The #nismobigweekender saw the launch of the 2014 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT500 Super GT car in Japan and the Super GT debut of the original GT Academy winner, Lucas Ordonez.
The Nissan GT Academy Team RJN team was in action in Slovakia for the FIA GT Series and Jann Mardenborough competed in three F3 races at the Nurburgring.
Steve Doherty headed to the US to race in the Grand Am Continental Tire Challenge and one of the newest winners of GT Academy was on track at Snetterton as part of the vital driver development programme.
With one Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in action this weekend the pressure was on Wolfgang Reip and Alex Buncombe to deliver the silverware at the the Slovakia Ring, the fourth round of the FIA GT Series. Buncombe was unlucky to miss out on Superpole on Saturday and had to settle for starting the qualifying race from 12th place.
Wolfie had another breakthrough race when he had to fight off the advances of the AF Corse Ferrari for much of his stint. The Belgian kept his cool and came across the line in 12th place, which was a brilliant second place in class.
Starting the main race from 12th, Wolfie was immediately caught up in the melee following an accident that Sebastien Loeb was having. This dropped the Belgian to fifth in class but again he kept his head and at the halfway mark handed over to Alex who then proceeded to hunt down a podium finish.
In the final stages of the race Alex had caught the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari and wasted no time in making his move to grab the last spot on the pro-am podium and eighth place overall.
The new Nismo Global Driver Exchange Programme delivered the opportunity of a lifetime for Lucas Ordonez at the weekend when he competed in the Suzuka 1000kms, his first Super GT race. Lucas joined Kazuki Hoshino and Daiki Sasaki in the No.3 NDDP GT300 class GT-R and the trio finished the race in ninth place in class, despite being handicapped by a stop-go penalty.
‘This has been a great weekend for me,’ said Lucas. ‘It is a big opportunity for me to be at Suzuka, racing in Super GT with the Nissan Driver Development Team. It was unfortunate that we got a stop-go penalty today but I’m really happy with my performance and I think the team is happy with the work I did here this weekend.’
He continued: ‘My stint was very intense as I went out on track during a safety car period, then when the green flag came out I had all the GT500 cars behind me and I have to say that was a very crazy experience. All of them were really pushing and I was there doing my first race laps in Super GT!
‘Thank you to Nissan for putting me into this amazing race. We had the pace for the podium today and I was really happy with my pace and pleased to have the opportunity to show my skills.’
FAST LEARNER IS A QUICK STARTER
One of the toughest tasks for Jann Mardenborough in Formula 3 this year has been learning how to do a standing start as all of his race experience (all one year of it!) before F3 happened in GT racing where rolling starts are used. Jann is the first to admit it has been a tough skill to master but at the Nurburgring this weekend he nailed it for the first two races!
Ironically his best result came in race three but that was his worst start as he had a clutch problem. After dropping to the back, Jann fought his way through the pack, taking the fourth fastest race lap and pulling himself up to 11th place.
‘My starts have been quite good this weekend – which is an area I have been working on – up until race three this morning,’ said Jann. ‘But the pace in the car was really good today and I think I was driving better having learnt a few things in sector one where I had been a bit slower. I feel like I’m getting quicker and quicker and the lessons learnt here this weekend can be transferred to the last round of the British F3 Series here later this year. I’m happy there are some positives to take away, it’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get any points after a strong race three.’
HIGHS AND LOWS
Nissan’s Director of Global Motorsports, Darren Cox, said: ‘Like any big weekend we had our share of the highs and the lows.
‘The highlights in Slovakia were the battle Wolfie had in race one and Al hunting down and passing the Ferrari in race two and of course the podium. Lucas showed great pace in Suzuka, again showing his professionalism and maturity.
‘Jann also made a leap forward this weekend, getting the monkey off his back when it comes to race starts. The lows include the stop-go penalty in Japan and Jann being taken out at the start of race two at the Nurburgring. One thing that normally happens after a big weekend is a big lull or a hangover. For Nissan and Nismo there is no chance of that as we have much hard work to do in 2013.’