Rain dominated proceedings throughout round nine of the FIA GT Championship at the Goldenport circuit in Beijing, restricting the Sumo Power GT team's results to tenth and eleventh in race one and sixth and eighth in race two.

Because of the conditions, any team that completed both races without a problem or incident could regard the event as a success - as Sumo Power's David Brabham admitted.

"These two races were all about keeping the car on the track on not making any mistakes - and we did exactly that," the Australian confirmed, "But, for some reason, although we changed from a dry to wet set-up, I could tell that the car had more potential.

"It's therefore been a day where we've done the best we possibly could in the conditions and I'm delighted that our GT-R is still in one piece!"

Just one week after round eight at Ordos, the series was in action again, this time at the Goldenport Park Circuit on the outskirts of Beijing. The 2.4km track the shortest visited by the championship this season and, not really designed to accommodate the 600bhp GT1 cars, the track was always going to pose a challenge for teams and drivers.

For Sumo Power GT, the challenges started in Friday's pre-qualifying session when, in addition for an accident to the sister car, the #21 shared by Brabham and Jamie Campbell-Walter suffered a small fuel leak that stopped either driver from participating in Friday morning's free practice. They did get a good run in the afternoon's pre-qualifying session, however, and were then the best of the Nissans in qualifying, when a blistering lap by Brabham launched the #21 into Q3 and P8 for the first of Saturday's two races.

After a dry and sunny day on Friday, Saturday could not have been more different, with rain falling almost throughout and making an already technically-demanding circuit even more of a challenge.

With the conditions as they were, and the GT1 Championship often seeing contact on turn one, it was a surprise to see the first lap pass without incident. It didn't last long, however, and, with a few cars now in the soft and uncompromising gravel traps, the safety car was deployed for the first time at the end of lap four, with Brabham up one place in seventh.

Racing resumed on lap eleven and, with the weather getting no better, most drivers were glad of the mandatory mid-race pit-stop to change tyres and hand over to their team-mate. The #21 was first in and saw Brabham swap with Campbell-Walter, but the Scot struggled to get any sort of heat into his tyres as he started his stint and found himself going backwards through the field.

When a Corvette spun off in the latter stages of the race, the safety car took to the track once again and, with only a handful of laps left, the convoy continued to the end of the race, with the final results seeing JC-W cross the line in eleventh position.

There was no let up in the weather for the Championship Race either, and the event got underway as its predecessor had finished, behind the safety car, which continued to hold the pack in convoy for the first four laps.

With the starting positions of the second race dictated by the results of the first, both Sumo cars were in the middle of the pack and therefore in a vulnerable position for any bad behaviour when the lights turned green.

As it turned out, a cautious approach was to pay off as a Lamborghini and an Aston Martin ended their races after 100 metres, both getting stuck in the gravel on the outside of turn one. It also meant that the safety car was back on the track by the end of lap four.

As the rescue crews struggled to remove the stricken cars from the first corner and then clean the track of gravel, it was 20 minutes before racing recommenced and then, two laps later, the pit window opened.

Having only driven three laps competitively, Campbell-Walter came in to swap with Braham on lap 16 but, with no let-up in the weather as the second stint got underway, more cars had problems or found their way into the circuit's unforgiving run-off areas, which were impossible to get out of once the driving wheels of the car had made contact with the soft gravel.

Both Sumo cars found themselves battling for position during the reminder of the race and, when the safety car emerged for the third time, were in sixth and eighth respectively.

Surprisingly, when the safety car came onto the track, the leading Aston Martin threw itself off it, which meant that, with another incident to deal with and only six minutes of the race to go, there was no likelihood that competitive driving would recommence. The safety car went on to lead what was left of the field over the line for the last time four laps later.

"I am very pleased that both cars survived the two races in the bad conditions," team manager Hiroki Furuse commented, "We didn't have the greatest of starts with car #20 going off in qualifying, but with the team able to fix the damage in time for the first of the two races, to end the day with sixth place is an excellent comeback.

"I'm also pleased that in almost every race we seem to have the pace to move up the order. This is helped by the excellent pit stops and a good race strategy, such as we had at Goldenport."

There is now just one more event left in this season's calendar for Sumo Power GT, which takes place on 5-6 November at the unique Potrero de Los Funes circuit near San Luis in Argentina which, being situated in the rim of an extinct volcano, will make a stunning location for the season's grand finale.

"A circuit like Goldenport, combined with the treacherous weather conditions, made this weekend extremely difficult for everyone and I believe that the team rose to the occasion well," team principal Andy Barnes concluded, "To get two cars home in both races having raced hard is quite an achievement and sets us up well for the prospect of a good result at the final round in Argentina in a few weeks time."

On Sunday after the race at Goldenport, Sumo Power GT - together with the all other GT1 teams - took part in a spectacular promotional event in the centre of Beijing between the National Stadium - better known as the 'Birds Nest' - and the Olympic swimming venue, the Water Cube.

The event marked the first time a motor race had ever taken place in this area and was designed as a test event in respect of the GT1 cars returning next year for a proposed night-time race around the roads in the Olympic Park.



Loading Comments...