Nancy Knapp Schilke, WEC correspondent
Brabham, Chandhok and Dumbreck to pilot HPD ARX-03a in LMP1 WEC class
The FIA GT1 2011 championship team is ready to begin their quest in the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2012 season. JRM Racing made the move to the new challenge with the Honda Performance Development ARX-03a. The first contest will take place this coming week with the first WEC race, combined with the American Le Mans Series season opener at Sebring International Raceway.
David Brabham, Karun Chandhok and Peter Dumbreck will pilot the ARX-03 on the historic circuit in the 60th anniversary of the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The second WEC round will be the Spa 6 hours in Belgium and then the race that all sportscar teams and drivers want to win: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The entire season will not be easy for the team but they are up to the challenge as JRM will battle factory teams including the powerhouse team from Germany. The WEC calendar also includes Sao Paulo on the famous Interlagos circuit, Silverstone, Bahrain, Fuji and the season final race in Shanghai, China.
JRM Team Principal James Rumsey feels that his team is ready for the demanding circuit in Florida as he commented, ”After two successful years campaigning GT1 cars in one-hour races, this is our first full-season of endurance racing. It's great to start the year with a world title behind us, with three top drivers and a brand-new LMP1 car competing in a brand new championship. There's no doubt this season is going to be a tough one, but we have proved before that we can achieve what we set out to do, which means we have a very exciting journey ahead of us."
The team is working overtime to get everything in place for next weekend
Brabham has the most experience in sportscar racing including an overall victory at Le Mans. He also has notched championships over his career and was one of the first drivers in Honda Acura’s entry in the ALMS. "I saw the car for the first time last week and, although there are a few detail changes, it is very similar to the one I came second in at Sebring last year. It would be great to have a podium result this time but, being our first event with the new car, we may need a bit of luck to do it,” he said.
Formula One driver Chandhok hails from India and with the changes in the premier FIA series, he now will embark on a new chapter in his life. "For me, this will be my first time competing in a Le Mans Prototype and it's a very interesting challenge. There is a real mentality shift for me this year in terms of having to share a car with other drivers. When you're racing in single-seaters, you may be part of a team but you need to be a bit selfish. But this year, my success also depends on the success of my team mates,” commented the Indian.
The Scotsman has four Le Mans events under his belt, four were in the GT2 class but his first one was with the Mercedes GTP team, Dumbreck looks forward to his new ride. Prior to his sportscar racing, he won the 1998 Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix and he said, “I have no experience of Sebring, so it's going to be a real baptism of fire. Therefore, the season can only get easier, as I have raced at most of the other tracks and, if we can complete the full race-distance next weekend, we'll all know the car a lot better going into the next round."
The Twelve Hours of Sebring has a field of 64 entries with a mixture of classes from the fastest prototypes to the slower GT classes, which will make overtaking a risk. Over half the cars on the track are beginning their year for the ALMS titles at the end of the season. The rest are contesting the WEC title; which makes for an interesting race with tight battles in each of the classes.
The driver with the most experience at Sebring also has the understanding of the power difference between the prototype class and the GT. Brabham also knows the HPD prototype and no doubt his knowledge will come in handy as the team first takes to the track. “The team is working overtime to get everything in place for next weekend and I'm encouraged by what's been achieved so far. We are going to be taking a great deal of information away with us from Sebring, so things are bound to get stronger as the year progresses,” he said.
Saint Patrick’s Day will be celebrated for many after the checkered flag is waved on March 17th.