Jann Mardenborough, driving the No.35 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, crossed the finishing line at Brands Hatch yesterday just two-hundredths of a second ahead of the No.007 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, to take his own and the GT-R’s first major race victory a year to the day after winning Nissan’s GT Academy competition.
Since winning the competition that turns PlayStation gamers into real-life racing drivers, Mardenborough has raced with GT Academy Team RJN, primarily in the Blancpain Endurance Series and, as today, in the British GT Championship.
“What a great way to finish what has been the best year of my life so far,” said Jann after the race. “Winning GT Academy has presented me with so many opportunities and I’m delighted that Al (Buncombe) and I could get the job done in the Nissan GT-R today.”
The start of today’s British GT race was tasked to Buncombe and it soon became apparent that the British racer was going to settle for nothing less than victory. Starting from 10th place on the grid, Al was up to fourth by the end of lap one and then scythed his way through to the lead on lap three, giving the crowd something to cheer about in the drizzly conditions.
“The conditions were very tough at the start of the race,” said Buncombe. “When I took the lead the circuit was pretty dry at the start of the lap but still wet out the back so it was difficult to know how hard to push. Once I saw the Porsche I had taken the lead from start to close in on me I got my head down and worked on building up a ‘comfort’ gap. The car was feeling great at this stage and I could do all out qualifying pace on every lap so it was a lot of fun to drive.”
The Nissan Juke-R safety car made two appearances during the first half of the race while debris and then a stranded car were cleared from the track. The supercar crossover concept has a 485bhp 3.8 litre V6 twin turbo engine that propels it from a standing start to 100kph in just 3.7 seconds, before reaching a top speed of 160 mph, so it keeps the field moving under yellow flag conditions. Its appearance however did mean that the Nissan GT-R immediately lost its advantage.
This meant that Jann would be pitted against most of the ‘pro’ drivers from the British GT field during his run. The driver change went smoothly and the team got Jann on track in the lead without losing any time.
“For the first 10 minutes the car was great,” he said. “But then as the fuel level got lower I started to get understeer out on the GP circuit. Bob (Neville) was on the radio telling me what the gap was to the BMW in second place and then 10 minutes before the end he said there was an Aston Martin catching the BMW at quite a rate.”
Suddenly the battle for all three podium places was on. The Aston Martin made fairly light work of the BMW so Jann was under immense pressure for the remaining three laps of the race. Jann is an incredibly calm driver and this served him well today. He kept his cool and crossed the line as winner in what can only be described as a photo finish.
“Both drivers did a fantastic job today.” Said GT Academy Team RJN Team Principal Bob Neville. “Al took advantage of the wet conditions at the start and built up a useful lead which was then lost by two safety cars. Jann had to go wheel-to-wheel with the pros and he didn’t make a single mistake under huge pressure. It feels good to see him and the GT3 GT-R take their first major race wins.”
“This is a journey we began in 2008 with the first GT Academy,” said Darren Cox, General Manager of Nissan in Europe. “In just the last seven days we have seen our first two winners race in the Le Mans 24 Hours and now Jann has taken his first major win, just one year after winning the competition. The back room team should give themselves a huge pat on the back today. This started with those who believed in the dream, including RJN’s Bob and Liz Neville. I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
Jann and Alex don’t have much time to enjoy their win as they head off to France next week for round three of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Paul Ricard.
Keep up the great work chaps!