While both Lucas Ordonez and Jann Mardenborough are a pair of gamers, Nissan GT Academy winners who have progressed rapidly in their respective sports car careers, Mardenborough’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric.
Just 23, the Englishman was a mere university student three years ago, already at a life crossroads where he watched his racing hero Lewis Hamilton win Formula 1 races and championships, but didn’t know how to progress himself.
But in that incredible short time, Mardenborough has risen from full-time PlayStation gamer to drive for Nissan’s factory LMP1 program not long after winning the 2011 Nissan GT Academy.
The promotion comes after a mix of open-wheel, prototype and GT experience he’s already banked over the last three years.
Excited as he is, Mardenbrough is more anxious on getting the season going rather than just talking about his opportunity.
“There’s lot of excitement for me, but being picked so soon is seriously a point of pride,” Mardenborough told Sportscar365. “I’m anxious for the first test to begin at Paul Ricard the end of March, then for Silverstone on the 12th of April.
“I’m very excited, very pleased and blessed really at the position I’m currently in with Nissan.”
He comes to this position after his 2014 season focused much more on the open-wheel path.
In GP3, Mardenborough won once and finished ninth in points, while in the Toyota Racing Series he won three times and came runner-up.
Outside of that, he shared a Ligier JS P2 Nissan with Alex Brundle and Mark Shulzhitskiy at Le Mans, in a car that probably should have won the LMP2 class were it not for some late-race gremlins. The trio ended an unrepresentative fifth.
The diverse amount of machinery, Mardenborough said, should play to his advantage when behind the wheel of the front wheel drive, front-engined Nissan GT-R LM NISMO LMP1 car.
“Whether it’s GT3, GP3, LMP2, it’s all relevant information for the LMP1 car,” he said. “This car has to be the fastest car I’ve ever driven; it is certainly the one with the most downforce and power.
“All the experience I’ve gained over three and a bit years has all come down to this moment. This is the pinnacle of sports car racing, and I am going to put all that knowledge I’ve gained into this project.”
While the Nissan is radical compared to the other LMP1 factory prototypes, Mardenborough said the car’s design doesn’t affect him.
He has already sampled the car at Circuit of the Americas and gotten used to the different tire specifications and other car elements. More testing is planned before The Prologue.
“You don’t really notice (the tires) are a different size, front to rear,” he said. “You don’t feel that. It’s been designed in that way for a reason. It’s meant to drive like a racing car.
“Yes, it’s front-wheel drive and there are some hurdles to overcome, but there’s a lot of positives that come from that. It’s really low drag and provides a good downforce to drag coefficient.
“We should be very quick down the straights at Le Mans. That’s what the car has been designed for. We have to be as fast as possible at the famous French circuit.
“All in all, it’s a very powerful car, and is very exciting.”