After clinching the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series driver’s title in a thrilling Nürburgring finale, Alex Buncombe feels he once again has the means at his disposal to defend his title, while also aiming for success in the Sprint Cup.
With Wolfgang Reip signing a factory deal with Bentley and Katsumasa Chiyo stepping up to Super GT GT500, Buncombe sees his former champion teammates replaced by Lucas Ordonez and Mitsunori Takaboshi, the latter also accompanying him in the added Sprint Cup program.
“We all know how diverse and competitive the Blancpain Series is, so for us to come back and win the title a long shot,” Buncombe told Sportscar365. “But we know we got the car and the team underneath us.
“My teammates this year are really strong, so as long as we do our job right and everything goes pretty smooth, there’s no reason why we cant go for the win again.”
While Takaboshi might still be a relatively unknown name in the European GT scene, the 23-year-old Japanese driver managed to impress the NISMO bosses last year by scoring two victories in the Super GT GT300 class and claiming third in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship.
“He’s a factory NISMO driver and I know he’s extremely quick in Japan,” Buncombe said. “To have him on board here is great and I’m sure he’ll be able to bring a lot to the team.
“Obviously he does need to learn the circuits, but he already knows the car well. It worked great with Katsumasa Chiyo last year. He’s from the same background, so I’m hoping for more of the same.”
Ordonez, meanwhile, no longer needs an introduction, as the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Pro-Am champion will be reunited with Buncombe.
“It’s great to be working with Lucas again; he was my very first GT Academy graduate in 2009,” Buncombe said. “It’s great to have him as my teammate again, we haven’t been for just over three years now.”
With experience the Spaniard has accrued within the Nissan ranks over the past seven years, Buncombe will not be alone in leading the team.
“As drivers ourselves, Lucas and myself have got our own job to do, but of course we’re here for the new academy graduates that have come through and will compete in the Pro-Am car,” he said.
“We’ve got a sort of double role to do. We are here to help them with the data and the driving itself. It’s great to [have] the new guys with us. Some mega talent has come through GT Academy.”
The addition of the Sprint Cup effectively means Buncombe’s Blancpain program has doubled in size, with the Brit having competed there last in 2013, back when it was still called the FIA GT Series.
“Back then the car was relatively new and to be fair we struggled on the tight and twisty circuits,” he said.
“But the guys at NISMO have worked endlessly on the car and they’ve managed to really improve it in slow speed corners.”
Additionally, the Sprint Cup calendar has evolved to more open and larger tracks this year, with the addition of Barcelona and the Hungaroring.
“That’s just going to put us in good stead for the Sprint Cup. It’s going to be interesting to see how we do,” he said.
“Obviously we saw the JRM car last year with Craig Dolby and Sean Walkinshaw and they did surprisingly well in the sprint races. To be honest, I thought the car was going to be outside the top-10, but they showed some real pace there.
“I’m really looking forward to get to Misano and compete against such a strong field.”
RJN’s testing program so far only consisted of last month’s official Blancpain test at Paul Ricard, but Buncombe feels the GT-R NISMO GT3 is as ready as ever and has already shown what it’s capable of.
“We’re just working on the car setup and fine tuning it,” he said. “One of our main focus points has been the tires. They just tend to fade away a little towards the end of the stint. I’m sure we’ll manage it.”