In 2012, GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough (pictured) entered the British GT Championship alongside Alex Buncombe in the brand new Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3.
Alex was the professional and Jann was the amateur as at that point his racing experience was incredibly limited. They pushed hard and by the close of the season the duo were in with a shot of winning the championship outright.
In 2013 the threat of the talent of the newest GT Academy winners is far too real.
Benjamin Franassovici, British GT Championship manager, said: ‘I have a lot of admiration for GT Academy. It has shown itself to be a great way to source raw talent and turn that into real racing talent as we saw in British GT last year with Jann Mardenborough.
‘However, Nissan’s ability to find such amazing raw talent means that we cannot accept their full season entry for British GT in 2013. Their new recruits have very little racing experience so they have to be on the lowest performance grade.
‘No closed doors’
‘Their talent, going on Jann’s speed last year, doesn’t reflect this lack of experience so it is not fair to put them up against our Pro/Gentleman grid, the basis of British GT3. Hats off to Nissan though and I should point out that there are no closed doors here.’
During the 2012 British GT season Jann Mardenborough was deemed ‘too fast’ for his performance grading but as he didn’t meet any of the higher criteria the organisers had no choice other than to apply a time penalty to allow the others to catch up. In his first full season as a racing driver Jann’s talent was recognised by the British Racing Driver’s Club who awarded him Rising Star status and he was also awarded a place on the prestigious MSA Academy, run by the governing body of motorsport in the UK.
In 2013 four new winners of GT Academy are ready to race after going through the intensive GT Academy Driver Development Programme. The four drivers are Wolfgang Reip (2012 European winner from Belgium); Mark Shulzhitskiy (2012 Russian winner); Peter Pyzera (2012 German winner); and Steve Doherty (2012 US winner).
Nissan’s global motorsports director, Darren Cox (left), said: ‘We don’t know yet if the new guys will be as fast as Jann but British GT have decided not to take the risk.
‘It’s disappointing that we can’t put any of our new winners into the British GT Championship as it was a great learning experience for Jann.
‘It’s also very flattering at the same time though. Being told you are too fast isn’t something that happens very often in any competitive sport.’