Image credit: NISMO.
Japanese manufacturer Nissan have today confirmed their 2016 Global Motorsport Program which includes continued participation in the Blancpain GT Series and Nurburgring 24 Hours.
In addition to the full and manufacturer lead Nissan series entries NISMO will continue to supply technical support for engines (developed from production engines) in both LMP2 and LMP3 categories in Europe and Asia.
Via Oreca and Gibson, Nissan will supply VK45 engines and provide technical support to teams competing in the LMP2 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), European Le Mans Series (ELMS), and Asian Le Mans Series (AsLMS). Oreca will also supply VK50 engines and technical assistance to teams competing in the LMP3 class of European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series.
“… we are planning to increase our focus on supporting customer teams that compete with Nissan vehicles and engines.” emphasised Shoichi Miyatani, CEO and President of NISMO.
Home market support
It will be no surprise to fans of the sometime quirky marque that as part of the re-trench following last year’s disastrous LMP1 campaign Nissan/NISMO have announced continued heavy support for the Asian markets with entries in the Super Taiku Series (ST-X class – GT-R & ST-3 class for the Fairlady Z), a four car assault on the Super GT 500, Super GT 300 and the domestic Formula 3 series.
GT Academy star Jann Mardenborough makes the move to Japan for a drive in the Super GT 300 and Formula 3, where he will partner with local ace Katsumasa Chiyo. Chiyo will also take the reins of the Super GT 500 GT-R entry.
In Australia, Nissan will continue to contest the V8 Supercars with Rick and Todd Kelly alongside Michael Caruso and new driver Dale Wood with the Nissan Altima.
European Blancpain expansion
Nissan/NISMO will continue to support RJN Motorsport in the Blancpain Pro category but also announced expansion into the Am with NISMO assigning 23-year-old young Japanese star Mitsunori Takaboshi to the Pro class, teaming up with highly experienced Briton Alex Buncombe and Spain’s Lucas Ordóñez.
2015 GT Academy winners from the International competition (Australian winner Matt Simmons) and GT Academy Europe (French winner Romain Sarazin) will partner GT ace Sean Walkinshaw who joins the team after impressive displays in 2015.
“This is an amazing opportunity to be part of Nissan’s official driver line-up and I’m looking forward to getting started”, Wilkinson said, “Nissan GT Academy Team RJN has won Blancpain championships before and they’re clearly a very good team.
“With the best car, best team and a competitive driver line-up, I think we can be fighting for championships.”
The full Blancpain driver line up is:
Sprint Pro car: Alex Buncombe, Mitsunori Takaboshi
Sprint Pro Silver Cup car: Sean Walkinshaw, Ricardo Sánchez
Endurance Pro car: Alex Buncombe, Lucas Ordóñez, Mitsunori Takaboshi
Endurance Pro Am car: Sean Walkinshaw, Matt Simmons, Romain Sarazin
Also confirmed is a manufacturer backed entry into the iconic Nurburgring 24 hour race. The full driver line up is yet to be confirmed.
North American Support
Also announced today is a Pirelli World Challenge entry for a pair of Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 with Always Evolving Racing/AIM Autosport. James Davison, who last year earned two overall victories and sixteen top ten finishes, has been announced in the #33 AERNOW sponsored entry.
After earning five victories in GTA class and eleven overall top ten finishes last year, GT Academy winner Bryan Heitkotter has been promoted driver to full professional ranking and will be driving the #05 entry as a full GT driver .
The Nissan Micra Cup which was launched exclusively in the province of Quebec last year, will expand to the Province of Ontario for 2016, growing to eight race weekends, with three of these happening in Ontario and five in Quebec.
Conspicuous by its absence
One area that was very conspicuous by its absence is brainchild of former NISMO Motorsport Guru Darren Cox, the GT Academy itself.
While the press release has been carefully scripted to ensure that mention goes to some of the graduates such as Ordóñez, Mardenborough, Heitkotter & Simmons, fans and drivers are still coming to terms with the recent dismissals and scaling back of the program and were hoping for clarity on the future of the unique program.
Shoichi Miyatani again: “This year three of our young NISMO Athletes will be making the step up to higher categories, with Chiyo advancing into the GT500 class, Mardenborough moving up to the GT300 and Takaboshi taking on the challenge of the Blancpain Endurance and Sprint Series.
So for those waiting clarity on the GT Academy, toady has sadly not thrown much more additional light on the matter with driver development looking to be heading back towards more conventional routes.