 Andreas Zuber and Marc Hennerici took the chequered flag in the Qualifying Race ahead of Romain Grosjean and Thomas Mutsch, with Zuber setting a GT1 lap record of 2m07.156. Later the same day during the Championship Race, staged under the circuits floodlighting, the positions were reversed with Grosjean storming through in the Ford GT to take the 25 points for himself and Mutsch. Last December, at the end of the action-packed season, these points were crucial for Thomas Mutsch, helping him to claim the Vice Champion’s title in Argentina, with Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels being crowned the inaugural FIA GT1 World Champions. Twelve months on, the FIA GT1 World Championship grid has some new teams and drivers as well as some familiar faces as we get ready for a new season of top level sportscar racing.
The two Aston Martin DB9 teams have remained the same, with Hexis AMR and Young Driver AMR looking to build on the success both teams enjoyed in 2010. Hexis have retained the services of Clivio Piccione, who will be joined by Stef Dusseldorp, the 2009 ATS Cup Formula 3 Vice Champion. The second car will be driven by Andrea Piccini, who finished on the Yas Marina podium last year in a Corvette, and reigning FIA GT3 European Champion Christian Hohenadel. The Young Driver team retains three of the regular drivers from last season. Race winner Darren Turner is now paired with Stefan Mücke, while Turner’s partner from last season, Tomas Enge, has been joined by Alex Müller, who raced a Corvette at Yas Marina last year before switching to a Maserati, scoring a podium finish in Belgium with Altfrid Heger.
There is a new Ford GT team for 2011 with the Belgian Racing team lining up alongside the Marc VDS Racing Team, both outfits flying the flag for Belgium. The Belgian Racing team have announced two of their four drivers with Antoine Leclerc in the number 9 Ford GT and Czech driver Martin Matzke moving up to GT1 from GT3 in the number 10 car. Marc VDS have retained the services of Bas Leinders and Maxime Martin, with Martin being joined by GT1 race winner Frederic Makowiecki, who moves to the team from Hexis AMR, and Leinders partnering Marc Hennerici, who is hoping to at least equal his exploits in Abu Dhabi last year.
All-Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport is looking forward to building on a solid first year in the FIA GT1 World Championship with the Lamborghini Murcielago 670 RS-V. Dominik Schwäger and Nicky Pastorelli all remain with the German team for a second season while Team Manager and driver Marc Basseng will be joined by fellow German Markus Winkelhock. Swiss Racing, who ran Nissan GT-Rs last season, switch to Lamborghini for 2011 and have retained the services of Karl Wendlinger and Max Nilsson, with Wendlinger being partnered by reigning GT Masters Champion Peter Kox, who raced the same car for Reiter last year.
There is also a new Nissan team this season with JR Motorsport taking over the Nissan GT-R from Swiss Racing Team. Sumo Power GT, who won twice in 2010 at Silverstone and the Algarve, will be lining up for a second season of GT1 racing. Peter Krumm and Peter Dumbreck move from the Sumo Power team to the new JR Motorsport outfit and are joined by former FIA GT Champions Richard Westbrook and Lucas Luhr. GT1 World Championship race winners Enrique Bernoldi and Ricardo Zonta, who also won the FIA GT title in 1999, join the Sumo Power team to make an all Brazilian line up, while the second car will be driven by Tourist Trophy winner, and former FIA GT Champion, Jamie Campbell-Walter, who is also a former FIA GT Champion, and Le Mans 24 Hour winner and ALMS Champion David Brabham.
The Corvette will also be back in the Championship with two new teams. Exim Bank Team China will be running a two car team with drivers to be announced. The second Corvette team will be DKR Engineering and again will announce their driver line up in the week leading into the event.
There have been some slight changes to the regulations for the new season to help improve the show even further. The teams are now allowed to use six sets of tyres, instead of four, during the weekend, which means each team get two sets of tyres for both races. There are more championship points available for the Qualifying Race, with the top six finishers scoring 8-6-4-3-2-1 instead of just the top three finishers. The first and second placed finishers in the Qualifying Race will also receive success ballast of 10kg and 5kg respectively at the next event.
There will be live television coverage of every round of the FIA GT1 World Championship in many parts of the world, with a full rundown of the TV channels on the official Championship website, www.gt1world.com, where the races will also be streamed live and the latest championship news, results and other information will be available immediately after each race.