With the announcement made today, Nissan finally completes their driver roster for the 2015 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But, what announcement? Let’s go little by little until the point we are now.
On February 1st, as the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO had its official presentation in their Super Bowl ad, Spaniard Marc Gené was the first confirmed driver. Lots of experience with Audi and Peugeot, as well a win with the French manufacturer in the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans comes in his favor.
Four days later, Nissan recruited OAK Racing ace Olivier Pla and Jota Sport’s Harry Tincknell, and called Tsugio Matsuda from Japan. In fact, all of these three drivers have some LMP experience under their belts, just climbing the LMP ladder to the top level.
Pla has a LMP2 Le Mans Series title as well lots of drives in LMP1 Pescarolos and Zyteks. Tincknell is a single seater kid, but had a LMP2 class win in the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, in his first year of sportscar racing. Matsuda had some drives with KCMG since 2013, but is known for his success in Japan, as he conquered two Formula Nippon (now called Super Formula) titles, as well being the reigning GT500 champion on Super GT with a Nissan GT-R.
More than a week after Nissan’s first announcement, Michael Krumm, Jann Mardenborough and Lucas Ordoñez joined the group. These guys are probably Nissan’s motorsport past and future themselves.
Krumm doesn’t need presentation. He is part of Nissan’s history since the end of the 90s, as his drives in the R390 GT1 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans were the trigger for a long relationship, which gave to him two JGTC (current Super GT) titles, a FIA GT1 title and multiple drives in various Nissan-powered machines.
Mardenborough and Ordoñez are the representation of Nissan’s present and future, as they come from the well-known GT Academy program. Ordoñez was the first GT Academy graduate, and Mardenborough is the most famous. Both have LMP2 experience on their favor, especially Ordoñez, who deals with this kind of machine since 2010. But Mardenborough’s results at the 24 Hours of Le Mans are worth note too.
And now, one month after the first official images of the GT-R LM NISMO, the last two drivers for the Nissan LMP1 program were decided, both from the United Kingdom: Max Chilton and Alex Buncombe. It’s like the newcomer and the mentor, respectively.
Chilton is well known for being the “former Marussia driver in Formula 1”, but he had his share of LMP racing, specifically in LMP1, as he partnered his brother and current WTCC driver Tom in a Zytek 07S from Arena Motorsport, finishing sixth overall and fifth in LMP1 in the 2007 1000km of Silverstone. Other than the Nissan LMP1 program, Chilton will be in the United States helping Carlin’s Indy Lights and IndyCar projects.
Buncombe had his LMP drives too, as in 2012 he drove for Greaves Motorsport in their Zytek Z11SN. He drove all sorts of things during his carreer, like touring cars, single seaters, vintage cars, Group C prototypes (yes, we still have Group C races) and his current specialty: GT cars, as he is the head of various Nissan GT4 and GT3 squads that have Nissan GT Academy drivers on it, as his consistency and speed are always key factors in any championship Nissan is involved.
By the way, the lineups for the three Nissans will be like this:
No. 21 (Spa & Le Mans only): Tsugio Matsuda, Lucas Ordoñez and Alex Buncombe
No. 22 (full season): Harry Tincknell, Marc Gené and JannMardenborough
No. 23 (full season): Olivier Pla, Michael Krumm and Max Chilton