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JRM potential goes unrewarded at Sebring

19 March 2012

JRM Racing demonstrated its endurance racing potential at the 60th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, after climbing from the back of the grid to an impressive third overall with less than three hours to go.

The team's brand new Honda Performance Development ARX-03a ran perfectly for nine hours and 20 minutes, only for a problem with the car's right-rear suspension to cost 15 laps and 30 minutes, losing the hard-earned position.

Once back on the track, a great recovery resulted in a final placing of 17th overall, twelfth in the FIA World Endurance Championship standings and seventh in the LMP1 category. However, without the time lost, a podium finish was definitely on the cards.

"I was really hoping that the result would reflect the effort put in by everyone in the team - and it so easily could have done," team principal James Rumsey commented, "Having to fix the suspension cost us 15 laps and, if you subtract that from our final position, we would have finished second. It's disappointing not to have made it to the podium, but our performance underlined the great effort put in by the team for our first race with the new car. I'm already looking forward to the next race at Spa - this time with more time to prepare and test the car."

As well as the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the classic Sebring event also hosted the opening round of the American Le Mans Series, which helped produce a combined entry of 64 cars.

During the week leading up to the race, the team worked tirelessly to bring the new car up to speed for the unique and bumpy Florida airfield track, with lap times improving for every test and practice session. The progress made meant that David Brabham was able to qualify the car in sixth place overall and fifth of the WEC runners.

The Australian was also first to drive JRM's new toy in the race but, on the reconnaissance lap, when he went to swap the engine power map from 'safety car' to race 'mode', the top came off the switch, which meant he had to make a quick visit to the pits.

The team changed the steering wheel and Brabham rejoined the track at the back of the grid for the formation lap but, within 40 minutes, had fought his way through to tenth place. With all three JRM drivers scheduled to do a double stint, Brabham swapped with Karun Chandhok one hour and 42 minutes into the race, with the Indian exiting the pits in eighth place.

Once used to the traffic - something he had not experienced in F1 - Chandhok delivered a strong performance and, with the car running 100 per cent and the Michelin tyres working well, climbed to sixth place, holding position for the rest of his stint. Peter Dumbreck was next in and set about catching the car ahead of him - and managed to get within a few seconds before pitting at the end of his double stint.

With just over five hours completed, Brabham took his second turn behind the wheel and, within minutes, found himself in fifth place when one of the three leading works Audis stopped. Then, as the clock ticked towards the six-hour mark, the fourth-placed Rebellion Lola suddenly came into the pits with a problem, which meant that at the halfway point, the JRM trio was up to P4.

Another excellent double stint from Brabham saw him get closer to the third-placed Muscle Milk HPD before swapping with Dumbreck at the eight-hour mark. Following another safety car period, the Scot caught right up with the rival HPD and, as the lights went green and racing resumed, saw a gap whilst the Muscle Milk car got stuck in traffic. Lap-after-lap, the ALMS regular attempted to get back past, but the JRM car was able to stay ahead.

However, after nine hours and 20 minutes of perfect running, the team's first problem reared its head, when something broke in the car's right-rear suspension.

Dumbreck came into the pits and the crew did what they could, but a new part was needed. The car was taken back to the team's garage and, after 30 minutes, was able to rejoin the race. Now with 90 minutes to go, Chandhok took over for the final stint, rejoined the race in 25th place and pushed as hard as he could to make up for some of the lost time.

Lap-by-lap, Chandhok made up places and, on some parts of the track, was the quickest driver out there. He even survived a last-lap coming together with another car, albeit having to complete the last mile with a puncture, before crossing the line to provide JRM with a well-deserved finish first time out with a brand new car.

The timing screens showed that the team had finished 17th overall, twelfth of the WEC runners and seventh in the LMP1 category. However, had it not been for the 15 laps lost whilst the suspension was repaired, the outcome would have seen the team finish third - or even second - overall.

"Overall the team can be proud of what's been achieved this weekend," Brabham insisted, "To challenge for a podium position in our first race with the new car is fantastic, so we should not be disappointed with the final result. The HPD, the Michelin tyres and the team all worked well and there's obviously great potential there for the future. I really felt at home in the car and thoroughly enjoyed the race."

Without a doubt the performance by JRM Racing showed the team's potential and the conclusion of the race represented three weeks of supreme effort and hard work for the team. It now prepares for round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Six Hours of Spa, which takes place on 5 May.

"We were so close to getting a podium on our first outing and therefore, we can't be too disappointed with the result - especially as it was Sebring," team manager and chief engineer Nigel Stepney concluded, "Everyone in the team has worked extremely hard this past few weeks and we could not have asked for more. They did a great job in the race too, as did the three drivers. Our strategy seemed to work, the Michelin tyres performed well and it was only the suspension problem that spoilt an otherwise perfect outcome."


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