On March 2, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Nismo unveiled the two people that were not yet announced among the nine drivers who will drive the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo at this season’s 24-hours of Le Mans. Nissan camp regular driver Alex Buncombe and the F1 race expert Max Chilton will be added to the lineup.
Nissan/Nismo has announced one by one the names of the participating drivers for the factory-backed teams for this year’s LMP1 class in the WEC (World Endurance Championship Series) and 24-hours of Le Mans race (WEC round 3). Finally, the lineup of the nine greatest drivers for the Le Mans race has been clarified.
The 33-year-old Buncombe is a driver that has been working as an instructor for Nissan’s GT Academy (Project such as member development by the collaboration with the television game Gran Turismo). He is also known to be called as ‘Nissan’s secret weapon’. Chilton is a young 23-year-old driver who was a part of Marussia in F1 until last year.
The following nine are the drivers for the Nissan’s LMP1 class.
Michael Krumm/Marc Gene/ Harry Tincknell/Oliver Pla/Jann Mardenborough/Max Chilton/Tsugio Matsuda/Lucas Ordonez/Alex Buncombe
Buncombe will be teamed up with a student from GT Academy, Ordonez and Mardenborough. However, six drivers, Krumm, Gene, Tincknell, Pla, Mardenborough, and Chilton will participate in the opening round of the WEC, the 6 Hours of Silverstone (April 12 finals). They will drive the #22 and #23 Nissan GT-R LM Nismo (the combination of drivers are still undecided). Also, Nissan announced that Matsuda, Ordonez, and Buncombe will drive the #21 in the Le Mans.
Furthermore, Krumm is the driver mainly in-charge of developing the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo. He will not take part in the first until the third round of the Super GT because he will focus on the development of the vehicle. However, it is decided that he will participate starting from the fourth round all the way until the eighth round. Due to problems such as the overlapping of schedules in the second half of the WEC (fourth to eighth round), it is possible that Ordonez, who will be the substitute racer in the first three rounds of the Super GT, may also be substituting for the second half of WEC.
This is only a presumption, but Gene, Tincknell, Pla, Mardenborough and Chilton will most likely fully participate in the entire rounds of WEC (planned). As for Krumm, he will be participating until the Le Mans and after that, he may be teaming up with Ordonez, or two other drivers will be driving one of the two units during the absence of Krumm. This might be the appointment method that they may use. Regarding Matsuda, I don’t think that he will not participate in the Super GT since he is aiming for a consecutive victory in the GT500 class. He will probably focus in participating only in the Le Mans in WEC. However, regarding the sixth round of the 6 Hours of Fuji on October 11, perhaps there may be a possibility that he might enter the actual race.
Matsuda was the only Japanese among the ‘Nine Samurai’. However, together with other drivers (including GT Academy graduates) who have long been active in Nissan camp, expert regular drivers in F1, and expert champion in the Le Mans (Gene), they are nine people with great personalities and special skills that gathered for this race. We are unable to take our eyes off the Nissan factory team as they charge towards the long-awaited overall victory in the Le Mans.
(Translated by Natassia Jeronne D. Martinez)