Fresh off his debut in the Dubai 24 Hours in January, 2014 Nissan GT Academy North American winner Nic Hammann will no doubt be on the short list for another 24-hour race with Nissan in the future: the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Hammann, 21, will seek to emulate the meteoric rise of fellow GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough into a Nissan LMP1 seat.
The Elkhart Lake, Wis. native is likely to be among the candidates considered as Nissan searches for an American driver for its LMP1 program in 2016.
“You see what Nissan has already done now with some of their GT Academy graduates, and hopefully in a year I’ll be like Jann talking about it on stage,” Hammann told Sportscar365.
Darren Cox, NISMO’s global head of brand, marketing & sales, spoke highly of Hammann after he partnered with fellow GT Academy winners Ricardo Sanchez, Gaetan Paletou, Ahmed Bin Khanen and Florian Strauss in Dubai.
“What Nic’s done is fantastic,” Cox told Sportscar365. “He’s up against the French guy (Paletou), and the French guy is probably our best graduate so far. Nic on his day can hold a torch to him. Nic isn’t the most experienced, but he shows great potential.”
Hammann was on hand at last week’s Chicago Auto Show along with fellow past North American GT Academy winner Steve Doherty, to showcase some of Nissan’s other young drivers besides those going into the LMP1 program.
He reflected on the Dubai 24, noting traffic and running to a targeted lap time as two of the bigger items he had to learn during the race.
“That was the most different and difficult thing to adhere to,” Hammann said. “We had to run a 2:04 lap every time. We could have run quicker, but we had to manage it with traffic.
“Still with 96 cars, you’re adjusting to passing different cars. And we were still pushing throughout, even though we had to be as consistent as we could be for the 2:04s.”
The end result of fifth overall and second in the A6-Am class was proof positive of the GT Academy drivers all rising to the occasion. For Hammann, it came after following up on the pressure he’d placed on himself to perform.
“Going to Dubai, you’re nervous from the program,” he said. “You’ve got the development program through GT Academy, but you still need the confidence from your head, going from gamer to racer.
“Once we got on track, getting those three stints in, and posting a good solid finish of fifth overall and second in pro-am was a big confidence booster.
“Running the GT-R NISMO, with Nissan, with RJN Motorsport was all very helpful. You get spoiled because it’s such a good first experience, even though you have a lot to improve on!”
The rest of Hammann’s 2015 program is yet to be determined, but could well include a mix of international racing along with sporadic U.S. appearances.
Of note, Nissan North America this week confirmed a two-car entry into Pirelli World Challenge in partnership with Always Evolving and AIM Autosport.
There are two weekends where PWC and the TUDOR Championship clash head-to-head: the last weekend in June (PWC at Elkhart Lake, TUDOR Championship at Watkins Glen) and the fourth weekend in August (PWC at Miller, TUDOR Championship at VIR) where Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 drivers James Davison and Bryan Heitkotter could be unable to race at one event or the other.
For Hammann, he’ll take whatever opportunity comes next.
“I’m hoping for a mix of stuff. I haven’t heard globally yet,” he said. “I would love to race overseas or in LMP3, but I hope to do some stuff in the States.
“When you live so close to Road America, racing is a part of you. Last year at this time, I was in the program, and in a year I can’t wait to see what may come.”