The driver line-up in the two Nissan GT Academy Team RJN entries for this weekend’s ADAC Zurich Nurburgring 24 Hours will mix professional career racers with those the manufacturer has helped bring into the racing ranks through the ‘sim-to-circuit’ scheme.
The team will have a pair of Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 in the SP9 class, the de jure top category of the race numbered as #30 and #80 to celebrate the anniversaries of NISMO and Nissan respectively.
Aboard the latter machine Nick Heidfeld, one of many drivers on the N24 entry a week after racing at Le Mans, will share the car with Alex Buncombe and GT Academy graduates Florian Strauss and Lucas Ordonez. For Heidfeld his Nordschleife return puts him in a team with Strauss, the man he helped select as German GT Academy winner last year.
“The Nordschleife is one of the most difficult circuits to learn,” said Nick. “I did this race two years ago and I thought I could come back this year and pick up where I left off. That is not the case with the Nordschleife! It is so long and has so many corners and blind spots. Usually at a race meeting you go out and do five or six laps to get a good feel for the track, then you can start with setting up the car. It’s a long lap here and there are three other drivers in the car so it’s a case of ‘right, everybody gets two laps’! On the other hand this is part of what makes the ‘Ring so special.”
Ordonez, the Spaniard the first GT Academy winner, already has one N24 class win to his name. That came in 2012 as part of a team running a GT-R road car, but this will be his first start in the premier class.
“The GT3 class is very competitive but we have a fast car,” he said. “We’ve been doing some VLN races and had very strong results, including top times in races, practice sessions and a pole position. Pirelli has done a great job developing tyres for us so we’re going there hoping for a top result.”
However, he conceded; “Winning at the Nurburgring is tough and there can be a lot of factors out of your control but, as always, we will give it everything we’ve got,” continued Lucas. “The Nordschleife is the most challenging, exciting, dangerous track on earth – there is no room for even the slightest error so every driver must treat it with the utmost respect.”
In the sister car Michael Krumm shares with Japanese trio Katsumasa Chiyo, Tetsuya Tanaka and Kazuki Hoshino.
Hoshino, part of Nissan’s Super GT driver stable will be making his sixth start in the race searching for his dream victory.
“Winning the Nurburgring 24 Hours has been my dream for a long time,” said Hoshino, “and I will be driving a top category GT3 car, the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, which I have been developing from the beginning. I took part in VLN4 last month, and we were able to obtain lots of data for the 24-hour race and we felt confident in the car and the team. By showing our car’s performance at the Nordschleife, the most demanding circuit in the world, I am hoping we can show everyone that Nissan has such a great car. Of course it is not an easy task, but we are going to combine our strengths and do our very best!”
Running at the 2014 ADAC Zurich Nurburgring 24 Hours begins with a free practice session at 2:45pm (local time) on Thursday, with the first qualifying session running into the night until 11pm the same day.
The race itself begins at 4pm (local time) on Saturday June 21.
www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have reports from each of the sessions as well as updates throughout the race itself.