JRM Racing secured an impressive fourth place in the 6 Hours of Spa, round two of the resurrected FIA World Endurance Championship, but the achievement was made even more rewarding as the team had to overcome the odds to do so.
With the onset of rain on Saturday morning and, with six hours of competition ahead of them, the team was comfortable that good progress could be made from its eighth starting slot during the race. However, the relentless rain had made levels of grip even more unpredictable than normal and, whilst the exit of Eau Rouge posed no problems on the first of the formation laps for Karun Chandhok, he suddenly found himself on the grass on the second. The car then clipped a barrier, with the impact severely damaging the bodywork and rear suspension.
Fortunately, Chandhok was able to nurse the car back to the pits, where the team set about repairing the damage before the start of the race. After a supreme effort, the HPD was ready to go in time for the green light, although Chandhok had to start from the pit-lane and, in keeping with the regulations, was required to wait a full lap before being allowed to exit onto the track. He then set about the task ahead and, lap-by-lap, scythed his way past slower cars and, after the first hour and his first pit-stop, was sixth of the privateer LMP1 runners.
With the rain slowly retreating and the track drying out, the initial set of wet tyres were swapped for slicks, which saw the lap times improve further. But then, after a further 40 minutes, contact was made with another car as Chandhok went to overtake it on the entrance to the Bus Stop, the incident damaging a front wing. The next scheduled pit-stop saw the affected parts replaced and, after a storming stint that lasted two hours and 45 minutes, Chandhok came into the pits to swap with David Brabham.
"I think I gave the boys a bit too much work to do today," Chandhok admitted, "It's been a tough weekend for everybody in the team and the guys have done a fantastic job to get the car ready in time. I couldn't be a mechanic, that's for sure."
Following a safety car period due to another competitor going off the road at the same point that Chandhok did earlier - but this time in a big way - Brabham then proceeded to deliver one of his customary solid performances, the car getting quicker as the laps clicked past. And, after nearly two hours, and with one hour and 20 minutes of the race left, the Australian came in to hand over to Peter Dumbreck.
Continuing as his team-mates had left off and, just before the five-hour mark, Dumbreck caught and passed the first of the LMP1 category cars to put JRM fifth of the privateers. And, even though the power-steering ECU had to be changed at the final scheduled pit-stop with 50 minutes to go, the position was held.
JRM's HPD continued to circulate for the remainder of the race without issue - and Dumbreck even gained another place in the closing stages - to provide the team with its second strong finish of the season and a final position of fourth in the LMP1 privateers class as it builds up to the biggest event of its season, the Le Mans 24 Hours on 16-17 June.
"Considering the challenges that the team has faced this week, there are a lot of positives that we can take away from Spa with us," Brabham commented, "Overall, the car ran very well in the race and its clear to see that we can achieve more pace. With the way the whole team has performed this week, I have been proud to be part of it."
"This really has been a team-building weekend and I'm pleased the car has run so well in the race," team principal James Rumsey concluded, "The lads have done a mega job, especially to get the car ready in time after the off on the way to the grid.
"Of course, it would have been better not to have started from the pit-lane and then have to fight our way through the field again. Perhaps it will be third time lucky for Le Mans!"