‘We have a very tough weekend ahead of us!’ commented JRM team principal, James Rumsey. ‘To be racing against more than 60 cars, and some of the most competitive teams and drivers in Europe will be a stern test for the team and the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3. All the same we are confident about what we can do. We had a very positive first outing with the cars in the British GT championship over the Easter weekend, just missing out on points. The reliability of the car was also excellent, which stands us in very good stead. We’ve got very aggressive targets this year so we need to be competitive from the off.’
Team manager and chief engineer, Nigel Stepney, believes the 5.793km Monza track will show off the strongest characteristics of the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3. ‘Monza is obviously a power track, with its wide open straights and long periods of time at full throttle. We know that this is one of the strengths of the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 from our experience of the car in testing, and also the GT1 car, from which the GT3 is derived. The car works very well on the long straights where it gets to stretch its legs. Therefore we are hoping for a good start and to be on the pace – and in the points – with both cars from the start of the season.’
Lucas Luhr got behind the wheel of the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 at a test in Snetterton a couple of weeks ago and eagerly anticipates his return to JRM: ‘I first drove the car at the test in Snetterton a couple of weeks ago so I don’t have a lot of experience with it just yet, but it seemed like a very capable and positive car. My first impressions were quite good. I know the team very well from the win in 2011 and with Nigel, Peter and Steven I think we have a good working group. With this background I hope we will be quick from the beginning.
‘The last time I drove at Monza was in 2004 in a Porsche GT2 but I love the track; it’s very special with the park and the history. This weekend is going to be a good challenge – there are so many cars out there it will be a great championship. I followed it last year and look forward to making my debut this weekend.’
Joining Lucas in the Pro Car is Scot Peter Dumbreck, who aided development of the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 throughout 2011 and rejoins JRM after its inaugural WEC campaign last year, ‘I’m really looking forward to this weekend. There are so many cars out there – it is definitely the hardest and most competitive sportscar championship in Europe at the moment. Both the Pro and the Pro Am class are full of good cars and drivers – some of whom I’ve raced with over the years – so both the win and points are up for grabs. It should be a lot of fun, particularly with the car we have. We’ve had a bit of testing and the overall promise seems good. There’s some work to do over the weekend but everyone else is in exactly the same position – it’s going to be an interesting challenge.’
Northern Irishman Steven Kane joins forces with Lucas and Peter as the final driver in the Pro car. ‘This team is the GT1 World Champion, one of the best teams, not only in Britain but also in the world in terms of GT racing, so it’s a pleasure to drive here. You can already see that there’s good speed and that it’s a car we can race with and be fast. It certainly has great potential and the aim this year is clearly to win races. I’m really looking forward to the start of the season – we just need to do our best to stay out of trouble and keep our noses clean at every race and I’m confident we will be very strong throughout the year.’
Geordie racer Matt Bell brings his experience of Blancpain to the team, as he contests the Pro Am class with Charles and Humaid. ‘This season I think we’ve got a car to do well. The Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 has shown good potential so far in testing, we just need to get in there and unlock it even more. Knowing this is actually very positive going into the race weekend – we’ve got a good basis and there is even more to come. From what we’ve seen in testing the car seems to be quick in high-speed sections and straights, which should really suit Monza. I’m looking forward to getting out and going racing – it’s going to be hard with so many cars on track, but we’ll do our best to bring the car to the finish and in the points.’
Racing alongside Matt for the second season is Boston-born Charles Bateman. ‘It’s good to be back in the car with Matt. We get on really well, we pushed each other last year and we can build on it. Obviously it’s a new team and a new car, but having the same team-mate is always a bonus. I got a run in the car at Ricard and Snetterton and it feels like a very good car so we’ll try our hardest to be best in class. I think we’ve got the car to do that, as well as the driver line-up so we’ve got a good shot at the Pro-Am Championship. We’ve just got to keep our noses clean in the longer races and hope it will come to us.’
Humaid Al Masaood meanwhile anticipates his first race in the Blancpain Endurance Championship: ‘I’m looking forward to this weekend immensely. Due to other commitments it will be the first time I’ll have driven the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 but I’ve been following the progress over the winter very closely. I’m also looking forward to meeting Matt and Charles and getting to know the team. We know it will be a very steep learning curve but I have every confidence in the work Matt and Charles have put in over the winter.’
The weekend is split over two days. On Saturday there will be a one hour practice session for bronze drivers, in which Humaid will participate. Following this there will then be two further 1.5 hour practice sessions. The one-hour Qualifying takes place on Sunday morning, with the quickest lap time of each car deciding the grid for the later three-hour race.