Mardenborough Does the Double at Rockingham
European GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough’s bid to make the jump from PlayStation® gamer to real racing driver took a massive step forward on Sunday when he contested a round of the Nippon Challenge national series at the UK’s Rockingham Circuit. The 19-year-old from Cardiff had an almost faultless day in the Nissan 370Z taking pole position and dominant wins in both races and recording the fastest lap of race one in the process. Jann’s American counterpart, Bryan Heitkotter, completed an excellent weekend for the PlayStation® Nissan Team taking second on the grid, second place in both races and the second fastest lap.The weekend marked a double celebration for the two Gran Turismo®5-gamers-turned-racing-drivers as they have now secured enough ‘signatures’ to qualify for an ‘International C’ race licence. The licence is required for the GT Academy winners to achieve their goal of competing in a Nissan 370Z GT4 car in the prestigious Dubai 24 Hour race in January, 2012 – the ultimate prize of the competition that saw over 90,000 gamers enter the European version.Despite holding first and second on the grid in both races, the GT Academy drivers were passed by some fast starters. But they quickly fought back and by the end of lap one on both occasions were one and two not headed again.“That was one of the best weekend’s so far,” said an excited Jann. “Being on the podium and getting a couple of great trophies is fantastic. It was a bit hairy in parts during the races, but I am really pleased with how I drove.”Bob Neville, the experienced PlayStation Nissan Team boss, was extremely pleased with both the speed and maturity of his two drivers: “This was an excellent performance by both Jann and Bryan,” he enthused. “They had to lap people and pick their way through traffic while keeping an eye on the faster guys chasing them. There were a few signs of contact on the cars after the first race and so I had a word with them and there was no repeat in race two – fast and 100% safe.“After a short break for the guys we are going to see how they get on in the GT4 car next month. The switch from the modified road car to a full-on race car will be a big test for them, but on the evidence so far I am feeling confident.” The comprehensive ‘Driver Development Programme’ for the GT Academy winners sees the pair living close to Silverstone circuit. Between a number of national-level races at various UK circuits the pair undertake a programme of driver skills training, fitness, psychology and simulation training. The race training will continue throughout September in the Nissan 370Z GT4 car that the pair hope to campaign in Dubai in January.While there is a short hiatus for the 2011 GT Academy winner, Jann’s predecessors are preparing for major race weekends and both leading their respective championships. Frenchman Jordan Tresson, last year’s winner, currently heads the Blancpain Endurance Series GT4 class in the Nissan 370Z with his RJN Motorsport team-mates. The trio will be in Magny Cours on 27th August to contest the penultimate round. Meanwhile, Spaniard Lucas Ordoñez, who has already been on the podium of the famous Le Mans 24 Hour race in 2011, will contest the Silverstone round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup from 9-11 September. Lucas’s Signatech Nissan LMP2 team are also heading the points standings with a further two races remaining after Silverstone.