Three members of the driving squad for Nissan’s new Le Mans challenger, the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO, were revealed in Paris today during the traditional ACO pre-season press conference.
Tsugio Matsuda, Harry Tincknell and Olivier Pla join Nissan’s squad of nine drivers from across the globe that between them will race in the pair of Nissan LM P1 cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship and a third car that will join the team for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The race numbers for the three cars were also revealed today as No. 21 (Le Mans), No. 22 and No. 23 (FIA WEC).
“We chose to look within the Nissan family to find drivers who have done a great job for us and provide a good mixture of youth and experience,” said Darren Cox, Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales, NISMO.
“Matsuda san needs little introduction as he is the reigning Super GT Champion. Harry and Oli stood out for their professional performances alongside our NISMO Athletes in Nissan-powered LM P2 cars. They are great endurance racers and it is a pleasure to welcome them into LM P1 as it is also a pleasure for us to now be in a position where we can take our own global talent and take them all the way to the top.”
Tsugio Matsuda built his racing career in Japan where he is the reigning Super GT GT500 Champion after winning the title in the #23 Motul Autech GT-R last year. Matsuda san will drive the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
“It is an honour for me to race the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO at Le Mans,” said Matsuda. “I have dreamt of racing at Le Mans since I was a child. I know it is is one of the most demanding races in the world but that is why I want to do it.
“In order for me to succeed in this new challenge, I am hoping to make good use of my experiences from last year when I competed in two races in a Nissan-powered LM P2 car. The race will be very tough but I am excited to have been given the opportunity to take part in this challenge. I will do everything I can to make sure we get a good result in the race.”
While Matsuda comes from within the Nissan Super GT family, Tincknell and Pla have ascended the sports car ladder via LM P2 to arrive in LM P1 with Nissan.
Harry Tincknell was the sensation of the European Le Mans Series in 2014. The 23 year-old Briton took the LM P2 class victory on his first attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hours and finished as runner-up in the European Le Mans Series. A talented single-seater racer, Tincknell made the switch to sports cars in early 2014. In 2015 he will race in the full FIA World Endurance Championship season with Nissan.
“This is my first ever major manufacturer contract,” said Tincknell. “It’s something you dream about when you are in karting. To be part of the Nissan family, with all its history and heritage, is amazing and I hope this is just the start of a long and successful relationship. It’s an exciting time for our sport with four major manufacturers battling it out on the track and it’s great to be part of this new golden era of sports cars.
“There are great opportunities in sports cars for those who put the work in,” he continued. “I’ve got the this amazing opportunity with Nissan and now I’m looking forward to cracking on with testing and ultimately doing my first Le Mans in the top class. I’ve watched the likes of Mark Webber and Anthony Davidson on the TV since I was nine and now I get to race against them!”
Olivier Pla has consistently proved that he is one of the world’s best sports car drivers. Like Tincknell he started his racing career in single-seaters but has focused on sports car racing since 2008. A strong competitor in LM P2, Pla is more than ready to step up to LM P1 for the full 2015 season.
“It feels great to be part of a programme like this,” said Pla. “As a driver it means a lot and I feel very proud and pleased to become a works driver for Nissan. The challenge is very exciting and I’m more than ready for that. During the last three seasons in particular, the level of competition in LM P2 has become incredibly high so it is the perfect place to train for LM P1.
“This will be quite a new experience for me,” he continued. “On track the LM P1 cars are very sophisticated now with their energy recovery systems and fuel allocation rules so there will be a lot of work to do on strategy. Off track the LM P1 class certainly attracts more media attention so it will be a busy season. I want to win Le Mans and I think, with Nissan, I am in the right place to do it.”
The configuration of the driver line-ups in the three Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs will be revealed once all of the drivers have been announced.