On February 5, Nissan and Nismo announced that they will appoint Tsugio Matsuda, last year’s Super GT series GT500 class champion, to participate this season at the 24 hours of Le Mans. Matsuda will challenge the Le Mans driving the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo in the LMP1 class.
They announced that Nissan/Nismo unveiled the competing vehicle, the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, the other day. It will participate from this season in the highest class, LMP1, in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and series races including the 24 hours of Le Mans. They also decided on Marc Gene, a professional overall champion in Le Mans, as one of the drivers. On this day, they announced three more drivers in addition to the press conference held in France for the WEC and 24 hours of Le Mans.
Nissan’s first driver registered with the car number for this season’s LMP1 class is written below (From the video at WEC&24 hours of Le Mans press conference).
#21 Tsugio Matsuda
#22 Harry Tincknell
#23 Olivier Pla
Among the above mentioned, two units, #22 and #23ã€€will be competing for the entire WEC races this year. #21 where Matsuda’s name is registered will participate only in Le Mans (WEC round 3/ June 13 to 14 finals). What kind of vehicle will Gene drive is not yet clear at present and the remaining five drivers will be announced later (during the Le Mans race for a total of 9 drivers, 3 in each vehicle).
Currently, The 35-year-old Matsuda is one of the top drivers in Japan, consecutively winning the Formula Nippon (now Super Formula) in 2007 until 2008. Last year, he acquired his first title in the GT500 class of Super GT. In the recent years, He was trying to build a foothold in Le Mans challenge by participating several times in the LMP2 class of WEC. This season is the 10th year he will join as an ace driver for Nissan’s team. He is determined to fulfill the long-awaited Le Mans challenge with Nissan and said the following below with enthusiasm.
“I think that I am very honored to be able to participate in Le Mans using the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo. I have longed for the 24 hours of Le Mans ever since I was a child. I know that, race-wise, it is the harshest in the world. That’s why I would like to try challenging it and I am thrilled that I have had the opportunity to face this challenge. I will do my best in everything to provide good results now that I will be competing in this race.”
Last year, Matsuda won the GT500 class title with Nissan/Nismo. However, they assumed that perhaps this season they will be able to have consecutive victories in Nissan camp at the Super GT because this is the only race this season for the LMP1 car at the moment.
In the recent years, both #22 Tincknell and #23 Pla are drivers who have been active in the LMP2 class such as WEC and European Le Mans series. Darren Cox, global head of the brand marketing & sales in Nismo, said the details of the three appointed drivers including Matsuda, “They dedicated great efforts in Nissan. We chose the best drivers with both youth and experience from the Nissan family.”
Lastly, according to the entry list that was announced at the press conference for the WEC/24 Hours of Le Mans, 11 units will participate in the entire race of WEC in this year’s LMP1 class and the entry in the Le Mans will increase to 14 units. Among these units, factory-backed teams that will be participating with hybrid vehicles number 8 units in the entire races, while 11 units in the Le Mans. Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Porsche are participating with two units for each race. While in the Le Mans race,Toyota aside, the rest of the three automakers will be participating with an additional 3rd vehicle.
(Translated by Natassia Jeronne D. Martinez)