The addition of one of the finest young racing drivers on the planet made NDDP Racing a force to be reckoned with once again in 2016.
#3 B-MAX NDDP Racing Nissan GT-R GT3 NISMO
Drivers: Kazuki Hoshino / Jann Mardenborough
GT300 Drivers’ Championship: 4th Place (52 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 4th Place (76 points)
Wins: 1 (Fuji 500km)
Podiums: 2 (Fuji 500km, Buriram)
Fastest Laps: 2 (Fuji 500km, Buriram)
Best Qualifying: 2nd (Buriram)
Anchored by two-time GT300 champion Kazuki Hoshino at the wheel, and led from the directors’ box by the legendary driver and team boss Masahiro Hasemi, NDDP Racing have been one of GT300’s elite teams for a number of years. After Mitsunori Takaboshi was sent to race in Europe following a two-win rookie season in Super GT, Nissan’s factory GT300 team had a vacancy to fill.
In stepped Mardenborough – GT Academy champion, gamer turned racer, former ace of Nissan’s defunct LMP1 squad, and one of the young superstars of international motorsports. In his second race at Fuji Speedway, he drove the B-Max GT-R to a commanding victory in the Golden Week classic.
Then came two incredibly resilient races where they fought back from 21st and 17th on the grid, to finish 5th and 6th at Sugo and Fuji respectively, both comebacks powered by the young Welshman. And Mardenborough so nearly drove them to a win in Thailand, just missing out by over a second to the VivaC 86.
Hoshino, for his credit, was still solid as a driver in his own right – but could certainly afford to let the uber-talented Mardenborough do most of the big stints this season. Ultimately, a poor final round outing at Motegi where they only scored a sixth place between the two races kept them from taking the title in 2016.
One area where they suffered a bit was qualifying: Three times they had to start in the ninth row or lower, and if not for a last-second revision in the Q1 results at Buriram, it would have been four starts in the eighth row or lower. At Motegi I, where they qualified 21st, it was too much to ask to get any higher than 13th.
With Mardenborough all but surely moving on to GT300, it leaves NDDP in a curious situation for 2017 as to who will partner Hoshino. Truth be told, there aren’t that many comparable replacements in any age bracket, but never doubt Hasemi-san’s ability to put together a formidable team next season.