European GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough and his American counterpart Bryan Heitkotter faced the toughest challenge so far of their intensive ‘Driver Development Programme’ on Sunday, 24 July at Castle Combe. The pair campaigned their PlayStation® Nissan Team 370Z to a second-in-class finish (17th place overall) in the competitive Britcar Dunlop Production GTN Championship. The strong result in the two-hour endurance race secured each driver two more vital ‘signatures’ required for them to attain the international race licence that will allow them to compete in the Dubai International 24 Hour Race in January 2012.
The winners of the third instalment of PlayStation and Nissan’s innovative ‘virtual to real’ racing driver competition arrived at Castle Combe in confident form, having both secured two podium finishes earlier this month. Their latest outing in the RJN Motorsport run Nissan 370Z race car presented a new challenge, as they battled against a field of 30 cars during the Britcar race, featuring Ferrari 430’s, Porsche 911’s and open sports cars.
The team’s weekend got off to a good start having qualified in second place in the production class. Bryan started the race, guiding the Nissan 370Z to 18th overall, first in class, as he completed his one hour stint. After the driver changeover, a racing incident with a car in the same class led to a puncture. The team used the forced pit stop as an opportunity to refuel the car, with Jann going on to drive very consistently, as he took the chequered flag in 17th place overall, second in class.
Bob Neville, the PlayStation Nissan team boss, said: “This was their first big race and they both passed with flying colours. In sweltering temperatures, they handled the car extremely well on what is renowned as a very tough track. It was their first endurance race and an important one to finish, as it represented two signatures each on their race card. They remain on track to qualify for an international licence.”
Jann Mardenborough, the 19-year-old from Cardiff said: “For drivers like myself that have not raced at Castle Combe before, it’s a really tricky circuit to get the racing lines right, but it proved another great opportunity to learn. We were driving in temperatures of 22 degrees and I was sweating buckets. It was close to the end of the race when I noticed that I was driving with the heating on. I guess it was not bad preparation for Dubai though.”
As the GT Academy programme builds towards entry into 2012 Dubai 24 Hour endurance race, the duo’s next competitive outing in the Nissan 370Z race car will take place at the Snetterton round of the Britcar Dunlop Production GTN (13 & 14 August).
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