Two of Nissan’s brightest young drivers in the Autobacs Super GT Series will headline a two-car all-star team for Nissan Australia at the 2017 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race on February 5th.
2015 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Katsumasa Chiyo will return for his fourth trip to the awesome Mount Panorama Circuit in Australia, driving the number 23 Nissan GT-R GT3 with Britain’s Alex Buncombe, and Australian Supercars driver Michael Caruso.
In the second number 24 GT-R, former Nissan GT Academy champion Jann Mardenborough will make his Bathurst debut, driving with 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Florian Strauss, and former Bathurst 1000 winner Todd Kelly.
In addition to the star-studded driver lineup representing NISMO’s racing efforts in Japan, Europe, and Australia, the two-car entry will be prepared by the top engineers from NISMO International (Japan), Team RJN (United Kingdom), and Nissan Motorsports Australia from the Supercars Championship.
“I’m really looking forward to having a crack at the Bathurst 12 Hour again this year with my Australian family, Team Kelly and Team RJN,” says Chiyo. “I have strong teammates. It’s like a dream team.”
“I’m always excited when I hear about the Bathurst 12 Hour. It is such an amazing track, awesome fans with amazing history. In 2015, we achieved winning the race after a dramatic finish. Last year, we tried to defend the title, but we were beaten by the McLaren. This year, I think our mission is simple – win back the trophy for the Nissan GT-R.”
Since his final-laps heroics in winning the 2015 12 Hour race, and in nearly winning the 2016 race, Chiyo has become one of the race’s breakout stars, and a fan-favourite in Australia, due to his driving ability and confident, positive demeanor.
Last year in Super GT, Chiyo made his GT500 debut for MOLA International, finishing on the podium in his class debut at Okayama International Circuit. But he only finished 12th in the GT500 Drivers’ Championship in a season marred by a back injury that forced him to miss the Suzuka 1000km.
“Firstly, I’m honored to be chosen by NISMO and Nissan Australia to represent them in the Bathurst 12 Hour,” says the debuting Mardenborough. “It’s a race I’ve watch on television and played on PlayStation. I’m really excited to take part. Just playing the game, Sector 2 looks mega, so I can’t imagine what it will be like on the first lap and on qualifying tires. I‘m hugely excited to compete with drivers that have lots of experience at the track, and with some drivers that I know quite well, like Florian and Chiyo.”
Mardenborough made his Super GT debut for NDDP Racing in the GT300 category, finishing fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with co-driver Kazuki Hoshino, and winning the prestigious Fuji 500km. He also ran the All-Japan Formula 3 Championship last year, finishing as runner-up in the championship to Kenta Yamashita.
Mardenborough added: “It will be great to be a part of a two-car team to put a fight to everyone else and aim for the top step. Time is ticking now – I can’t wait to jump on the plane to Australia.”
Chiyo and Mardenborough will join BMW Team Studie driver Jörg Müller (Walkenhorst Motorsport), fellow Super GT alumni Oliver Jarvis (Bentley), Alexandre Imperatori (Grove Motorsport), and wildcard runner Morgan Haber (MARC Cars BMW), along with Supercars stars Craig Lowndes, Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom, Mark Skaife, Chaz Mostert, Garth Tander, and defending Supercars and B12hr Champion Shane van Gisbergen in the 61-car field, the largest-ever grid for the Bathurst 12 Hour in its brief history.