Nissan revises its Le Mans lineup; finishes testing in Kentucky

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The Nissan NISMO team will be shifting from the bluegrass and bourbon of Kentucky to the wine and cheese of France over the next month, and now has a revised driver lineup aboard its three GT-R LM NISMOs.

Marc Gene, who had been the first driver announced for the program, will now be the first driver out of the car – but not for any poor reasons.

The Spaniard, who is renowned for his test and development skills, will move into an advisory role. It doesn’t officially confirm him as reserve driver, but for all intents and purposes he is.

“It was a tough decision for me to take a step back for the Le Mans 24 Hours,” Gene said in a release. “I am so impressed with the efforts being made by the team and even though I won’t race at Le Mans I will be there to help with my knowledge of the great race.”

Gene’s departure means another Nissan GT Academy graduate, Russian Mark Shulzhitskiy, will get the call-up to the factory team and will be in the third car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’ll join Lucas Ordonez and Tsugio Matsuda in the No. 21 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO.

The remaining six drivers remain the same, although Alex Buncombe (No. 21 to 22) and Olivier Pla (No. 22 to 23) have changed car designations.

The change in lineups read as follows:

PREVIOUS

  • No. 21: Tsugio Matsuda, Lucas Ordonez, Alex Buncombe
  • No. 22: Oliver Pla, Harry Tincknell, Michael Krumm
  • No. 23: Marc Gene, Max Chilton, Jann Mardenborough

FINALIZED

  • No. 21: Tsugio Matsuda, Lucas Ordonez, Mark Shulzhitskiy
  • No. 22: Alex Buncombe, Harry Tincknell, Michael Krumm
  • No. 23: Olivier Pla, Max Chilton, Jann Mardenborough

Of course finalizing the lineups was not all Nissan has done this week. The manufacturer completed a three-day test in Kentucky this week, at the NCM Motorsports Park.

The focus of the test was to complete longer runs with the pair of Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs and continue to build on the performance of the car in the run up to Le Mans.

The Nissan NISMO team is now back at its Indianapolis base to complete the build of the third car before heading to its UK base at Silverstone to make the final preparations for Le Mans.

“Obviously we would like to have more time but we have had three good days of working through a long list of jobs,” said Ben Bowlby, Nissan’s LM P1 Team Principal and Technical Director. “Our focus now moves to the re-preparation of these two cars and completing the build of the third.  I’m very happy with the drivers who have all applied themselves well this week and I look forward to getting on track at the Le Mans test day.”

After Silverstone and Spa, the next on-track action for the FIA World Endurance Championship is the Le Mans test day on Sunday, May 31.