NISSAN IN MOTORSPORT
Innovation is at the heart of Nissan and motorsport is the perfect platform to nurture new ideas and new technologies, all intensified with the added excitement of competition. It is no accident that Nissan's motorsport activities are accelerating.
2011: NISSAN POWERS TO VICTORY
A winning season in 2011 has set the scene for a full throttle year of motorsport in 2012. The highlights of 2011 include a 1-2 finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours for Nissan-powered teams and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup LMP2 title for partner team, Signatech Nissan. The Greaves Motorsport team also won the Le Mans Series LMP2 title in a car powered by the Nismo-tuned Nissan VK45DE 4.5L naturally-aspirated V8 engine. In fact, every round of the Le Mans Series saw a Nissan-powered team on the top step of the podium.
The Nissan 370Z took the GT4 title in the Blancpain Endurance Series, winning its class in the Spa 24 Hours along the way. The Nissan GT-R also saw a lot of action in 2011. The GT1-specification Nissan GT-R won the FIA GT1 World Driver's Championship in the hands of Michael Krumm and Lucas Luhr and the Super GT version of the Nissan GT-R won the Japanese title with the Mola GT-R team.
All of these results become even more impressive when you learn that some of the drivers hadn't even sat in a racing car a few years ago.
THE REVOLUTION IS A REVELATION
Described by EVO as ‘Nissan's revolutionary driver discovery and development programme', the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy has now run for three seasons and produced three outstanding racing drivers. The first winner, Lucas Ordonez (ESP) is now an international champion and will never forget the moment he held his trophy high on the podium at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours, just three years after winning GT Academy. Jordan Tresson (FRA), the season two winner, won a GT title in 2011 and will step up to the LMP2 class in 2012. The newest graduate is Jann Mardenborough (UK) and he will take the wheel of the brand new Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in this year's Blancpain Endurance Series.
Mardenborough recently featured on Sky News in the UK where his journey from ‘Virtual to Reality' was hailed by 1996 FIA Formula One World Champion Damon Hill as "absolutely amazing". The piece went on to say that Jann, "may just be the first of a new breed of racing driver."
The three GT Academy graduates, along with the winner of the first GT Academy USA competition, Bryan Heitkotter, teamed up as an All-Gamer entry in January's Dubai 24 Hours. The doubters were silenced when the gamers took to the podium at the end of the gruelling endurance race.
THE RETURN TO LA SARTHE
The Le Mans 24 Hours is the biggest event on the sportscar calendar and this year's Le Mans is the 80th running of the great race. Nissan has created a rich history at Le Mans since its first attempt in 1986 where the company entered two of its R85V prototypes. Throughout the 80's and 90's Nissan entered a host of GT and prototypes in the 24-hour race; from the R90CK which took pole position in 1990 to the R390 GT1 that finished third overall in 1998 and finally the R391 in 1999.
In 2011 Nissan returned to Le Mans with three cars powered by the Nissan engine and came away with a 1-2 finish in the LMP2 class. Such was the success of the engine, 11 of the 18 LMP2 cars entered into the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours will be powered by Nissan.
FATHER AND SON FIGHTING FOR GLORY
In 1997 Martin Brundle spearheaded Nissan's works effort at Le Mans with the R390 GT1. This summer sees the ex-F1 racer return to Le Mans but this time with his son Alex. They will be joined in the Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan by Lucas Ordonez and the trio have already set the bar high, saying that they are racing to win. There can be no better teacher for Alex and Lucas as Martin has not only won Le Mans outright but he has also won the Daytona 24 Hours and the World Sportscar Championship. Alex and Lucas have youth on their side, in fact Alex was in his mum's womb when Martin won Le Mans in 1990! The three drivers make a formidable team and, as Martin says, "This is a team game; we'll win together and we'll lose together".
THE GAME CHANGER
In March 2012 Nissan announced it was putting its full weight behind the ground-breaking DeltaWing project. Nissan DeltaWing will race in anger for the first time at the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours under a special dispensation from the ACO. The car could change the face of endurance racing forever, leading the way in pioneering new technology.
Nissan DeltaWing is powered by a race-prepared 1.6-litre direct injection, turbocharged engine and is quite simply unlike any other racing car currently on track.
VIRTUAL TO REALITY
In 2012 Nissan's three GT Academy winners will compete in top international race programmes:
Series 1: Lucas Ordonez (ESP) - Greaves Motorsport - European Le Mans Series & Le Mans 24 Hours
Lucas has the opportunity to take outright wins as LMP2 is now the top class in the European Le Mans Series. A second shot at Le Mans provides the Spaniard with the incredible opportunity to race with Martin Brundle.
Series 2: Jordan Tresson (FRA) - Signatech Nissan - FIA World Endurance Championship & Le Mans 24 Hours
2012 is a big year for Jordan as he makes the move from GT4 to LMP2. The learning curve is steep and it will be intensified by the fact that he is competing in his first Le Mans 24 Hours. He teams up with experienced Frenchman, Franck Mailleux and 2011 LMP2 Le Mans winner Olivier Lombard at Signatech Nissan.
Series 3 - Jann Mardenborough (UK) - Blancpain Endurance Series in the new Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 with GT Academy Team RJN.
Jann is embarking on his first full season as a professional racing driver. He is well-prepared for the challenges that lie ahead of him having just gone through Nissan's driver development programme that leaves no stone unturned, as Jann found out when part of his fitness assessment included running the New York Marathon! He has already proved himself as a racer by winning GT Academy and by taking a podium at the Dubai 24 Hours.
DEFENDING THE TITLE IN SUPER GT
Japanese Super GT will again be an important series for Nissan as there is a title to defend for the Nissan GT-R. Michael Krumm has returned to Japan to take a Super GT seat, alongside Satoshi Motoyama with the Nismo team, after winning the FIA GT1 Driver's World Championship in 2011. With four teams running Nissan GT-Rs in the GT500 class and a further Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 competing in the GT300 class it is shaping up to be a good season in Japan.
INNOVATING FOR THE FUTURE
After making it's European track debut at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours, the Nissan Leaf Nismo RC, Nissan's futuristic electric race car continues its development programme in 2012.
In Australia, Nissan has just announced it will participate in the V8 Supercars Championship from 2013. The ‘Car of the Future' scheme has opened the door to new manufacturers in Aussie V8s so Nissan will join Holden and Ford on the grid next year in this exciting and successful racing series.