29 August 2011
Brabham, Westbrook give GT3 GT-R 'outstanding debut'
David Brabham and Richard Westbrook guided the new JR Motorsport-run Nissan GT-R GT3 to an eighth-place finish on its debut in France.
Having covered a total race distance of 440km in three hours, JR Motorsport's Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3 proved 100 per cent reliable in its first ever competitive outing, running faultlessly in the hands of David Brabham and Richard Westbrook to finish eighth in the fourth round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Magny-Cours.
Both drivers paid tribute to the car's reliability and how easy it was to drive after completing 98 laps of the French circuit.
The Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3 concept started life over a year ago. Since then, it has undergone a series of tests, with the three-hour Magny-Cours race representing its first ever competitive outing and an important part of its extensive development programme.
After carrying out a highly successful two days of testing at the Navarra track in northern Spain in the week leading up to the Magny-Cours event, the pre-race practice sessions also saw the GT-R running well, even in wet conditions. However, before the weekend, JRM reiterated that its participation in this event was purely a test and the team was focused on data collection and getting as many race miles under its belt as possible.
Qualifying at Magny-Cours took place on Saturday afternoon in dry and sunny conditions, with Westbrook setting a time that placed the Nissan 18th on the grid. However, with other cars being penalised for technical infringements, this position was improved by two places before the start.
With 35 cars competing and the GT3 GT-R situated in the middle of the pack, the strategy was to keep out of trouble and that's exactly what Westbrook did, although the non-contact approach did see him drop three places by the end of the second lap.
A two-lap safety car period whilst a stranded machine was moved off the track saw the field close up. When racing resumed, Westbrook started to move up the rankings, although there was one worrying moment when a Ferrari turned into the path of the GT-R and contact was made.
Thankfully, although the impact spun the Ferrari around, the GT-R only sustained cosmetic damage. Without breaking his stride, Westbrook went on to catch and pass other cars and made the first scheduled pit-stop after 35 laps whilst lying in ninth place.
With no work other than the obligatory refuelling, tyre-change and driver swap required, Brabham took the wheel and joined the race in twelfth place. He continued to make good progress and gain places before returning to the the pits at the end of lap 73 having returned to ninth place.
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