Nick McMillen will get his first experience of Le Mans this weekend, as the 2013 Nissan GT Academy USA winner has been confirmed in Team LNT’s Ginetta-Juno LMP3 car for the official test day.
The 22-year-old Oregon native will join Nissan LMP1 factory drivers Tsugio Matsuda, Alex Buncombe and Max Chilton in the car, which has been entered to give the Le Mans rookies seat time on the 8.5-mile circuit.
For McMillen, it will mark his first time at the wheel of a Le Mans-style prototype, as the first step in Nissan’s initiative to place an American driver in its GT-R LM NISMO LMP1 car next year.
“I’m really excited to be going to Le Mans,” McMillen told Sportscar365. “I was really surprised when I got the phone call saying they were going to have me test the LMP3 car.
“I think it’s going to be a big moment and a whole new learning experience. Just being in a new car, on a new track and being on track with all of the LMP1, LMP2 and GTE cars… I’m looking forward to it.”
McMillen will also be going through the one-day Le Mans simulator course in Paris, which is optional for test day-only participants, but qualifies him to compete in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
According to Nissan’s Darren Cox, providing an American GT Academy graduate with crucial seat time at Le Mans is just the beginning of a larger initiative to launch later this summer.
“It’s a huge opportunity for Nick,” Cox told Sportscar365. “I mean it’s massive. For an American guy with almost no prototype experience, to get his first taste of a proper downforce car at Le Mans is a huge opportunity for him.
“We said we’d start to focus a little bit more on the American drivers. We’ve got some other news coming on that side after Le Mans. We’re giving the American guys some more international experience.”
McMillen took part in last year’s Blancpain Endurance Series, scoring a class victory at Silverstone, prior to making a switch to the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge for 2015 with the factory supported Doran Racing outfit.
“Nick showed some great flashes of speed and maturity last year in Europe,” Cox said. “He’s got the signatures on his license to do the test day. We’re going to basically give him a half-day at Le Mans with a car to himself, which is a pretty cool thing to do.”
Cox confirmed there will be additional prototype opportunities for American GT Academy drivers in Europe this summer, with more announcements to come. It’s understood to include drives in the European Le Mans Series in LMP2 and/or LMP3 machinery.
“This is genuinely a global program,” he said. “We’ve got Russians Japanese, Spanish and Germans and Brits in the [LMP1] car.
“We clearly want an American part of our Le Mans program and we’re going to give a few of the GT Academy kids some opportunities this year to see what they can do.”
McMillen, meanwhile, is looking to make the most of the opportunity this weekend, hoping that it could lead to the potential LMP1 drive in the future.
“I want to make a good impression on the team and perform well at Le Mans,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll want to continue on. I know they want to put an American in the [LMP1] car and I want to be that American. I want to make a good impression for us Americans as well.”