JRM Racing sets out to sparkle at Spa…
A stern test of JRM Racing’s mettle awaits this weekend when the Daventry-based squad hits Spa-Francorchamps for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The team’s brace of Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3s will take to the legendary Belgian track for its first-ever entry to the classic event. Going head to head with 70 cars on one of the world’s most challenging tracks over a 24 hour period could be a daunting prospect, however JRM Racing travels to Spa buoyed by its run of strong results with the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in this year’s Blancpain Endurance Series, which culminated in a podium finish at the last round in Paul Ricard, France.
JRM will field two cars, one entered into the Pro category and a sister machine in the Pro-Am class.
Sportscar veterans Lucas Luhr, Steven Kane and Peter Dumbreck will share driving duties in the Pro car, making it one of the strongest line-ups in the field. Lucas, who celebrates his 34th birthday on Monday, has a pedigree record at Spa, having competed in the 24 hour race on several occasions. The German has also been a class winner (2005), and finished third in class at the 6 Hours of Spa earlier this year. An experienced long distance racer who has won all the major endurance races, his know-how will complement Northern Irishman Steven Kane extremely well. Steven is a Spa old-hand from his time in the Belcar championship and very accomplished in the shorter sprint race formats.
Steven and Lucas will be joined by Scotsman Peter Dumbreck, who has competed in two 24 hour races already this season (Le Mans and Nürburgring). He makes his Spa 24 hour debut this year, but has already racked up several thousand racing kilometres at the track thanks to appearances in the FIA World Endurance and GT1 Championships over the past four years.
‘Spa is one of the world’s iconic race tracks,’ enthused Peter. ‘It’s always tough for the drivers, team and car in any 24 hour race. Spa will be the first time we have competed with the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in 24 hour conditions and I expect it to be physically very hard on the drivers, especially if this hot weather Europe is having continues. We know the GT-R is very competitive over the normal three hour race duration but 24 hours will be unknown territory so we need to adapt as the race goes on. I’m training hard to be as fit as I need to be leading up to the event.’
Peter got his first laps of the track with the GT-R at the earlier Spa test day, however the torrential rain that lashed Spa that day meant conditions could not have been more different to the heatwave currently scorching Europe. ‘At the moment, without having driven a dry lap around Spa in the GT3 I would be happy with a top five finish. There are 70 cars so we will have to fight hard until the end to achieve that.’
JRM will also field a four-man crew in the ultra-competitive Pro-Am class, with rapid British racing stars Matt Bell and Charles Bateman, reigning British GT4 champion Jody Fannin and newcomer Humaid Al-Masaood sharing the wheel. The Pro-Am class in Blancpain has proven to be hotly-contested this year, but the guys have so far shown incredible speed.
‘In terms of pace I think we have the car and driver line-up to challenge for a podium,’ commented Geordie Matt Bell, who contests his second Spa 24 hours this year after his appearance in 2011. ‘The start of the year was a difficult one, but since then the team have worked tirelessly to improve the car and has made excellent progress. Traffic has been the only thing keeping us off the front row in qualifying, and the Pro car scored an excellent podium at Paul Ricard, so we’ve come a long way in such a short timeframe.
‘Obviously so much can happen during a 24 hour race, but JRM has prepared the car extremely well all year so we have a 100% reliability record going into this weekend, if we can maintain that then I’m targeting the win.’
Matt will bring his experience of the Spa 24 Hours to the crew. ‘This will be my second Spa 24,’ he continued. ‘The track is quite demanding on both driver and car so remaining consistent and avoiding problems is very important. I love everything about the track, it’s almost all high speed with long flowing corners. It’s one of those places where if you nail a lap, you get an extra buzz of excitement because it’s such a rewarding place to drive. I can’t wait!’
Team principal James Rumsey, while aware of the challenge, is pumped up for the Blue Riband event. ‘The pace both Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3s have shown in the last two races has really set our expectations high. We have worked solidly on the car and made some good steps in balance, which should help over the dips and corners of Spa. Outright speed has never been an issue, but these small tweaks have really helped the drivers’ confidence across the board and get some great results. Spa is an altogether different race, but the car is good and the driver line-ups in both cars are strong. The Pro car should be capable of pushing for the overall win and the Pro-Am a class win. It’s a tough field but we’ve got a few aces up our sleeves – it will be down to the strategy to see when to play them!’
Nigel Stepney, team manager and chief engineer, is equally positive. ‘Over the past few months we have been developing the car, continuing to work with Ohlins for the improved damper settings and with Bosch for the ABS – overall we’re confident we’ve got the package to do the job.
‘We had a good test day last month, running both cars all day without any major reliability issues. In fact our reliability this year has been pretty spot-on and we’ve chipped away at the set-up to give the handling plus we’ve improved our pit stops so we can make smoother driver and tyre changes. The test day was incredibly wet and we only ran on the wet tyres, so if the weather remains dry we’ll have to get on top of the balance on the dry settings. But if there’s one thing you can rely on at Spa, it’s changeable conditions!’
Both cars will do battle with 70 GT3 cars. The teams and drivers score points towards the 2013 Blancpain title. In addition to the usual points structure at the end of the race points are also awarded to the top 9 after 6 and 12 hours in each category. All cars score points, if they are entered for the full season or race by race. For teams with more than one car in the category, only the highest placed car scores points.
The action gets underway on Wednesday evening with the traditional drivers’ parade through Spa, with the cars hitting the track on Thursday evening for practice and qualifying. The Super Pole will be held on Friday evening, where the top 20 crews have two laps to set the fastest time. The race gets underway at 16:30 on Saturday.