Mardenborough: Hypercar seat or LMDh for 2024 “the dream”

As the Hollywood adaptation of his motorsport career hits cinemas, ex-Gran Turismo sim racer Jann Mardenborough still has his sights set on a full-time career in motorsport.

Mardenborough burst onto the motorsport scene by winning the Gran Turismo Academy competition in 2011. The aim was to take the world’s fastest sim racers, put them through a series of challenges and select one to become a Nissan factory driver.

The now 31-year-old competition winner then drove for the Japanese manufacturer for nearly a decade, ending in 2020. To date, a motorsport career spans the likes of Japanese Formula 3, Super Formula, SUPER GT and the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Since his last full-season drive for the Kondo Racing GT500 team, there has been a period of Formula E development work, however, the partnership with Nissan previously ended in the middle of last year.

After returning to racing at the Fuji 24 Hours in May, he hopes the Grand Touring The film – which chronicles the early part of his motorsport career – can be used as a springboard to rekindle his driving career.

“SUPER GT is my favorite league, the cars are amazing and I loved living out there,” Mardenborough said at the esports Gran Turismo World Series Showdown event in Amsterdam, held a day after the Dutch film premiered.

“However, when you’re in a certain area for five years, you’re not as visible in Europe or even the rest of the world.

“Coming back, you have to be strong again. So the film helps to keep my name bright.

“It doesn’t mean that I’m going to take a stand because [of it]you still have to prove yourself.”

Great Tourism series producer Kazunori Yamauchi and Jann Mardenborough at the Great Tourism Dutch premiere

Photo by: Gran Turismo World Series

As for what potential options are available, the GP3 race winner is aiming for a place in the current Le Mans Hypercar or LMDh class, but is open to other opportunities.

“The target for next year will be Hypercar/LMDh, that’s the dream, and to do some GT3 racing in IMSA would be great,” enthused Mardenborough.

“Between working on the film and doing the promo, I’ve just been in the paddock, talking to teams and pretty much reinventing myself. Being associated with Nissan for so long, people assume it’s still the same thing, but that’s not the case.”

Movie stunt driving presented unique challenges

Over the past year, Mardenborough has had plenty of time in his seat, working as a stunt driver for the biopic and even driving himself in the Ligier JS PX prototype. Production made extensive use of the Hungaroring, Red Bull Ring and Slovakia Ring locations, the latter of which provided the most challenging conditions.

Jann Mardenborough was a stunt driver for the film Gran Turismo

Photo: Sony Pictures

“During the night shoots … we were driving the Slovakian ring in the opposite direction and we had these huge water towers, and LMP cars don’t really go through a lot of water, they turn into a boat,” Mardenborough recalls.

“The white lines were freshly painted on the circuit, but they weren’t dry enough. So when the water landed on the track, it mixed with the paint and then hit the windshield.

Jann Mardenborough on the set of Gran Turismo

Photo: Sony Pictures

“Not only that, they had to tape the headlights because of the glare. So we couldn’t see where we were going in the dark, the windshield was covered in paint, and we’re driving a circuit in reverse that nobody really knows very well.”

He added: “This was the most difficult of the shoots because sometimes we had no control over the car. But, it was probably the most fun too and no one crashed.”

Current Gran Turismo drivers could be competitive

The final GT Academy competition was held in 2016, and since then the main competition based on Gran Turismo has been the World Series. An esports event without a motorsport career, anyone with Gran Turismo 7 and a PlayStation can participate, with online stages narrowing the field down to the world’s best sim racers competing as teams to crown the Constructors’ and Nations’ Cup champions.

Porsche has won the 2023 Gran Turismo World Series Manufacturers Cup Showdown

Photo by: Gran Turismo World Series

It also lacks a lavish prize pool, but pays appearance fees to all final contestants (along with trips to exotic locations) with the aim of being a more sustainable platform than other modern series. Several drivers, such as Igor Fraga, who participated in the inaugural race of 2018, are still participating five years later.

At the recent Showdown event, Spain took Nations Cup honors thanks to Coque López, Pol Urra and Jose Serrano, while Serrano also won the Manufacturers Cup for Porsche when paired with Takuma Sasaki. The overall in-person title show for both competitions will take place in Barcelona this December.

Spain won the 2023 Gran Turismo World Series Showdown Nations Cup

Photo by: Gran Turismo World Series

When asked if the current crop of competitors could be good enough to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Mardenborough replied: “Absolutely, because there’s no reason not to.

“But the question is, do they want to? I’ve asked some of them this question myself about the transition [to motorsport] and some of them say no.

“If you’re happy with what you’re doing and you’re the big fish in that situation, then fair enough.

“But for me, it’s always the real thing [that’s] the best.”

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