Last year many people predicted the end of the FIA GT1 World Championship before the season was over, they were wrong. When the season was over they predicted there would not be a 2011 season, they were wrong again. One man kept the faith and increased his involvement for 2011. Meet James Rumsey…
During the second race weekend of the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship at the Zolder circuit Marcel ten Caat sat down with James Rumsey, the British entrepreneur and driving force behind the Nissan operation in the FIA GT1 World Championship, to find out his views on the series, the cars, the drivers and the future.
James, your company JRM Group decided to run four cars in the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship. With several teams reducing operations or even quitting the championship, why did you make this decision?
“Last year our Nissan GT-R was out on its own. There was no real support from Swiss Racing Team, in the way of taking points away from other teams in the championship. We realized we needed three or four competitive Nissans to fight for the championship and started talking with Nissan at the end of last year. Then Swiss Racing Team announced they would be racing with another manufacturer and we decided to talk with Nissan about JRM Group running four cars this season.”
The Sumo Power GT and JR Motorsports line-ups are one of the best, if not the best, line-ups in the GT1 World Championship. Why did you go for these 8 driver pairs this season?
“There were quite some frustrated drivers at the end of last year, top drivers who were unable to fight for wins in their cars. What is attractive for those drivers in the Nissan teams is the fact that they can win here, whatever car they are in. We do not have a preferred car, so everyone has the same chance in the championship. All our teams will use equal data and will be equal on set-up and support. This will give us an advantage, but we don’t have enough parts for all four cars, we will not use it before we have. JR Motorsport and Sumo Power GT are really two separate teams, but the cooperation between them is an advantage for all.
As for the drivers, they all approached us rather than us approaching them. We were initially planning for three professional teams and one ‘young driver’ team, one young driver teamed up with the experienced Jamie Campbell-Walter, but when we realized we could get David Brabham we went for the four pro teams. We are still very interested in a young driver team and will be testing several young drivers in one car at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar on April 27. We are also looking at other options, there will be more on that later this year.
The reason behind the driver pairings as they are now was purely a commercial decision. For example a Brazilian sponsor will be more interested when we have two Brazilians in the car and the same with the British and German pairings. Of course the drivers being able to communicate with each other in their own language is easy as well, so they can quickly change things in the car.”
Last season the Nissan had its ups and downs. What do you think of the car and competition this year?
“This season the Nissan GT-R has been developed further by NISMO and that in combination with the Balance of Performance changes means we are closer to the other cars. The whole field has improved and the cars are much closer to each other than they were last year. Everyone has a better chance this season and I think we can definitely speak about a level playing field in this years season.”
There has been a lot of criticism on the GT1 World Championship. What is your view on it and what can or should be done to improve the show?
“The GT1 World Championship has potential and it is a good show. But marketing it well is the next step. We need to open it up for the people on the street and people need to be made aware of it. The product itself is very good, it has very exciting races, a lot of action and it is the perfect platform for advertising. The thing now is marketing. You should get as many people as possible to the series. How to do this? Hand out free tickets. If you look at the World Series by Renault (which originated from the World Series by Nissan) they have packed circuits. I think that if you distribute tickets via the manufacturers you will have people coming to the track, watch the product and then buy merchandise and more. We bring the cars, they take care of the tickets.”
And what do you think of the TV coverage ?
“Spectators in Europe can see the FIA GT1 World Championship on television throughout Europe and online on the GT1 World website. This is good. But it is mega that Bloomberg also has the races. Even though Bloomberg might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of racing, the deal means we will reach people all over the world, from South America to Asia.”
Recently much has been said about the number of cars and what to do in the future. What are your thoughts on this?
“For the future of the FIA GT1 World Championship I believe we will have manufacturers and tuners that will make updates for GT3 cars so they can be used in the GT1 World Championship. I know that Stéphane Ratel is already working hard on the 2012 calendar. This should be a good calendar with decent dates and circuits. All I can say is that we are going in the right direction now with the series.”
Unfortunately at Zolder the races didn’t go according to plan, but expect Sumo Power GT and JR Motorsports to bounce back at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. In 2010 Sumo Power GT won the Qualifying Race on the Portuguese circuit…