European winner of the 2011 Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy, Jann Mardenborough, and his American counterpart Bryan Heitkotter, completed the final race of their intensive five-month ‘Driver Development Programme’ on Saturday 19 November. Competing in the Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship race at Brands Hatch, the pair recorded a notable first-in-class finish (fifth place overall) in their RJN Motorsport run Nissan 370Z GT4 race car. The result moves them ever closer to achieving their main goal of competing in the Dubai International 24 Hour race in January, 2012.
The GT Academy alliance between Nissan and PlayStation, has already unearthed championship winning drivers Lucas Ordoñez (ES) and Jordan Tresson (FR). Jann and Bryan are now set to follow in their footsteps and their Brands Hatch performance acted as a rewarding rehearsal ahead of the duo’s Middle East adventure. The Britcar ‘Into The Night’ three-hour endurance contest started in the light of day, ran through dusk and finished in total darkness.
Driving against a strong field, the Gran Turismo®5-gamers-turned-Nissan-racing-drivers qualified second-in-class, in 14th position overall. The team got off to a great start with Bryan courageously fighting his way through the field, climbing eightplaces in the first one hour session. Jann responded by delivering a faultless display, putting in fast, consistent lap times throughout his session. Before the driver changeover, Jann had climbed three places to take the Nissan 370Z to third place overall. Bryan took the wheel again and settled back into a good rhythm to record a first-in-class, fifth place overall finish for the GT Academy team.
Over 90,000 gamers entered this year’s European GT Academy. Jann has now completed his transition from virtual champion to real racing driver. The Cardiff driver said: “It was a useful opportunity to develop my technique of using visual reference points in the dark to navigate around the circuit. It’s proved a valuable lesson, which I can now take to Dubai. I can’t believe how quickly the last five months have gone during my driver development programme. I loved every minute of it. I can take a lot of confidence from today’s result and I’m massively looking forward to Dubai.”
“One hundred percent mission accomplished,” said RJN Motorsport team boss Bob Neville. “We were a little bit unlucky at one point, because the safety car picked us up instead of the leader, which cost us a place. Nevertheless, both drivers drove brilliantly in the dark and it’s been a faultless performance by the pair. We can now start looking forward to Dubai. Jann and Bryan will be arriving in tip top condition and they could not be in a better position to take on such a competitive race.”