Jann Mardenborough, Lucas Ordonez and Michael Krumm have been confirmed as the next three drivers for Nissan’s return to the LMP1 class in this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Japanese manufacturer will be taking on the might of Audi, Toyota and Porsche in the top class of endurance racing in 2015, having confirmed the first three drivers earlier this month.
We now know the identities of the men filling the next three seats in the Nissan LMP1 programme, with both Mardenborough and Ordonez being graduates of the GT Academy that looked to take racers from their PlayStation gamesm console to the race track.
Mardenborough, 23, won the GT Academy competition back in 2011 after beating 90,000 other entrants in the competition that sees racers initially set a time on the Gran Turismo PlayStation game before moving onto the race track.
The Briton has since balanced his racing career in both sportscars and single-seaters, finishing third in the LMP2 class at Le Mans in 2013 and fifth in 2014. He finished ninth in last year’s GP3 championship, but is now set for the step up to LMP1 with Nissan.
“I want to show that there is a different route to the top of motorsport, than just years and years of expensive go karting, by winning at Le Mans,” said Mardenborough, who will race in the #22 car alongside Marc Gene and Harry Ticknell.
“It’s an honour for me to be chosen to compete in LMP1 for Nissan. I have raced at Le Mans twice in LMP2 so I have seen the current LMP1 cars at very close quarters out on the track. To think I will be racing one this year is very exciting. The Nissan GT-R LM NISMO looks set to be a historic race car and I get to drive it!”
Ordonez was the first GT Academy winner back in 2009, and has twice finished on the podium at Le Mans in the LMP2 class. He will race in the third Nissan car in tandem with a full season the Japanese Super GT championship.
“When I received the call telling me I would race the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO and the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT500 it was like winning GT Academy all over again,” Ordonez said. “Last year was incredible, racing in Japan and learning all about the unique racing culture over there. Now I get to race in the top class in Japan and at Le Mans I will jump into the ultimate GT-R.”
Krumm, 44, brings a wealth of experience to the team having raced in GT and sportscars for the past 20 years. He has also been an important part of the Nissan NISMO family, and will race alongside Olivier Pla in the #23.
More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.
Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.
“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.
“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”
This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.
“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.
“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”
This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.
“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”
At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.
“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”
Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.
“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”
Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.
“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.
“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”