Fresh off a hard-fought win in the Paul Ricard 1000km, Alex Buncombe, Wolfgang Reip and Katsumasa Chiyo head into the Total 24 Hours of Spa as points leaders with their No. 23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, determined to keep their championship ambitions going.
For the fist time, Nissan GT Academy Team RJN is a fielding a car in the Pro Cup of the Blancpain Endurance Series this year, with immediate success as it turned out.
“Obviously coming of the back of a win at Paul Ricard we got high hopes for this weekend. But as we all know, there are a lot of cars out there on track,” Buncombe told Sportscar 365.
“If you want to do well in the Pro Cup you’ve got to be absolutely flat out every lap. You can’t go steady for a few hours and see where you are in the morning. It’s literally got to be pitstop – fuel – tires and go.”
Compared to other factory supported teams, RJN is only fielding one car in the Pro Cup, a factor that might play a role in the team’s strategy for the race.
“We only have one car, they’ve got lots, so if one breaks down there’s one right behind it. We don’t have that luxury, so we might play the long game,” said team boss Bob Neville.
“Our car is good on the high speed corners and high speed circuits, like Paul Ricard, Silverstone and hopefully Spa.”
Buncombe is confident the team has the right package to make an impact at Spa, with the car already proving to be competitive over six hours at Ricard and 12 hours at Bathurst.
“We’re confident with the car’s reliability and my teammates have been doing a fantastic job,” he said.
“Chiyo was just unbelievable at Paul Ricard. I don’t know how he got down into the 57s to be honest and he was doing it consistently.
“Us three as a pairing get on really well. We all suit the car and don’t have to adjust all that much on the car.
“As long as the car holds together and we don’t have any contact there’s no reason why we can’t be running in the top-ten for the whole race. I think we can be on the podium on Sunday afternoon.”
The team has not yet decided on the strategy it will follow during the race, but with points already on offer after six and 12 hours, there’s more than just the final results to fight for.
“It’s very tempting to sort of go flat-out up to the 12-hour point and see what happens after that,” Buncombe said.
“At the end of the day it’s going to be 90 to 95 percent for the whole race, whether we ever get to the 100 percent is another thing.
“We’ve got to keep a little in reserve, the brakes are probably going to be a little issue and we’d like to double stint some tires in the night if it gets cooler.”
Looking at 2016, Neville feels the 2015-spec Nissan GT-R is ready to take on the next generation of GT3s, with the Japanese manufacturer already using this season to further fine tune the car.
“We are ready for what’s coming, because there’s potential in the car,” he said. “We’ve not yet had the opportunity to really see what the car can do at full potential, I feel there is some reserve there.”