Six months after taking part in the 24 Hours of Dubai, Nic Hammann is set for his next challenge, as the 2014 Nissan GT Academy North America Champion makes his Blancpain Sprint Series debut this weekend in Moscow.
For the 22-year-old Wisconsin native, who teams with Russian GT Academy winner and Nissan LMP1 driver Mark Shulzhitskiy in the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN-entered Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, it’s an opportunity the budding GT driver never would have expected.
“It’s a testament to the GT Academy and Nissan,” Hammann told Sportscar365. “You’re sitting on your couch one day and then next you get a call that you’re going to go race in Moscow. It’s really cool.
“Never in my wildest dreams that I would think I’d be in Russia racing a GT3 car.”
Hammann is coming off an impressive run in Dubai, where he was part of the RJN squad’s fifth place overall finish and podium in the Pro-Am class, in his first race with the turbocharged GT3 beast.
However, the twice-around-the-clock enduro in Dubai and this weekend’s pair of one-hour sprint races at Moscow Raceway couldn’t be more different from each other, both from a distance and traffic perspective.
“It’s a completely different mindset compared to the 24 Hours of Dubai,” he said. “But it’s another thing I can check off the list that I’ve done.
“To be running in close proximity with so many guys in endurance racing, [it’s about] being clean and consistent and just keeping it all together.
“Where this is a one-hour sprint. You’re in the car for half of that. So it’s about pushing as hard as you can.
“I think it’s going to help me greatly with improving racecraft and just getting out of the box and going in immediately.
“I’m really looking forward to it and everyone at RJN has been super helpful.”
The American, who has been in Europe for the last month, got his first laps in the 2015-spec GT-R during the 24 Hours of Spa Test Day, where he noted improvements in braking and overall grip.
Hammann was also able to prepare for this weekend’s race at the 15-turn, 2.46-mile circuit by getting seat time in a simulator.
“Luckily when I was over in Silverstone doing all the training, and I was [also] able to hop on the sim there and get some laps here,” he said.
“You’re as good as you’re going to get besides running physically on the track. But that was definitely good preparation.”
Teaming with local hero Shulzhitskiy, the GT Academy pairing are targeting a strong run in the one-off event.
“The goal is definitely to win the Pro-Am [class],” Hammann said. “I know Mark had a lot of good driving at Paul Ricard, and it should have been a good event for those guys but they had a mechanical problem.
“Once I get in the car and get some good, clean laps under here and get up to speed, I think we’ll have a shot at it.”
The Moscow event kicks off a string of races for Hammann, who is scheduled to make his North American race debut later this month in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event at Lime Rock Park.
From there, he’s slated to complete the season in one of Doran Racing’s Nissan 370Zs
“It should be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to getting with the Doran team as well,” Hammann said.
“Nissan does a good job with GT Academy in giving good guys to work with and I think it’s a testament with Mark being here and BJ [Zacharias] and Brad [Jaeger] too being such driving coaches.
“They’re the ones that make our jobs easy because they’re so helpful and teach us a lot.”