Nissan has altered its LMP1 line-up ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with former F1 driver Marc Gene being replaced by Russia’s Mark Shulzhitskiy.
Gene will step back to assume an ‘advisory role’ within the team, with 2012 GT Academy Russia winner Shulzhitskiy taking his place in the #21 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO alongside Tsugio Matsuda and Lucas Ordonez.
The driver line-ups for Nissan’s two other cars have also been confirmed, with no changes to note. Max Chilton, Jann Mardenborough and Olivier Pla will pilot the #23 machine, while Alex Buncombe, Harry Tincknell and Michael Krumm will assume their places in the #22 car.
Having made 36 Formula 1 race appearances between 1999 and 2004, Gene made the full-time switch to endurance racing in 2007 (while also maintaining an F1 testing role). He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2009 with Peugeot, while his most recent appearance heralded a second place finish with Audi Sport Team Joest last year.
Despite taking a step back from driving duties at this year’s edition, the 41 year old is looking forward to taking on his new role within the team.
“It was a tough decision for me to take a step back for the Le Mans 24 Hours,” said Gene. “I am so impressed with the efforts being made by the team and even though I won’t race at Le Mans I will be there to help with my knowledge of the great race.”
“Nissan is innovating in a big way with the GTR LM. Le Mans is going to be a huge challenge and I think that the best way for me to help the team is by taking on an advisory role. I am excited to see from the garage how the car will perform at Le Mans.”
Shulzhitskiy, on the other hand, comes from Nissan’s GT Academy scheme. The 25 year old began his motorsport career by racing in GT3 cars, before moving up to a Le Mans seat with OAK Racing last year. As one of the standout rookies at last year’s event, Shulzhitskiy was one of several drivers initially mooted for Nissan’s LMP1 programme.
Nissan has continued its preparations for Le Mans with a three day test at Kentucky’s NCM Motorsports Park. Attention will now turn to finalising the build of the #21 GT-R LM NISMO at the team’s Indianapolis base before its race debut at La Sarthe on June 13-14.