- Jul 23, 2014
The journey to the highest levels of auto racing competition has finally culminated for former Nissan GT Academy champions Jann Mardenborough and Lucas Ordóñez, who along with veteran Nissan factory driver Michael Krumm, will drive for the NISMO factory team in the premier class of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Mardenborough, the 2011 GT Academy champion, will drive the full World Endurance Championship season for NISMO. Last year, he became the first GT Academy alumni to win a major single-seater race, with a victory from reverse grid pole in the GP3 Series sprint race at the Hockenheimring on 20 July 2014. Two years ago, in his debut effort at Le Mans, he pierced through the gloom of a somber day marred by the death of Allan Simonsen - displaying a blistering pace that made him the talk of the sports car racing world, and helped propel his Greaves Motorsport team to third in the LMP2 class - a drive he shared with his new NISMO teammates, Ordóñez and Krumm.
It's hard to believe that just four years ago, that Jann, the son of a former veteran footballer, was just a twenty-year-old university student, still searching for an ultimate purpose in life like so many young men his age. His father's fortunes in sport were nowhere near sufficient enough to allow him to go racing in go-karts as a child as so many professional racing drivers had done, but by winning the GT Academy, Mardenborough's life was forever changed, and his incredible talent would no longer remain buried beneath the surface.
“I want to show that there is a different route to the top of motorsport, than just years and years of expensive go karting, by winning at Le Mans,” said Mardenborough. “It's an honor for me to be chosen to compete in LM P1 for Nissan. I have raced at Le Mans twice in LM P2 so I have seen the current LM P1 cars at very close quarters out on the track. To think I will be racing one this year is very exciting. The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO looks set to be an historic race car and I get to drive it!”
Still brimming with ambitions of one day racing in Formula One, Mardenborough also tested in the Super Formula series this off-season, and hopes to use his success in sports car racing to help springboard him to F1, as the seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher did before him.
Seven years after setting the benchmark, Lucas Ordóñez is no longer just a video game racer turned pro, but a truly well-traveled, multi-disciplined constant of international motorsport. In 2008 he became the first-ever GT Academy champion, then three years later, in his first effort at Le Mans, he finished second in the LMP2 class for Signatech Nissan as the first GT Academy graduate to compete in the race around the clock. Since then, he's won a championship in the Blancpain Endurance Series, he's driven the famed 24 hour races at the Nurburgring and Dubai, he's ventured eastward to Super GT, to North America for the Pirelli World Challenge, he's also tested a Nissan V8 Supercar at Bathurst - and he's now entering his fifth 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“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,” said Ordóñez. “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! I know it sounds like a cliché but GT Academy really does turn dreams into reality, giving people a real chance to get their dream job, just like I did. For sure you have to work hard but when you do the rewards are there. I have never been so excited about the start of a new season.”
Ordóñez is only slated to drive for NISMO at Le Mans, but the Spaniard, who turns 30 in May, will still have a busy 2014 season. He'll also drive the first three races of the Autobacs Super GT Series for Kondo Racing in the GT500 class, moving up from the GT300 class after just one season. And despite the fact that he will turn thirty years of age in May, Ordóñez will make his astonishing single-seater racing debut in the All-Japan Formula 3 Championship this season.
Veteran driver Michael Krumm tested the GT-R LM NISMO prototype in its stealth black livery at Circuit of the Americas back in January. The 44-year-old German driver has been a Nissan factory driver for over a decade and a half, and has an impressive resume that includes two championships in Super GT, the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship, and six previous starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans - with a best overall finish of third in 2002 for Audi Sport Team Joest. He'll take over Ordóñez's place at Kondo Racing after the mid-summer break in the Super GT calendar, to drive the last five rounds of the championship.
“Jann and Lucas have proved their merit as professional racing drivers time and time again, not least with their Le Mans podium finishes,” said NISMO's global head of marketing, Darren Cox. “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,” he continued. “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.”
These three stellar drivers will join an already impressive driver roster that includes former Le Mans overall winner and F1 veteran Marc Gené, reigning Le Mans LMP2 class winner Harry Tincknell, longtime LMP2 class front-runner Olivier Pla, and defending Super GT GT500 driver's champion Tsugio Matsuda. These seven drivers, to be joined by two more drivers yet to be identified, will be tasked with piloting the stunning GT-R LM NISMO prototype to victories in the WEC and at Le Mans against the toughest field in the premier class of endurance racing the sport has seen in decades.