FIA GT1 World Championship Round 10: Qualifying Report

After scoring a solid sixth place in round nine of the FIA GT1 World Championship last week at Interlagos in Brazil, the Sumo Power GT team have travelled 1600-miles south west to San Luis in Argentina, where the only UK-based entrant in this 10-round global series will face its toughest challenge of the year.

The final round takes place at one of the world’s most amazing tracks, the Circuit Potrero de los Funes, which follows the perimeter round around the edge of a volcanic lake, located about 10 kilometres from San Luis town centre. Commissioned by the local government, the circuit follows the topography of the surrounding hillsides, and is flanked by concrete walls for 99% of its 3.9 mile (6.3 kms) length and 22 corners.

With the circuit normally a public road, it was officially closed to traffic for the first time for two years yesterday (Friday), with the GT1 cars making their debut on this unique track today (Saturday). This morning’s Free Practice session saw the Sumo Power GT drivers – and its two Nissan GT-Rs – experience the circuit for the first time: Michael Krumm and Peter Dumbreck in car 23 and Jamie Campbell-Walter and Warren Hughes in car 22 – all four of them commenting how exciting the track was to drive, but potentially very dangerous.

Both cars ran well, with the drivers ensuring they got to know the idiosyncrasies of the track before pushing for a good lap time. Krumm and Dumbreck were pleased to be sixth-fastest on very worn tyres, whilst Campbell-Walter and Hughes were not quite so pleased with 12th, with their grip issues from Brazil seeming to reappear.

With day-time temperatures reaching 30 degrees centigrade, what happened next was a surprise to all when, just before the afternoon’s Pre-Qualifying session, the wind picked up and the heavens opened. For nearly an hour, the area within the bowl of the extinct volcano was subjected to rain and hail storms, leaving the track waterlogged, and consequently proceedings were temporarily brought to a halt.

Almost as quickly as it arrived, the storm passed and, as soon as the track was dry enough, the action recommenced with a shortened Pre-Qualifying session. Seeing little point in using the dry weather tyres that form part of the weekend’s restricted allocation, Krumm and Hughes only did a three laps each on wet-pattern rubber.

Taking place in the evening, qualifying – to determine the grid position for tomorrow morning’s Qualifying Race – followed its usual format, where the fastest 16 cars progress from Q3 to Q2, from which the fastest eight go on to Q3. Campbell-Walter was first to drive in car 22, but after only a few laps a gear selection issue prevented him from posting a time any quicker than 18th and therefore, Hughes did not get the opportunity to drive in Q2.

However, Dumbreck in car 23 was experiencing no such issues and was able to post the fifth fastest time. Krumm then took the wheel of the Nissan for Q2 and, even after spinning to avoid a stray dog, went on to set the fourth fastest time. Dumbreck then drove in Q3 and, whilst on a flying lap, had to slow when a car spun in front of him.

Poised to rectify the situation on the next lap, he then found his tyres had peaked and therefore the chances of setting a time higher than eighth were out of the question. As it turned out, with a penalty applied to a competitor ahead of them after the session, he and Krumm will start from P7 tomorrow.

Sumo Power GT are currently fourth in the Teams’ standings with 130 points, behind Young Driver AMR on 137 and second-placed Reiter Lamborghini, who have 142. Therefore, with 57 points still up for grabs from tomorrow’s two races, five teams are still in with a chance of claiming second place – including Sumo Power GT.

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