Penalized for skills?
Nissan's GT Academy entry into the Pro-Am division of the British GT Championship was refused after stewards deemed their drivers as “too fast” for the category in 2013.
Team RJN fielded GT Academy winner Jann Merdenborough (Amateur) alongside Alex Buncombe (Professional) in 2012, driving the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3. The Pro-Amateur pairing proved so potent that they were within a shot of winning the championship in 2012.
Well, race organizers have refused the pair to enter as Jann Mardenborough was deemed too fast to be in the Amateur division.
“I have a lot of admiration for GT Academy,” said British GT Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici. “It has shown itself to be a great way to source raw talent and turn that into real racing talent as we saw in British GT last year with Jann Mardenborough.”
“However Nissan’s ability to find such amazing raw talent means that we cannot accept their full season entry for British GT in 2013,” continued Franasssovici. “Their new recruits have very little racing experience so they have to be on the lowest performance grade. Their talent, going on Jann’s speed last year, doesn’t reflect this lack of experience so it is not fair to put them up against our Pro/Gentleman grid, the basis of British GT3.”
During the 2012 British GT season Jann Mardenborough was fast for his performance grading, but as he didn’t meet any of the higher criteria (racing experience) the organizers had no choice other than to apply a time penalty to allow the others to catch up. In his first full season as a racing driver Jann’s talent was recognised by the British Racing Driver’s Club who awarded him Rising Star status and he was also awarded a place on the prestigious MSA Academy, run by the governing body of motorsport in the UK.
In 2013 four new winners of GT Academy are ready to race after going through the intensive GT Academy Driver Development Program. The four drivers are Wolfgang Reip (2012 European winner from Belgium), Mark Shulzhitskiy (2012 Russian winner), Peter Pyzera (2012 German winner) and Steve Doherty (2012 US winner).
“We don’t know yet if the new guys will be as fast as Jann but British GT have decided not to take the risk,” said Nissan’s Global Motorsports Director Darren Cox. “It’s disappointing that we can’t put any of our new winners into the British GT Championship as it was a great learning experience for Jann. It’s also very flattering at the same time though. Being told you are too fast isn’t something that happens very often in any competitive sport. We’re working hard now to make sure our new graduates have a great race program this year.”
The Nissan GT Academy allows drivers who qualify through online competition on Gran Turismo 5 to realize their dreams of being full fledged racecar drivers.