Next weekend's 60th running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring sees David Brabham embark on a brand new challenge, as he heads up JRM Racing's assault on the FIA
World Endurance Championship.
The team enters the first season of the relaunched sportscar series as reigning FIA
GT1 world champion, having won the drivers' title in 2011, but does so in the prototype ranks, having acquired one of the most competitive LMP1 cars available, the Honda Performance Development ARX-03a.
"After two successful years campaigning GT1 cars in one-hour races, this is our first full-season of endurance racing," team principal James Rumsey admitted, "It's great to start the year with a world title behind us, with three top drivers and a brand-new LMP1 car competing in a brand new championship. There's no doubt this season is going to be a tough one, but we have proved before that we can achieve what we set out to do, which means we have a very exciting journey ahead of us."
Brabham, who drove for JRM Racing's sister team Sumo Power GT last year, will partner F1 refugee Karun Chandhok and sportscar veteran Peter Dumbreck in the line-up, but the British-based Australian brings the greatest experience of the car, having been involved with the early development of the HPD prototype.
"I saw the car for the first time last week and, although there are a few detail changes, it is very similar to the one I came second in at Sebring last year," Brabham noted, "It would be great to have a podium result this time but, being our first event with the new car, we may need a bit of luck to do it.
"The team is working overtime to get everything in place for next weekend and I'm encouraged by what's been achieved so far. We are going to be taking a great deal of information away with us from Sebring, so things are bound to get stronger as the year progresses."
The new ARX-03a arrived at the team's technical facility in Rye ten days before it was due to be shipped to Florida and, with the time spent building and preparing the car in readiness for its first race, the three drivers will only get their first laps behind the wheel at Sebring. Therefore, the team aims to make the most of the pre-event test sessions that take place on Monday and Tuesday, plus the three practice sessions on Thursday - two in daylight and the other in darkness.
"Even as champions, going from where we were last year to the WEC with an LMP1 car is huge step," team manager and head of engineering Nigel Stepney insisted, "And, to have the 12 Hours of Sebring as our first event certainly adds to the challenge.
"The team has worked very hard in the past few weeks to prepare for what we have ahead of us. It has been - and I'm sure will continue to be for the next few months - a steep learning curve. But, as history has shown, we like a challenge and I'm confident that we'll rise to it."