Nismo global driver exchange Nissan and Nismo today announced a wide-ranging new initiative: The Nismo Global Driver Exchange, which will open race car doors all over the world for the company’s roster of racing drivers.
The first Nismo Athlete to take advantage of the new initiative is Lucas Ordonez (Spain). Most racing drivers would be thrilled to take part in a SUPER GT race but for a gamer-turned-racer like Lucas this would be a dream come true after ‘racing’ SUPER GT cars in the virtual world for so long. Now, through the Nismo Global Driver Exchange, Lucas is going to race a SUPER GT-class Nissan GT-R in the real world.
The original winner of GT Academy already has an enviable racing CV. Three competitive outings at Le Mans, racing the Nissan DeltaWing at Petit Le Mans, winning the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and now some great performances in the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 have underlined the talent that was discovered by Nissan just a few years ago.
Lucas will head to Japan this month for an official SUPER GT test at Suzuka on 19/20 July. He will then return to race the NDDP Racing Nissan GT-R with Kazuki Hoshino (Japan) and Daiki Sasaki (Japan) in the GT300 class in the Suzuka 1000kms on 17/18 August.
For standalone events, the Nismo Global Exchange drivers will compete in a brand new Nismo works team, based in Yokohama, Japan. This new team will compete as the ‘Nismo Athlete Global Team’ and will have its first race at the end of August, when Wolfgang Reip (Belgium) and Mark Shulzhitskiy (Russia) from GT Academy will join Katsumasa Chiyo (Japan) to race at the Sepang 12 Hours.
“This is just the beginning,” said Shoichi Miyatani, President of Nismo. “We want to spread our young driver talent across the world so they get the best possible experience. It is a pleasure for us to invite the European drivers to race in Japan and to send the Japanese drivers to Europe. We are happy to open these doors for our drivers.”
“We have created this program to give all Nismo drivers the opportunity to gain wider experience,” said Nissan’s Director of Global Motorsport, Darren Cox. “It is another step towards a truly global approach to our motorsport activities. It’s tough to jump from one championship to another but our driver development program isn’t supposed to be an easy ride. The cream will always rise to the top. We have shown that our drivers can move from car to car and learn from all of their experiences. Look at Jann Mardenborough who went from a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 to an F3 car to setting incredible lap times in a Nissan-powered LM P2 car at Le Mans.”
The exchanges don’t all go east though. In September Kazuki Hoshino (Japan) will race a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the Nurburgring 1000kms. This follows a successful test in Europe earlier in the year in Portugal.
Lucas Ordonez and Steve Doherty (USA) will also travel westwards when they head Stateside to race for Nissan North America. Spaniard Ordonez and American Doherty will race Nissan 370Zs in the GTS World Challenge at Mid-Ohio (2-3 August) and Sonoma, California (23-24 August).
The Nismo Athlete Global Team has also entered the Bathurst 12-hour event in February 2014. Australian V8 Supercar driver Rick Kelly, from the local Nissan Motorsport team, has been signed to lead the driver line-up. His teammates from the global pool of Nismo athletes will be decided in the coming months.
There will be other further announcements about the next movements of the Nismo Global Driver Exchange that expects to see eight nationalities racing in five different countries but for now, as Darren Cox explains:
“Sending our inaugural GT Academy winner to Japan is the next logical step in a process that began when Satoshi Motoyama and Michael Krumm raced for us at Le Mans last year. It is very rewarding to be able to work on a truly global level to create these opportunities to maximize all of our assets and we are all excited to see where this initiative will take us.”
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