After a secretive year of information around the Nissan LMP1 project, the drivers are now beginning to break cover. Marc Gene, Harry Tincknell, Olivier Pla and Le Mans extra Tsugio Matsuda will be joined by Nissan regular and GT-R LM NISMO test driver, Michael Krumm and GT Academy winners Lucas Ordonez and Jann Mardenbourgh.
When the Nissan GT Academy began in 2008, Ordonez was the scheme’s first ever winner. He has gone on to experience several different cars including the Nissan ZEOD at Le Mans last year. The Academy certainly turned heads when it was announced that Nissan, alongside Gran Turismo, were going to try and turn gamers into professional racing drivers. Both Mardenbourgh and Ordonez have had success in their careers since the academy launch, proving in turn the success of the academy.
Lucas Ordonez will only compete in the Nissan GT-R LM at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The rest of his season will be spent racing in the top class of the Super GT series in Japan. When asked about the season ahead, Lucas said “When I received the call telling me I would race the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO and the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 it was like winning GT Academy all over again. Last year was incredible, racing in Japan and learning all about the unique racing culture over there. Now I get to race in the top class in Japan and at Le Mans I will jump into the ultimate GT-R!”
2011 winner GT Academy winner, Jann Mardenbough will compete the full FIA WEC season for Nissan. Although he raced at Le Mans last year, 2015 will mark the Briton’s full time return to Sportscars after spending a year in the FIA GP3 Series. When asked about his reaction to the news of his plans for this season, Mardenbough said, “Darren (Cox) told me when we were in the GP3 hospitality area at Monza last year and I was pretty taken aback as I wasn’t expecting him to say that, mainly because I never take anything for granted. Once the news had sunk in I was massively happy and very proud to have been chosen to represent Nissan at the highest level in sports cars. It’s a big honour and I’m delighted to be part of the new team.”
Darren Cox, Nissan’s head of Global of Brand and Marketing sales at NISMO said, “Jann and Lucas have proved their merit as professional racing drivers time and time again, not least with their Le Mans podium finishes” He went on to say “What looks like an overnight success is years of incredibly hard work by Jann, Lucas and the Nissan NISMO team that develop all of the winners of Nissan GT Academy. These guys are proof that if you want something badly enough and are prepared to give it everything you’ve got, you will succeed. We have the same ethos with our LM P1 program. Drivers like Krumm add that extra layer of experience that is vital in a program like this.”
“We are here to compete at the highest level and we are not here to make up the numbers. It’s no accident that people like Mark Webber are racing at Le Mans. This is where you will find the most competitive racing in the world. It is a tough battlefield but we can’t wait to join the fight.” Added Cox.
Krumm, who was the first driver to test the new Nissan LMP1 car, has been focusing on the Super GT Championship in the last few years. He has also raced in the FIA GT1 championship, a series he one in 2011. One of his greatest achievements is setting the production car lap record of the Nurbergring in a Nissan GTR road car. He will join Olivier Pla in the #23 full season entry car for 2015.
This news now means that 7 of the 9 available Nissan seats have been taken. The remaining 2 are set to be announced in the coming weeks. One of the favorites is Venturi Formula E driver, Nick Heidfeld. The German has been a judge the German GT Academy team previously and has driven for Nissan at the Nurbergring 24 Hour race. Speculation has continued as his regular WEC team, Rebellion has yet to announce the German as one of their drivers.
Source – Nissan Press Material