Nissan has confirmed that Alex Buncombe, Katsumasa Chiyo and Wolfgang Reip will return to Mount Panorama for next month’s Bathurst 12 Hour race, driving for its NISMO Athlete Global Team.
The trio will line-up in the No. 35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 as the team seeks to build on the speed and potential shown at last year’s edition of the endurance event where Buncombe, Chiyo and Reip were joined by Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar driver Rick Kelly in the team’s driver line-up.
Last year’s Bathurst 12 Hour was the first time a factory-entered Nissan GT-R had raced at Bathurst since Mark Skaife and Jim Richards scored back-to-back Bathurst 1000 victories in 1991 and 1992.
Despite being the first attempt at the Bathurst 12 Hour, the strength and speed of both team and car was clear throughout the event, with the NISMO Athlete Global Team qualifying in fifth position in a quality field.
After a solid start to the race, the car was unfortunately withdrawn after sustaining heavy damage in an incident at McPhillamy Park in the third hour of the race on lap 59.
“It’s true that we have unfinished business at Mount Panorama,” said Darren Cox, NISMO’s global head of brand, marketing & sales
“We want a good result in this historic event and we have a great team of people in place to make sure we meet our own high standards. It was important for us to give Al, Chiyo and Wolfie another shot at the Mountain and I think together they will get the best out of the GT-R.”
Buncombe, the longest serving NISMO Athlete in Nissan’s global GT3 program that is also the training ground for Nissan GT Academy graduates, will be making his third Bathurst start in 12 months, having also teamed up with Todd Kelly in the Nissan Motorsport V8 Supercar team at last year’s Bathurst 1000.
He also partnered Kelly at the Sandown 500 and Gold Coast 600 endurance events in 2014.
“The circuit is simply amazing, like no other,” Buncombe said. “You have to treat it with the upmost respect.
“My V8 Supercar experience from last year will put me in a better position this time so I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel, especially as the flowing corners and long straights at Mount Panorama are just what the GT-R loves.”
Chiyo returns to Mount Panorama with a wealth of new experience, having been based in Europe for most of 2014 as part of the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN squad in the Blancpain Endurance Series by virtue of the NISMO Global Driver Exchange program.
He raced the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 in major GT events such as the Nürburgring 24 Hours, Spa 24 Hours, Bathurst 12 Hour and Macau GT Cup. Chiyo is one of the young rising stars of Japanese motorsport, winning the Japanese Formula 3 Championship N Class title in 2011.
Reip, the 2012 Nissan GT Academy Europe winner, who enters only his third year of motorsport in 2015, is one of the shining examples of Nissan’s gamer-to-racer mantra.
Despite having no motorsport experience just three years ago, the Belgian driver’s CV already includes feats such as driving the first fully-electric lap of Le Mans and second place at the 2014 British GT Championship event at his home circuit of Spa-Franchorchamps.
“My expectations are always high for this event,” Reip said. “We have a strong close-knit lineup and we can all push hard from the start.
“For sure it will be tough, due to the track itself and the amount of traffic we have to deal with but last year we were running in the Top 5 when the crash happened so we can expect at least as good as that. Let’s aim for a podium and we will see after 11 of the 12 hours where we are!”