Henleyís sports car legend, David Brabham reflects on another busy racing season with a dual campaign competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the Blancpain Endurance Series:
The 2012 season offered more new and exciting opportunities for me, with a return to JRM Racing to tackle our first FIA World Endurance Championship campaign in the HPD ARX-03A. It was great to return to prototypes with a team I know, in a car engrained with my DNA.
My involvement with the HPD programme stretches back to 2007 in America with Highcroft Racing, capped with back-to-back American Le Mans Series titles in 2009 and 2010. Iíd obviously moved away from the programme to do the FIA GT1 World Championship in the Sumo Power Nissan GT-R last year, so it was a nice surprise to be back in a HPD for 2012 and continue my relationships with JRM, HPD, Wirth Research and Michelin.
For JRM, it was a new championship and a new challenge. We knew it would take time for things to evolve and for us to get on top of everything, to run really competitively.
We got the year off to a good start at Sebring with third in the LMP1 privateer standings, when it was a mad rush to even get the car there. We had a couple of really good performances then lost our way a little mid-season, but a good outing at Le Mans gave us some confidence. We werenít the fastest but we did what we had to do and finished sixth. That was a good achievement and definitely one of the highlights of the year.
Towards the end of the season things started to come together a lot better and we were very competitive. The second place LMP1 privateer podiums in Japan and China were just reward for the hard work that the team put in.
Having raced in the US for over 12 years, I also had a few things to learn. American racing is very different to the FIA way of racing, so itís interesting having been through both experiences. Put it this way, in all my years racing in the States I donít ever remember going to the stewards office, but in my first race with JRM last year Iím called straight to the stewards because Iíve done something wrong.
In America, if you do something wrong they wonder down the pit and have a chat to you, explain whatís happened and you get on with it. An FIA championship is naturally different, itís very much rule driven and you end up spending a lot of time talking to the stewards. Once I got an idea of the different rules and regulations my visits thankfully became last frequent!
I knew I wasnít going to win the title against the likes of Audi and Toyota, but itís cool to be racing in a World Championship. Iíve done that before, in F1 and World Sports Cars, and it brings a whole different meaning to what youíre doing. Itís great to see the World Series for sports cars start up again and I hope the championship continues. Itís got a lot of potential and itís great to be part of that new beginning.
At the moment Iíve got no plans for 2013. Iím waiting to hear of JRMís plans, so things are quite open at the moment. Itís early stages yet for teams to be finalising their programmes, so itís a case of seeing whatís out there and getting a decent campaign together to go and win some races and championships.
At the beginning of 2012 I also got a deal to run with United Autosports in the new McLaren MP4-12C, which was great. The FIA GT3 Championship is massive and a lot of fun. It wasnít going to be priority for me in terms of my year but I managed to get a few races in.
The car was in the very early stages of development, we had a lot of problems early on and United Autosports took the decision to pull out of the championship, mainly because they are a small team and were overstretched with historic and GT racing in the UK plus the Blancpain Endurance Series, with various cars. I gave the team my full backing and felt it made sense for them to re-group and develop the McLaren away from the race track.
It proved the right thing to do as they took the car to the British GT Championship with immediate success. The McLaren organisation worked very hard to develop the car and that, together with the new plan of attack from United Autosports, ensured that the end of the year was going to be strong, which is really what theyíve been working towards.
In between my race commitments, Iíve been busy continuing my role as MSA Team UK National Race Coach. My company, the Brabham Performance Clinic has run the MSAís young driver performance development programme for six years now and itís just grown massively since we first started.
When the MSA put out a tender for the programme back in 2007, I knew from my own racing experiences, the ups and downs and what would have helped me when I was a young up-coming driver, what the programme should be to start with.
As it evolved year-on-year, the MSA started to get a much better understanding of the way they wanted to take it. Weíve worked in close partnership in recent years and it has become much more of a joint venture. Itís been great to continue that close working relationship with the MSA, Robert Reid, and James Wozencroft for rallying throughout 2012. Iíve learnt a lot over the last six years and Iím very proud to have been part of the scheme for so long.
The racing season is done but itís still a really busy time, especially with the exciting developments with my new website www.davidbrabham.com. Itís something Iíve been working on for a while and hope Iím close to launching early in the New Year.