This year’s FIA GT1 World Championship has been billed as the best in years.
Nissan GT-R too fast for racing
With a field including Aston Martin’s DBR9, Maserati’s MC12, Corvette C6.Rs and Lamborghini Murcielago R-SVs the championship’s opening race at the Yas Island Marina circuit promised to be an epic encounter.
Instead it turned into a handicapped farce of sorts...
Think Nissan's GT-R lacks supercar credentials? Think again.
'Balance of Performance'
One of the FIA’s aims with the GT1 championship is to keep the racing as close as possible.
The cars feature V8 and V12 engines which ensure the requisite racing acoustics, yet the FIA is keen make sure performance discrepancies are minimal – which means the slowest car becomes the common denominator.
The result is that is you’re particularly fast, you gain a weight penalty – a fact which has made Nissan rather unhappy.
Seeing as the Japanese manufacturer has already pandered to the naturally aspirated rulebook by running a retuned bakkie engine from it Titan range to power the GT1 spec GT-Rs it entered for this year’s championship – instead of the road-going GT-R’s 3.8l V6 turbo – one can understand why Nissan's a little upset.
What Heinz says goes
Before the weekend’s Yas Marina races the cars were handicapped by former F1 driver Heinz-Herald Frentzen who took each of the six different models participating for a few laps to assess any discrepancies in performance.
Frentzen was supposed to do between 10 and 15 consecutive laps per car to assess performance yet according to trackside observers he did not get near that number.
Michael Schumacher's teenage arch enemy completed only two laps in the Matech Ford GT before complaining that he was uncomfortable in the car, and drove the Corvette early in the day when the Yas Marina track was 'green'.
He did only one flying lap on new tyres in the Nissan, when it had been planned that he would undertake a 10- or 15-lap run in each car.
The net result was some rather uneven ballasting, of which Nissan was the most severe victim.
Despite being handicapped out of the race, Nissan still magnanimously supplied a pace-, safety- and medical support car for the Yas Marina round of the FIA GT1 championship.
Weight of expectation
After the Frentzen ‘handicap’ session the Corvettes and Lamborghinis each gained 10kg of additional weight, whilst the Maserati MC12s were bloated with an extra 25kg.
Ford’ GT was left untouched (because it was slow) and the Aston Martin DBR9 was helped along with a larger air restrictor to help it edge closer to race pace…
Nissan‘s bakkie V8 powered GT-R was quickest of the bunch in Frentzen’s hands and penalised with 30kg of ballast.
During the actual race the GT-Rs were way off the pace and now the two teams running race-spec GT-Rs (Swiss Racing Team and British Sumo Power) are threatening to boycott future races unless the weight penalty matrix is recalculated.
This is a particularly serious situation for the British Sumo Power team as the GT1 championship’s next race is at Silverstone.
A championship worth winning?
During this weekend’s race Romain Grosjean and Thomas Mutsch, driving the Matech Competition Ford GT, became the first winners of a GT1 World Championship Race ahead of the Phoenix Racing / Carsport Corvette of Andreas Zuber and Marc Hennerici, who had won the earlier Qualifying Race.
It was a bitter-sweet weekend for the Swiss Matech Competition team after Natacha Gachnang suffered a broken leg in an accident during the opening qualifying session.
When one considers the Ford GT was the car Frentzen felt most uncomfortable with (it was unable to dip under 2 min 10 sec during qualifying) it was rather interesting to see it win, lapping consistent 2 min 7 sec times...
After years of hard work to refine the GT1 class to a proper championship one hopes the current ballasting impasse is not the undoing of what promises to be a great season’s racing. Especially as Durban is set to host round 8 of the 10 race championship in November…
Do you think Nissan’s racing GT-R is being unfairly punished? Have your say here...