British Nismo drivers Alex Buncombe and Jann Mardenborough made impressive debuts on the opening day of the official SUPER GT test at Fuji Speedway this week. In doing so, both passed their ‘rookie tests’ in preparation for the Fuji Sprint Cup in November.
Both Mardenborough and Buncombe were immediately on the pace in the GT300 machine, setting competitive times after only two laps of the Fuji circuit. Before travelling out to Japan they’d practised on Gran Turimso and watched a few YouTube clips of the track, but made remarkable progress considering they’d never turned a wheel on it before.
The NDDP Racing-entered Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 is similar to the car they drive in the Blancpain Endurance and FIA GT Series, except for the highly developed Yokohama tyres. Mardenborough said “On the Yokohama tyres it is pretty different; the front end of the car is a lot more positive. When they’re new, you can lean quite a lot on the tyre here.”
The SUPER GT car also comes with air-conditioning, which both drivers clearly appreciated, “The air-conditioning has been the revelation we don’t have in Europe,” said experienced racer Buncombe.
Mardenborough added, “We’ve got this kit fitted to the top of our helmets that blows cold air on the back of our heads, and we have another vent inside the car that goes on our neck. It’s hot inside, but your body is so cool.”
The drivers are participating in Nismo’s recently announced Driver Exchange Program which sees Lucas Ordonez and Steve Doherty travel Stateside to race Nissan 370Zs in the GTS World Challenge. Current NDDP Racing driver Kazuki Hoshino will race a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the Nurburgring 1000kms.
Hoshino, who was present at Fuji, was impressed with the pace of the GT Academy drivers, promising that he’d try and take just ‘two laps’ to get on the pace when he visits Nurburgring later in the year.
Taro Kumagai, Nismo’s head of race support said “Both drivers who participated in today’s test got right down to work and really impressed, not only with their speed, but also their wholly professional attitudes. Each of them displayed remarkably high levels of performance, quickly adapting to the car and the conditions.”