Mix of local and international star drivers headlines the Nissan Bathurst 12 Hour two-car GT-R NISMO GT3 campaignAustralian Supercars drivers Michael Caruso and Todd Kelly to tackle the 12 Hour for the first time2015 Bathurst 12 Hour winners Katsumasa Chiyo and Florian Strauss returning for another tilt at mountain victoryNissan PlayStation GT Academy super talent Jann Mardenborough to make Australian race debut
Nissan will enter the 2017 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with a star-studded driver line-up next month.
Entering the classic GT endurance race with two cars, Nissan has selected 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Katsumasa Chiyo, experienced Bathurst campaigner Alex Buncombe, and local gun Michael Caruso to drive the #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3. Fellow 2015 race winner Florian Strauss will be joined by race debutants Jann Mardenborough and Todd Kelly in car #24.
Japanese star Chiyo has been one of the most popular drivers at the race in recent years, with his on-track flair and his off-track personality proving a winner with the fans.
Chiyo's co-drivers, Buncombe and Caruso, will prove to be one of the fastest line-ups in the competitive 61-car field.
The #24 car sees 2005 Bathurst 1000 winner Todd Kelly joined by two GT Academy stars that have made the most of their "gamer to racer" status. Strauss needs no introduction to Bathurst having finished first and second in his two attempts (2015 and 2016).
Mardenborough is regarded as one of the best GT Academy talents to filter through the system and starred in his first season in Japan last year in Super GT and Formula 3; he will be one to watch as he makes his Mount Panorama debut.
The Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 has been a dominant global performer in recent years, having tasted championship success in both Europe and Japan and as well as winning races in Australia and the U.S.
The 2017 "once-around-the-clock" race will be the fourth-straight year that Nissan has entered the race with a fully fledged factory effort. In 2014, Alex Buncombe, Wolfgang Reip, Rick Kelly and Katsumasa Chiyo failed to finish after Chiyo was involved in an early morning incident at the top of the mountain.
Vowing to make amends, Chiyo, Reip and Florian Strauss made international headlines with victory in 2015, defeating a strong line-up of international and local competitors.
Last year, Chiyo, Rick Kelly and Florian Strauss went within a whisker of repeating the feat, finishing second to the McLaren entry.
The 2017 Nissan entry marks the first time that the manufacturer has entered two cars in the race. The two GT-R NISMO GT3s will be prepared by a combination of engineers, mechanics and staff from Japanese-based NISMO International, Team RJN from the UK and the local Nissan Motorsport Supercars team.
Katsumasa Chiyo (Japan) #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3"I'm really looking forward to having a crack at the Bathurst 12 Hour again this year with my Australian family, Team Kelly and Team RJN. I have strong teammates. It's like a dream team. I'm always excited when I hear about the Bathurst 12 Hour. It is such an amazing track, awesome fans with amazing history. In 2015, we achieved winning the race after a dramatic finish. Last year, we tried to defend the title, but we were beaten by the McLaren. This year, I think our mission is simple – win back the trophy for the Nissan GT-R."
Alex Buncombe (United Kingdom) #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3"I'm really pleased to be returning to the Bathurst 12 Hour. I did the race in 2014, and I've been lucky enough to partner with Todd Kelly in two Bathurst 1000s. I can't wait to get back around the mountain. I think the car will be quick, and as ever the competition in GT3 racing is going from strength to strength. It is improving every year, but hopefully the car has improved in pace and we can challenge for a result."
Michael Caruso (Australia) #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3"I'm really excited to finally get a crack at the Bathurst 12 Hour. It's a race that I've followed for the past few years, and to go there with the Nissan factory team, I'm extremely motivated to get a top result and I can't wait to get there. Alex and Chiyo are both very accomplished drivers with a lot of experience in the GT-R NISMO GT3s at this track. With our experienced team, I think we have a good mix of knowledge and speed. Of course we are going there to win the race. The team has won there before and they know what to do, but the race has never been so competitive so we'll need to be at our best."
Jann Mardenborough (United Kingdom) #24 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3"Firstly, I'm honored to be chosen by NISMO and Nissan Australia to represent them in the Bathurst 12 Hour. It's a race I've watch on television and played on PlayStation. I'm really excited to take part. Just playing the game, Sector 2 looks mega, so I can't imagine what it will be like on the first lap and on qualifying tires. I‘m hugely excited to compete with drivers that have lots of experience at the track, and with some drivers that I know quite well, like Florian and Chiyo.
"It will be great to be a part of a two-car team to put a fight to everyone else and aim for the top step. Time is ticking now – I can't wait to jump on the plane to Australia."
Florian Strauss (Germany) #24 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3"I'm more than happy to come back to the Bathurst 12 Hour with NISMO again. It's one of my favorite race tracks in the world, not only because I had my biggest success there, but the place, the atmosphere with the fans makes it a spectacular experience. It is the first time that we have entered two factory cars, so that will help collect data in practice and give us the best preparation for the race, and maybe even use different strategies. Bathurst is usually a place that delivers crazy racing and breathtaking finishes. Looking at the entry list, it looks like Bathurst 12 Hour is going from strength to strength. There are a lot of good cars and teams that we will have to beat, but in the last two years, our car and team has performed outstanding. I'm really looking forward to achieving another great result."
Todd Kelly (Australia) #24 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3"I'm really excited to race the GT-R at the Bathurst 12 Hour. The car has been in at our workshop for quite a while now, and every time I walk past it, I always stop and take a second look at it. It's a beautiful piece of race car. I haven't driven the car yet but I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to drive it at Bathurst. I'm looking forward to working with some new team-mates in the NISMO Athletes. Florian has won the race before and Jann is one of the most exciting young drivers in the world. It will also be the first time in a long time that I will just turn up with my helmet and be a race driver. That will be interesting in itself."
January 26-29Rolex 24 at Daytona, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona, USA
February 3-5Bathurst 12 Hour, Mount Panorama, Bathurst, NSW, Australia