David Brabham placed JRM Racing's brand new Honda Performance Development ARX-03a sixth on the grid during qualifying for this weekend's 60th running of the Mobil 1, 12-Hours of Sebring. The performance heralded a great start to the British team's FIA World Endurance Championship campaign.
The annual 12-hour race at Sebring is one of sportscar racing's biggest events and, as well as hosting the opening round of the new FIA World Endurance Championship, this annual race-meeting also hosts the first round of the ALMS (American Le Mans Series). The combination of these two championships has generated a field of 64 entries, split into six classes, with the leading cars running in the LMP1 category.
As soon as the team arrived in Florida, its technicians set about preparing its new LMP1 HPD in readiness for the pre-event test and practice sessions, the first of which was on Tuesday afternoon. With the one-hour test seeing the first time the car ever ran on a track, the team went through its installation programme, which comprised a number of laps at a negligible speed, followed by a series of checks.
Brabham was first out in the car and reported that it felt very good, right from the start. Karun Chandhok then took a turn behind the wheel for the F1 driver's first ever experience driving a sportscar. He also reported that it felt strong and was looking forward to being able to push harder once the installation process had been completed.
With no problems whatsoever, other than setting up the suspension for the unique and bumpy Sebring circuit, the team were understandably delighted with the outcome of the car's first ever run.
After a day of scrutineering and a thorough check on Wednesday, the Practice sessions started on Thursday. The first two took place in daylight and were both an hour long. Peter Dumbreck finally got a chance to drive in Practice #1, with all three drivers doing stints during the day and during the longer one-hour, 45-minute night time session.
Each time the car went out improvements to its set up were made and consequently, the lap times came down. Such was the increase in performance, that at one point JRM's HPD was the fourth-fastest WEC car on the track, only out-paced by the three works Audis.
The team was therefore well placed for Friday afternoon's qualifying session - only 15-minutes long, due to the number of cars taking part. Brabham was chosen to drive due to his experience of both the Sebring circuit - having competed at the track nine times before - and his knowledge of the HPD, in light of his involvement with the car's early stages of development. After putting in a series of impressive laps, the time sheets revealed that the JRM Racing HPD was to start sixth on the grid and fifth of the WEC runners.
The drivers and team were impressed with the performance of the brand new car and is competitiveness straight out of the box - a testimony to the team's efforts during the weeks leading up to the event. They now look forward to the race, which starts at 10.30am local time on Saturday (17th March).