Nissan Team GTR posted on 01 June 2011
Campbell-Walter and Hughes seek to retain RAC Tourist Trophy
JR Motorsports and Sumo Power GT, the two UK-based teams running the Nissan GT-R in this year’s FIA GT1 World Championship, return to home-soil this weekend, harbouring high hopes of success at the fifth round of the 2011 series at the world-famous Silverstone circuit.
Silverstone marks the half-way point in the 10-race GT1 season, with both Nissan teams picking up good points during rounds three and four after the disappointment of Belgium in round two, when only one of the GT-Rs finished in each of the weekend’s two races. Nissan is buoyed by a strong performance last time round in Germany three weeks ago when, despite the winding, undulating and relatively slow Sachsenring circuit not being particularly suited to the GT-R’s strengths, the cars battled well throughout the weekend, with all four securing a top 10 finish in the all-important Championship Race.
However, it will be the third round at Portimão – when Nissan made GT1 history by securing a combined five out of the available six podium placings across the Qualifying and Championship Races – that will be the real benchmark for the teams and their drivers.
Silverstone’s fast, sweeping corners and long straights have much more in common with Portimão than Sachsenring, and Nissan also have history on their side at the track, with British pairing Warren Hughes and Jamie Campbell-Walter, sharing the no.21 Sumo Power GT, winning the Championship Race in 2010, and with it the prestigious RAC Tourist Trophy. This year Hughes and Campbell-Walter, whilst still team-mates, are in different Sumo Power cars (Hughes in the no.20 alongside Enrique Bernoldi and Campbell-Walter in the no.21, partnered by David Brabham), adding an extra element of spice to the weekend, with both drivers desperate to retain their title.
Built on the site of a World War II Royal Air Force bomber station, Silverstone, known as ‘the home of British motor racing’ was first used for racing purposes in 1947, and has played host to the British Grand Prix since 1987. The Arena Grand Prix Circuit that the GT1 cars will be running on is, at 5.901km (3.667 miles), well over a mile longer than Sachsenring, with four more turns than its German counterpart (18 to Sachsenring’s 14). The course has been changed in recent years from one where every corner bar one (the Bridge chicane) could be taken at speed in fourth or fifth gear, to one that now requires more technical skill to drive. Despite this, Silverstone is still one of the faster circuits on the GT1 calendar, and differs greatly to Sachsenring, which has a tight and twisting beginning sector, and quite slow corners.
Speaking of how his personal driving style will suit the course in his home-country race, Peter Dumbreck, driver of the no.22 JR Motorsports alongside Richard Westbrook, said: “My driving style is relatively smooth but I obviously try to adapt it to whatever circuit I’m racing on at the time. I prefer medium to high speed corners, which makes Silverstone a much better circuit for me than somewhere slow like Sachsenring or Zolder.
“Pretty much exactly the same can be said of the Nissan GT-R: as quite a heavy car with a high centre of gravity, it’s much more suited to faster corners than ones that you have to slow right down for. Silverstone, with its long straights and wide track, should really favour the immense power of the car, and I’m confident that all four Nissans can do very well here. Of course to win the Tourist Trophy would be very special, but I don’t think we need any more motivation than we already have, as it’s a long year with the title of ‘World Champion’ at the end of it.”
Warren Hughes, who has replaced Ricardo Zonta in the no.20 Sumo Power GT following the latter’s release from his contract last week due to conflicting race commitments in Brazil, said: “I’m delighted to be back with the team for Silverstone and to have the chance to defend the 2010 result and the Tourist Trophy. We were competitive then and the car has improved since, so we should be even stronger this year.
“There’s no extra pressure, other than I want to do well in every race this year. I had a great first race alongside Enrique on my return to Sumo Power in Germany, when we were the highest placed GT-R in both races, and that has given us massive confidence going into this weekend. I’m just looking forward to it, as Silverstone is a great track and it’s our home event. It would be fantastic to get my hands on that trophy again though, but I know that Jamie [Campbell-Walter] is equally keen to retain it, so it will be interesting!”