Nissan will field four gamer-turned-racers at the Le Mans 24 Hours, proving the depth of Nissan’s driver development programme.
The first two winners of the Nissan GT Academy will line up in the ‘Garage 56’ entry Nissan ZEOD RC. Lucas Ordonez, who won the original GT Academy in 2011, will be joined by Wolfgang Riep, who won the 2012 event. The pair will race alongside Japanese racer Satoshi Motoyama.
Motoyama and Ordonez have plenty of experience racing together, sharing a car in the Super GT Championship, while Riep has spent his year so far testing the ZEOD RC.
Meanwhile, fellow GT Academy winners Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitskiy will join Alex Brundle in the new Ligier JSP2 LMP2 machine, run by OAK Racing. Mardenborough, who is now racing in GP3, competed in the LMP2 category at Le Mans in 2013, out-qualifying his team-mates in the process.
“Le Mans will always be special to me,” said Mardenborough. “I was taken there as a GT Academy finalist in 2011 when Lucas made his debut and then I returned as a racing driver in 2013. Most of my racing is in single-seaters these days and that is teaching me a lot about the craft of being a racing driver. We finished fourth on the road last year but were promoted to the podium after the event. It would be good to go back to Le Mans and leave with a trophy in my hands this time.”
“I am very much enjoying my role as a test driver for the Ligier JS P2,” added Shulzhitskiy, who will make his Le Mans debut, but has LMP2 experience, having raced at the Chinese round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. “Working with the engineers at Onroak Automotive and alongside Olivier Pla has been an incredible experience for me. Now it is going to get even better as it is finally my turn to race at Le Mans. This is what the winners of GT Academy dream about so I hope I can live up to the performance of the winners who have gone before me.”
As well as providing four drivers to the race, Nissan can also be pleased with the success of its LMP2 engine, with 14 of the 18 LMP2 machines receiving power from the NISMO-tuned Nissan VK45DE powerplant.