After Nissan launched their much heralded GTR-LM NISMO LMP1 racer last Sunday, Nissan has quickly announced a significant portion of it's driver line up for next year.
Marc Gene was announced earlier this week, and yesterday it was announced LMP2 front runners Olivier Pla and Harry Tincknell and reigning Japanese Super GT champion Tsugio Matsuda will join him in the factory Nissan line up for this year.
Olivier Pla progressed through the junior single seater ranks, culminating in some promising performances in GP2 in 2005-2006. Sponsorship issues curtailed his career and led him to switch to sportscar racing, immediately and consistently showing promise since 2008, which is now rewarded with this Nissan factory drive.
He gave his thoughts on the deal by stating "It feels great to be part of a programme like this,as a driver it means a lot and I feel very proud and pleased to become a works driver for Nissan. The challenge is very exciting and I’m more than ready for that. During the last three seasons in particular, the level of competition in LM P2 has become incredibly high so it is the perfect place to train for LM P1."
Harry Tincknell has followed a similar career path to Pla, although his progress has been a lot faster. Tincknell has earned this Nissan deal after only one season in LMP2, although it was a almost perfect debut season as he almost won the European Le Mans Series title to complement his debut Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 class win.
Tincknell stated on the deal "I’m very excited to be graduating in to the LM P1 category after just one year in sportscars having raced a Nissan engined LM P2 car in 2014. Moving from Formula 3 single-seaters to sportcars was a big step and now graduating up in to LM P1 will be another giant leap for me with a lot to learn."
"2014 was an incredible year for me. Winning the LM P2 category and finishing fifth overall on my Le Mans debut – not many other drivers, if any, have achieved that. Personally achieving a 100% record by claiming three ‘poles’ in my maiden European Le Mans Series season in which I was awarded ‘Rookie of the Year’. I couldn’t have dreamt of making such an impact."
The final driver to be announced yesterday was reigning Japanese Super GT champion Tsugio Matsuda, who also has recent single seater experience as he is a regular driver in the Japanese Super Formula series. Matsuda is well known to Nissan and will join the third Le Mans only entry this year, bringing a wealth of experience to the Nissan entry. Both Olivier Pla and Harry Tincknell will drive the two World Endurance Championship entries.
Nissan will have a lot of catching up to with the much more experienced manufacturers they will be racing such as Audi, Toyota and Porsche, although Nissan will be working hard to overcome their lack of experience, with their front engined car showing they are willing to embrace a different concept with their return to sportscars. The WEC will make for captivating watching this year with four manufactures battling for victory.