GT Academy Team RJN top British GT at Brands Hatch

by neilatk
5 years ago
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My first “proper” win ever and the first major win for the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3!

After the last race at Rockingham, we knew the car would be more suited to Brands Hatch than Rockingham. Purely because we are struggling with traction at the moment in slow corners. So to get 5th wasn’t all bad.  Brands Hatch GP has quite a few high speed corners, Dingle Dell is one of them. The GT-R has great rear stability in the high speed corners.

We learnt some very valuable data from Rockingham in terms of race setup and more crucially the Avon tyres, as it’

s the first time the GT-R has done one hour on this manufacture of tyre before.

I arrived at Brands on the Friday at 4.30. No racing that day, but like to watch the other cars go round the track. British GT has Formula 3 come to the majority of races, it was the same at the weekend. You can sometimes pick a lot up from just watching from the sidelines. It was quite damp and at one point rained hard. Useful to watch these young, fast guys push hard in these conditions. Certainly backed up a few lines I had in my head into certain corners when it was wet. T4 is a difficult corner in the dry (one that joins onto the GP part) so to watch people doing it well put my mind at ease for Saturday practice and qualifying.

P1 and P2 we were mid pack. Not too bothered as we ran old rubber while others stuck on new stuff, a lot of teams did that in P2. At the end of P1 me and Alex had a debrief with the team. We had the same issues and complaints, the car was getting too unsettled from the bumps on the GP part. T6 was the worst one of all. I bring a GoPro camera to every race, always very useful to look over footage, because sometimes it’s hard to pick up just on Motec data exactly where you are losing time to your teammate. Something visual along with Motec is a great combination for learning fast. We showed the Bob and the engineers the footage, they winced as the car snapped into oversteer over the bumps. Damping changes were made along with the cars height, rear wing adjustments were made too. P2 on old rubber again the GT-R went a second quicker!  Both Alex and I were quite happy at this point. In these sessions me and Alex had to make very quick calls on changes made to the car are better, or worse. We made quite a few changes in total in the two one hour practice sessions. It’s harder for us because we have no previous data for the tracks we are visiting, we’ve done no testing with the car. So effectively we are heading into each race blind. So both drives have to be very informative in their debrief notes and explaining what the car is doing at each corner, from the entry, middle and exit.

For qualifying we made some smaller changes, yet again unlike other teams, we don’t have a “qualifying” setup yet. Something like that will happen in the future as we learn more and more about the car. No refuelling in qualifying, so we would have a limited number of flyers. Agreed we’d have no more than 3. I went first out. To be honest not much warming of the tyres had to be done on the out lap, felt like I could push mid way through the out lap! Of course I didn’t, that would be stupid. With new tyres, you really have to drill it into your head you can’t overdrive new tyres, that’s not how you go quicker.  Car felt the best it’s ever been in a quail session, braking comically late into paddock and druids!  Second lap was half a second quicker than the first and had provisional pole. Small errors into paddock and had to overtake a Porsche into druid, a tighter line was taken because of this. In all I was pleased. 1.26.3xx. 1 tenth quicker we would have jumped us 5 places to 5th! Off pole by 0.423.. Some teams actually ran their pro driver twice on new tyres!  Happy but annoyed at the same time was the feeling in the RJN camp. Only did two flyers, so Alex would be starting on a lovely set of tyres for the race.

Alex would be starting the race. We had a long discussion after quail about what we should do, in the end we stuck for what we used at Rockingham which seemed to work because Alex was soon up to first at Rockingham and he did the same here at Brands. 10TH to 1st in two laps! When Alex started it was raining, everyone was on slicks, he capitalised on this with some mega moves into druids and a ace move up the inside out the last corner to get into first. It was hard for Alex from then, because it was still raining, so he would be first to experience how little grip there was out there, while the others just followed behind. He did awesome to pull a gap when the amazing but for us the dreaded Juke-R safety car

came out.Similar to Rockingham, Alex pulls a gap, and then the safety car comes out because somebody crashed. Bummer. It happened twice in Alex’s stint, so 5 seconds was our gap to second when we did the driver change. Our pitstop was the best out of anyone’s that weekend. A minimum time of 110 seconds is required in British GT, anything under you get a drive through. Our time was bang on 110 seconds!  Some changes were made for the race and I can for sure tell that it affected us. So more work to be done at Paul Ricard on the 1ST July. Managing a gap to the BMW Z4 in second the whole time was 4-5 seconds when I came out the pits, he did catch up to 1.9 seconds at one point. I felt comfortable I could keep him back. He was strong in the slower corners (Exits) than us. I was struggling with slow speed under steer into Graham Hill Bend and T4. It’s crazy how much the weight of fuel effects cars characteristics as it goes from full to near empty. I did have to make changes in car to compensate for this along with driving style. I felt stronger in the GP part and that’s where I really did pull a gap when it started to rain only on 3 corners on the GP part!

   A few laps at the end Bob told me on the radio “the Aston is catching the BMW fast.” It did eventually catch the BMW with 3 laps to go, I was just focused on accurately passing the slower cars. On the last lap I had to pass 3 I think! Struggling with the fronts quite badly now. Into the last but one corner the Aston had a good exit. I knew instantly I‘d have to defend hard into the last corner, he would go the outside on entry to try and get the undercut. I knew this so positioned the car in the middle of the road, unfortunately because of the crest, the rear did break away. Regained the slide and went wide, then back to the inside as I’d hug the pit wall, the Aston went high. We are by far not the fastest thing in a straight line, so he did gain because of that. So close I had to ask the team immediately as we crossed the line! They came back saying “we got it!” I just yelled “YEAHH!” Then the fist pumping began haha.comfortable I could keep him back. He was strong in the slower corners (Exits) than us. I was struggling with slow speed under steer into Graham Hill Bend and T4. It’s crazy how much the weight of fuel effects cars characteristics as it goes from full to near empty. I did have to make changes in car to compensate for this along with driving style. I felt stronger in the GP part and that’s where I really

did pull a gap when it started to rain only on 3 corners on the GP part!

It was incredible to get my first proper win ever, and the GT-R’s major race win. We made some modifications after Rockingham, because I and Alex were just getting too hot in the car. A new drinks system in car worked a treat too. No doubt they helped us both keep cool under pressure in the car in our stints.Champagne celebrations were ace as always. Everyone went for me! It was a really cool moment.

0.022 in front.

I Won GT Academy on the 16/06/2011 so to win 374 days later is incredible.  Some important people from NISMO in

Japan were there at Brands too, along with Nissan UK, so to win in front of them was great!We are now 9 points off first and half a point behind second now.  Up next is Paul Ricard for the Blancpain Endurance Series.  Snetterton next for British GT.

Big thanks to GT Academy Team RJN for working very hard on the car and the pit stops.

Winner.