Red Bull Racing has signed Nissan GT Academy graduate Jann Mardenborough in a deal which will see the 22-year-old race for Arden in GP3 this year.
Mardenborough, who won the 2011 Nissan GT Academy programme, which offers video gamers the opportunity to become professional racing drivers, split his time in 2013 between single-seaters and endurance racing, finishing sixth overall in British Formula 3, while taking a podium on his debut at Le Mans, with third for Greaves Motorsport in the LMP2 class.
Mardenborough will join Robert Visoiu and Patric Niederhauser at Arden this year, as the team looks to take a third straight title, having run Mitch Evans and Toro Rosso F1 graduate Daniil Kvyat to the titles in 2012 and 2013.
“I feel ready for GP3,” said Mardenborough. “I’ve prepared well and I have all the right people around me to help my development so I can fully focus on my racing.
“F3 has taught me so many things, both in the car and out of the car, both mentally and physically. It was a great stage in my development and I’m sure the skills I’ve learnt there will help me in GP3 and beyond.
‘I’m excited to work with Arden. My initial impressions of them are excellent; they have a lot of experience and great success over the years. I’m looking forward to working with my race engineer Sean [McGill].”
“I haven’t raced the GP3 car yet,” he added. “But going on initial testing, I prefer the GP3 car to an F3 car. The power is very addictive! This season is my opportunity to impress more people in the sport who make the decisions on who makes it into F1 and who doesn’t and I’m going to give it my best shot.”
Andy Damerun, Red Bull Racing’s driver development manager, who will oversee Mardenborough’s progress, believes that Nissan’s GT Academy could signal a shift in the current state of affairs in the way young hopefuls progress up the motorsport ladder.
“We’re delighted to welcome Jann onto our programme,” said Damerum. “We have been tracking Nissan’s innovative approach to motorsport and in particular GT Academy that challenges the status quo of motorsport. The traditional route to F1 of karting and single-seaters is a tried and tested success but Nissan and PlayStation have gone down a very different road and started to find some very talented drivers who have been doing all their practicing on a games console.
“I’m very interested to see how Jann fares on our programme and in GP3 this season and I look forward to taking him under the Infiniti Red Bull Racing wing to further progress his career.”
Johnny Herbert, who oversaw the finalists of the 2011 GT Academy, of which Mardenborough was the winner, has applauded the 22-year-olds recent progress, and asserts that his success will only lead to more hopefuls following this new route into motorsport.
“I have been mightily impressed with what Jann has achieved since winning GT Academy,” said Herbert. “For someone with Jann’s experience doing so well is very rare to see.
“Last year he raced in the European F3 series which is hell of a tough challenge during your first season; the fact that it was Jann’s first season in any kind of single-seaters is incredible.
“Whilst he has had a very successful first year in GT racing and he has now got an amazing result at Le Mans 24 Hours under his belt, he is competing against drivers that have grown up with seasons of karting and single-seater experience behind them.
“His talent has not only impressed me, but has now got experienced figureheads in motorsport talking about what Jann, Nissan and GT Academy is achieving.
“The world of motorsport is recognising that GT Academy is helping bring talented young blood into the sport,” he added. “The success of Jann and other GT Academy winners is also inspiring a new legion of gaming and motorsport fans by giving them a new route to becoming a professional racing driver. The only question that remains unanswered is ‘Can a gamer make it all the way to F1?’”