Good news on the GT1 horizon.
Just before the endless Christmas break, stories surfaced that Gigawave Motorsport would close its doors. They had been the development partner with NISMO on the 2009 GT1 Nissan GT-R project and were going to represent the Japanese as European agents in 2010 for sales and spares. Now all that was finished. It did not come as a total surprise, as some of us had picked up vibes towards the end of the season.
Thursday morning I was just leaving the hotel bound for Autosport International when the mail popped up in the inbox………….
NISMO PRESS RELEASE
NISSAN GT-R participates in the 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship
Nissan Motorsports International Co., Ltd. (headquarters: Minami-Ooi,
Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo; President: Yuichi Sanada; henceforth “NISMO”)
announced that NISMO just signed the official partnership agreements
for the FIA GT1 World Championship with Sumo Power GT (UK) and
Swiss Racing Team (CH).
Sumo Power GT (UK)? To those of you reading this in the UK, you may well be familiar with the company, that has been the leading Japanese Tuning parts importer in this country. But what you may not know is that Sumo was acquired in 2009 by JR Motorport. Although on first glance JRM would appear to be newcomers, the reality is that the core of the company comes from a long established outfit.
ADR Motorsport has been around for over 20 years competing in BTCC, Formula 3, Formula Renault and various one make series. In the recent past the focus switched towards rallying, running Mitsubishi Motors UK’s rally programme, winning two driver’s titles. So when James Rumsey was looking to increase his JRM empire at the end of 2008, ADR were a natural fit. Those of you really paying attention will remember the JRM EVO X running at last year’s Brands Hatch round of the Time Attack championship.
JRM moved into state of the art technical facility down in Sussex, located at the historic port of Rye. This is where the Nissan GT1 team will be based. The relationship with Mitsubishi and rallying continues and is situated in Chesterfield where they handle the Ralliart spares business. The group has the ability to run, repair, design and build any type of motorsport project. They have the potential to become a motorsport powerhouse. Which is why NISMO came knocking…………….
Indeed considering the lack of time to get the ship back on course after the departure of Gigawave the choice of JRM/Sumo Power is inspired.
Talking to James Rumsey at the Show, it was clear that he has a vision of where he wants his outfit to go but is realistic about the scale of the challenges ahead.
As everything seems to have come together in a very short space of time, all the details are not yet ready to be released, perhaps they are not yet finalised.
NISMO has announced a two car attack on the new FIA GT1 Championship for Sumo Power plus a further two cars to be run by the experienced Swiss Racing, so there will four GT-Rs coming to a track near you soon.
I could not get an answer to the question of what other races would the team undertake. I got the impression that Le Mans was definitely on the radar. They will have to make that decision quickly as entries for the 2010 event close this week. The 24 Hour Classic may seem an ambitious target for a team new to international motorsport but another story in the ether was that the team had recruited ace team manager, Nigel Stepney. If that is true than the team will soon be able to match the very best. Also the format of the new FIA GT1 World Championship is new, two one hour races and will present the same tactical challenges for everyone. Fertile ground for our Nige’.
I also asked about drivers, funded or unfunded but again nothing was disclosed. Once more the rumour mill was in action and the NISMO werks driver, Michael Krumm, seemed a favourite to lead the team. It would be a smart move to get the German on board as he is highly thought of in Japan plus he is the real deal behind the wheel. Even more important, he lives in Japan, is married to a Japanese tennis star and of course speaks the language. Essential when bridging the cultural divide between East and West.
I asked about the changes from the 2009 car but once again the team could or would not tell me much.
Certainly some of the changes will be as a result of changes to the regulations but this should affect the Nissan less than the Grandfathered old GT1 cars, the car was built to the new rules from day one.
While I am sure that under the skin there have been whole scale improvements, made as a result of the problems encountered in the 2009 FIA GT races that the GT-R participated in, the most obvious changes are at the rear of the car. There were issues with an overheating transmission and the airflow around the back has been completely revised. It will also remain to be seen how much the switch to a standard Magneti Marelli ECU and engine management system affects the established cars.
The attention to detail and build quality of the GT-R is fantastic.
The unpainted carbon fibre looks soooooo cool.
And from the moment that the cover was taken off, the Nissan GT-R attracted attention from the fans.
The entry of the Nissan GT-R into the new GT1 class is a vital element if the new category is to suceed. The trend of manufacturers to switch away from mega buck arenas like Formula One and NASCAR is now a raging torrent. Honda, BMW and Toyota have left completely, Renault is scaling back and only Mercedes Benz is marching in a different direction. Similar stories will emerge in North America in the coming year.
I believe the manufacturers’ motorsports programs of the future will be based on relating to existing product lines, for example BMW with the M3 and Nissan with the GT-R. Competition and marketing will have an even stronger link. Witness the rise in importance of the Nurburgring 24 Hours, that now boasts more manufacturer teams than either Grand Prix or Le Mans.
All about the product, it always was. We just lost sight of that for a while.
I am told that the FIA GT1 World Championship has received the required 12 entries of two car teams that was the basis of the contracts with the race promoters. Subject to approval by the FIA we should know who will be up against the Nissans by the end of January.
The first round of the new World Championship has been shifted back two weeks to accommodate a date clash with the UAE Desert Challenge. So the fantastic new facility at Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, will echo to the six, eight and twelve cylinders roaring away from the line on April 17th.
SpeedHunters is still planning its coverage…………….watch this space.