British team denied its finest hour
Sumo Power GT did all it could to score a top-three position in the FIA GT1 World Championship Teams' standings in this weekend's two races at the unique Potrero de los Funes circuit near San Luis in Argentina. Although both Nissan GT-Rs performed well in the near 30-degrees of sunshine, it was not the end to the season the team were hoping for, as both its cars retired in the final Championship Race.
Michael Krumm and Peter Dumbreck in car 23 were battling for a top-five place in both this morning's Qualifying Race and the afternoon's Championship Race, until accident damage after contact with another car caused their car's power steering to stop working. Warren Hughes and Jamie Campbell-Walter had overcome a frustrating start to the weekend and were looking good for a top-ten place in the main Championship Race, until a gearbox problem intervened in the latter stages.
This morning's Qualifying Race saw both Sumo Power GT Nissan GT-Rs make good starts; Krumm in car 23 from 7th on the grid and Hughes in car 22 from 18th. Both drivers headed to the outside of the track to keep out of trouble, as one false move was likely to end in one of the walls that line almost all of the 3.9-mile (6.3 km) circuit that encircles a volcanic lake.
As it transpired, their caution was justified, as the Aston Martins that occupied the front row came together at the first corner and the remainder of the grid all had to take evasive action. This played into the hands of the two Sumo Power GT drivers and they crossed the line after the first lap in 5th and 13th places respectively.
With other incidents occurring in front of him, Hughes moved up a further two places on the second lap and another one on lap three, before the Safety Car was deployed after a Lamborghini had struck one of the walls in a narrow part of the circuit. After three laps behind the Safety Car, there were then just three laps before the mandatory pit stops.
First to pit was Krumm, and, after a blisteringly quick wheel-change by the crew, Dumbreck emerged on the track in third. However, for car 22 the stop took a little longer, as the sand and dust on the surface of the pit lane caused Hughes to overshoot his mark and more than 10-seconds were lost during the change-over of driver and wheels.
Campbell-Walter did all he could to recover the situation, but the grip levels on the track coupled with the closeness of the walls meant his usual spree of overtaking was not forthcoming. He therefore crossed the line in 13th place.
Meanwhile, Dumbreck was holding his own at the front, until an overtaking move meant he had to come off the racing line and picked up sand on the sticky tyres. With reduced grip, he found he could not get the power down a few corners later and suddenly found himself being passed by three other cars. Although doing what he could to claw back the positions, it was over a lap before the tyres worked effectively again and he ended the race in sixth place.
Click here for Qualifying Race results
With a car ahead of him receiving a penalty, Dumbreck in car 23 started from fifth on the grid in the Championship Race, with Campbell-Walter in car 22 13th. This time, a clean start by all saw no incidents in the first few corners and Dumbreck was able to hitch up with the leading group of five cars battling for the lead.
Keeping out of trouble, Campbell-Walter had dropped a place but was happy with the way his Nissan was handling and therefore aimed to move up the order as the race went on. Positions throughout the field remained constant for the next seven laps. But then, on lap eight, Dumbreck spun on the tight hairpin at the bottom of the circuit, a combination of sand blown onto the track and hot temperatures doing their worst as far as grip was concerned.
Thankfully keeping his car away from the walls and other cars, he got going again - albeit in 17th place. Now up to 12th, Campbell-Walter was the first of the two Sumo Power GT Nissans to stop for the compulsory mid-race visit to the pits, with Hughes re-joining the race in 10th.
Dumbreck came in to swap with Krumm a lap later, who set about making up as many places as he could. Battling hard, he managed to climb to 13th, but damaged the front of his Nissan after coming into contact with another car -the subsequent impact causing the power steering to stop working.
With the car becoming more and more difficult to manoeuvre, Krumm had little choice but to retire after lap 18. Little did Hughes know that just four laps later he too would be ending his race in the pits, when noises started coming from his car's gearbox on lap 24, which then quickly turned into a mechanical problem.
For Sumo Power GT, who have been challenging for a top three position in the Teams' Championship since the middle of the year, not scoring points in the final round meant they ended the season fifth, with Krumm and Dumbreck ninth and Hughes and Campbell-Walter 13th in the drivers' standings. However, the whole team is delighted with the outcome of its first ever season, the highlights of which were two race wins, nine podium finishes and the awarding of the Tourist Trophy.
Both of today's races were won by Fredric Makowiecki and Yann Clairay in the Hexis AMR Aston Martin. Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini were crowned the Drivers' Champions, with Vitaphone Maserati claiming Teams' Championship honours.
Click here for Championship Race results
Peter Dumbreck - Driver Car 23
"Sand on the track in both the first and second races and the high temperatures this afternoon made grip a complete lottery. I was fifth and battling with the cars ahead of me in the second race, until the spin. I'm not sure why it happened as no one touched me and I was doing the same as I had done on previous laps, but suddenly I was facing the wrong way. It's not how we wanted to finish the season, but we can come away from the year knowing we were competitive - even at this track."
Michael Krumm - Driver Car 23
"I had a good run in the first race and got up to fourth before the pit stop. It was a shame that when I started my stint in the second race I was battling for 14th place. I am sure that if we had not had the problems, we had the pace to finish on the podium today, because the Nissan was running so well. But that's how racing goes sometimes."
Jamie Campbell-Walter - Driver Car 22
"The work the lads did to our car - right up until the early hours this morning - really made a difference to how it felt today. However, these races have been very hard work, as the state of the track surface combined with the heat has made it even more difficult. It's a shame to come away with this result today, but on reflection, the team should be very pleased with the season as a whole."
Warren Hughes - Driver Car 22
"Our car felt great this morning and I had a good run to make up ten places before coming into the pits. There was no doubt that the track temperature made a difference in this afternoon's race, although a top ten - or even finishing in the points - was on the cards until I heard noises coming from the gearbox, which got worse as I carried on. I therefore had no choice but to come into the pits."
Nigel Stepney - Team Manager
"Merry Christmas. Look out next year!"
James Rumsey - Team Principal
"There's no getting away from the fact that this has been a disappointing weekend for us, but we have to look at the bigger picture and what we have achieved in our first ever season is fantastic. I am extremely proud of everyone in the team and have to thank them for their effort and commitment. I'm looking forward to doing it all again next year!"
-source: sumo power gt