GT Academy Begins Blancpain Endurance Title Defence


With both the Pro-Am driver and team championship titles captured in 2013, the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN will mount their defence of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza this weekend.

As last year, the team has entered two Nissan GT-Rs piloted by Nismo Athletes, though reigning drivers’ champion Lucas Ordoñez isn’t available due to Super GT and Nissan ZEOD commitments.

Car #35 will be driven by Miguel Faisca (Europe 2013 winner), Stanislav Aksenov (Russia 2013 winner) and the Super GT driver Katsumasa Chiyo on a season-long Nismo driver exchange program – though Stanislav’s visa is yet to be finalised an his place will be taken at Monza by Mark Shulzhitskiy (Russia 2012 winner). Chiyo will be familiar to GT Academy watchers after his colossal accident in the early stages of the Bathurst 12hr race in February.

The second car this season will wear #80, to celebrate Nissan’s 80th year. This will be crewed by Florian Strauss (Germany 2013 winner), Nick McMillen (USA 2013 winner) and Academy lynchpin Alex Buncombe.

Coverage of qualifying and the race is available on the official Blancpain Endurance Series website, while the race will also be broadcast on Motors TV and Eurosport – see here for scheduling for your region – and Youtube, courtesy of Nismo.

The race itself gets underway at 12.45 GMT/UTC on Sunday 13th April. In the meantime you can sate your appetite for Blancpain action with this season preview:

This won’t be the first race of the season for the Nismo Athletes though. Lucas Ordoñez has already had a race in Super GT with Kazuki Hoshino. Over a 77 lap, 2 hour race at Okayama, Lucas and Kazuki pulled the GT300 Nismo GT-R to 4th place in class, having started in 7th.

Over in North America, Steve Doherty (USA 2012 winner) and Bryan Heitkotter (USA 2011 winner) have been paired together driving the #34 Skullcandy Nissan Altima in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Results in the Street Tuner class have yet to swing their way though.

2014_N24_qualifyingGTR2Meanwhile at the Nurburgring, the Schulze Motorsport GT-R GT3 was in action last weekend for qualifying and the qualifying race for June’s 24 hour race. Driven by the Schulzes, Kazunori Yamauchi and Jordan Tresson, a pretty impressive 8’29.6 fastest lap saw them qualify 7th for the qualifying race – but a turbo failure saw them retire from the 6 hour race early on while running in the top ten. This puts them in a challenging 41st place for the main event in 2 months.

In one final piece of GT Academy news, the RJN team will be running a GT-R in British GT again this season after missing last year’s event due to being deemed “too fast“. Alex Buncombe will resume driving duties, but he will be accompanied by legendary British Olympian cyclist Sir Chris Hoy. Chris joins the ranks of the Nismo Athletes with a year under his belt in the Radical SR1 series and his eye on competing in Le Mans by 2017.

Images courtesy of RedSquareImages.

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Comments (16)

  1. joetruckv8

    I thought this was going to be a 1st round spoiler when I 1st started to read the details of this piece,. Thank God it wasn’t; talk about a Close 1!

  2. sangdude82

    Man, the #80 GT-R was doing so well (it was up to 3rd in the Pro-Am class) until it had to let the overall leader to go through and also let the 4th placed Pro-Am car go at the same time by accident since that Ferrari was hiding ride behind the overall lead car. Eventually the #80 car has finished the race in 5th in Pro-Am class. It was disappointing but I guess that it’s part of the racing. Best luck in the next race, guys.

    1. ccaranna

      Cool, so it’s the 24-hour setup. I tried to see if I could match the time. 9’22.0 so far on the 24-hour track. Not too sure I can make up nearly a minute somewhere!

    2. infamousphil

      I thought 8:29 sounded pretty quick. Set aside an hour or two… see if you can improve your time(s) with less dwnfrc, softer tyres, … different suspension setings, gearing … maybe you’ll get better times with another late model GT3 whip. Maybe you’ll need 4 hours ;)

      Practice patients.

  3. infamousphil

    Maybe the Nisthletes are too fast because of super secret simulation testing? ;) Insert evil laugh…

  4. mef

    Excellent article but BritishGT is a Pro-Am format and GT Academy graduates aren’t gentlemen racers. The drivers aren’t ‘too fast’, they are too fast for the gentleman drivers they compete with. The exclusion is OK I would say. Nissan shoud not be bitter, they should be proud of their GT Academy graduates and their own efforts in fostering them.

    1. Famine

      We covered this on the article last year that’s linked in this article’s text – the 2012 graduates were, as amateurs with no top level series racing experience, deemed “too fast” by the SRO to qualify as amateur drivers for the 2013 season – largely due to Jann being exactly as fast as the pros in 2012 and the GT-R being subject to time penalties to equalise the performance as a result.

      No-one was bitter about it (though I imagine having to find alternative series for half the graduates after their application was refused didn’t amuse Nismo too much) and the press releases at the time reflected how proud GT Academy was that the NDDP produced such competitive novices.

  5. OpticZero

    According to the list, live coverage of the race is on TBC. Never heard of it. Can anyone clue me in?

  6. Johnnypenso

    Good luck to all the fellas. As the GTAcademy Boys spread out across the different race series it’ll bring more and more recognition to the brand. Hopefully Chris Hoy can give Alex some conditioning tips, while Alex teaches him how to drive!!

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