The opening round of the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is upon us. Speedhunter’s Jonathan Moore is currently en-route to Abu Dhabi, so in the meantime, time for a quick preview for the 2011 Championship.
Run by the SRO organization, this is the second year of this new look FIA GT1 Championship. The series visits 10 countries this year with races in the Middle East, China, Europe and South America.
It has been a tough closed season for the series. 2010 GT1 Champions Vitaphone Racing , Reiter Engineering and Matech Racing have left the series and a reduced number of entries form the grid for this season.
Despite this, the racing is good and the cars look fantastic, many developed from previous generation GT1 machines. Its hard to pick a favourite, but the Lamborghini and Nissan GT-R are my favourites. Very diverse!
Judging by comments on Speedhunters, the Nissan R35 GT-R is the favourite for you guys!
Sumo Power and Nismo are hoping to build on the 2010 season and win more races. James Rumsey’s JRM Group, who own Sumo Power GT Have expanded to a four car effort. Two cars will be in the now familiar Black and White Sumo livery, while the other two chassis will now be run under the JRM Racing banner, replacing Swiss-Racing. The two teams will be run as separate entities.
The driver line-up for the Nissan’s is strong. Sumo have the strongest, with David Brabham joining Jamie Campbell Walter in one car and an all Brazilian ex F1 driver line up of Enrique Bernoldi and Ricardo Zonta in the other car.
The new JRM team takes Peter Dumbreck and Michael Krumm from the Sumo driver Roster in 2010 and adds Corvette Racing driver Richard Westbrook and Lucas Lohr respectively.
Aston continue their presence in the championship with the almost elderly Aston Martin DBR9. Despite its age, the car is still very competitive taking 2nd place in the Teams championship last year with Hexis Racing.
Heixs will be running two cars with Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldrop in one car and Andrea Piccini and Christian Hohenadel in the other.
The second Aston Martin team has much stronger driver pairings. Young Driver AMR retain their all white distinctive livery. 2010 drivers Tomas Enge and Darren Turner have been split up and now run in separate cars. They are partnered by Alex Müller and Stefan Mücke respectively.
Young Driver AMR have one of the strongest line ups, along with Sumo Power and both are my title favourites (hey, I can have two!)
The Ford GT is another competitive machine in FIA GT1. Originally built by Matech, who also ran a two car team in 2010, four cars will be raced by MarcVDS Racing Team, two under the VDS brand and two under the new Belgian Racing team.
The VDS machines retain their basic liveries while the Belgian Racing cars will have a vivid yellow base colour.
Four Lamborghini Murcielagos also return to the 2011 championship. The Reiter Murcielago LP670 R-SV was quick on occasion last year and quickest in testing, earlier this week.
Münnich Motorsport continue with their two All-Inkl sponsored cars. The Car builder, Reiter Engineering have now departed the series as a team, these cars passed onto Swiss Racing who struggled last season with the Nissan GT-R
The Münnich driver lineup is relatively strong with Dominik Schwager, Nicky Pastorelli, Marc Baseeng and Markus Winkelhock.
The #5 Blancpain Swiss Racing team of Karl Wendlinger and Peter Kox may also figure if the team can get to grips with the Lamborghini
Finally, we have the Chevrolet Corvette. Only two cars will run in Abu Dhabi, but four cars are the plan from Round 2.
DKR Engineering ran the Mad-Croc Racing team for part of last season and return under their own name. Selleslagh Racing Team are running the Exim Bank Team China Corvette at Abu Dhabi with Mike Hezemans at the wheel, partnered by Nick Catsburg. The car will appear in a red base colour with yellow stars as fitting a Chinese branded entry. Unfortunately, neither are likely to locate the podium.
I have expanded my Spotter Guides and have a new guide up for the FIA GT1 series. You can download it here.
Qualifying in Abu Dhabi takes place on Friday evening. The ‘Qualifying' Race begins at 13.15 local time (+4hrs GMT) on Saturday with the Championship Race later, at 19.45.
Live coverage of Qualifying and the races will be available on the series website.
Images: FIA GT1 World/DPPI & various teams