The identities of the next three drivers for Nissan‘s assault on LMP1 have been revealed as Harry Tincknell, Olivier Pla and Tsugio Matsuda.
Announced to coincide with the release of the entry lists for the World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours in a press conference in Paris, the trio join Marc Gene as confirmed members of the driver roster for the debut season of the GT-R LM NISMO.
Tincknell and Pla have landed full-season FIA World Endurance Championship drives after impressing in the LMP2 category, while Matsuda is rewarded for becoming Super GT champion with the chance to drive Nissan’s third entry for Le Mans.
23-year-old Exeter-born Tincknell has just one season of sportscar racing under his belt after making the switch from single-seaters, where he competed in Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula 3.
Racing for Jota Sport in LMP2 last year, he was runner-up in the European Le Mans Series and won his class on his Le Mans debut.
Tincknell is understandably excited to have such an opportunity.
“This is my first ever major manufacturer contract,” he said. “It’s something you dream about when you are in karting.
“To be part of the Nissan family, with all its history and heritage, is amazing and I hope this is just the start of a long and successful relationship. It’s an exciting time for our sport with four major manufacturers battling it out on the track and it’s great to be part of this new golden era of sports cars.
“There are great opportunities in sportscars for those who put the work in. I’ve got the this amazing opportunity with Nissan and now I’m looking forward to cracking on with testing and ultimately doing my first Le Mans in the top class. I’ve watched the likes of Mark Webber and Anthony Davidson on the TV since I was nine and now I get to race against them!”
Pla’s factory ride is a just reward for his exploits in privateer prototype cars since the Frenchman – a two-time race winner in the inaugural GP2 season in 2005 – made the switch to sportscars in 2008.
The Le Mans Series LMP2 champion in 2009, the 33-year-old has finished runner-up in the same class in the WEC in the past two seasons for OAK Racing and is delighted to get the chance to step up.
“It feels great to be part of a programme like this,” said Pla. “As a driver it means a lot and I feel very proud and pleased to become a works driver for Nissan.
“The challenge is very exciting and I’m more than ready for that. During the last three seasons in particular, the level of competition in LMP2 has become incredibly high so it is the perfect place to train for LMP1.
“This will be quite a new experience for me. On track the LMP1 cars are very sophisticated now with their energy recovery systems and fuel allocation rules so there will be a lot of work to do on strategy. Off track the LMP1 class certainly attracts more media attention so it will be a busy season. I want to win Le Mans and I think, with Nissan, I am in the right place to do it.”
35-year-old Matsuda has competed in the Super Formula and Super GT series in his native Japan since the turn of the millennium, and last year finally added the GT title to the single-seater crowns he won in 2007 and 2008.
Last year, he did two WEC races in LMP2 for the KCMG team.
“It is an honour for me to race the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO at Le Mans,” said Matsuda.
“I have dreamt of racing at Le Mans since I was a child. I know it is is one of the most demanding races in the world but that is why I want to do it. In order for me to succeed in this new challenge, I am hoping to make good use of my experiences from last year when I competed in two races in a Nissan-powered LMP2 car.
“The race will be very tough but I am excited to have been given the opportunity to take part in this challenge. I will do everything I can to make sure we get a good result in the race.”
NISMO’s Darren Cox commented: “We chose to look within the Nissan family to find drivers who have done a great job for us and provide a good mixture of youth and experience.
“Matsuda san needs little introduction as he is the reigning Super GT Champion. Harry and Oli stood out for their professional performances alongside our NISMO Athletes in Nissan-powered LM P2 cars. They are great endurance racers and it is a pleasure to welcome them into LM P1 as it is also a pleasure for us to now be in a position where we can take our own global talent and take them all the way to the top.”