The Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 of GT Academy Team RJN slowed to an agonising crawl at the final corner of the three-hour Blancpain Endurance race at Monza this afternoon. The team was on for a very creditable 14th place finish in a race that had seen many top challengers fall by the wayside.
The team had a tough start to the weekend when qualifying only produced 38th place on the grid of over 55 cars. Alex Buncombe, Jann Mardenborough and Chris Ward were going to have a very busy race if they were to recover from that.
Race day dawned under black clouds and the circuit was deemed too wet for a normal rolling start so the race began under the safety car.
“It’s a shame that half of Alex’s stint was under the safety car as once we got racing he moved all the way up to 22nd,” explained Team Principal Bob Neville. “He handed over to Jann who we put in for a long run. It was the correct decision as he then took it all the way up to sixth place.”
After the final pit-stop, Chris Ward was running strongly in 14th place but just one minute from the end he radioed in to say he was running out of fuel. The car then appeared on the TV screens, crawling through the Parabolica, the final turn at Monza. The irony is that when the car was released from Parc Ferme after the race it started first time so the problem will now have to be investigated
“We’re terribly disappointed with the result,” said Bob. “Jann especially drove so well. I had to keep my hands in my pockets to stop myself from radioing him and telling him to ease off a bit. He was trading times with the top professionals out there and I think I held my breath when he passed Stephane Ortelli in the works Audi!”
“The car felt good in the wet,” said Jann. “We still need to do a lot of development work on it for dry running but it’s good to get the first race done and see where we are in relation to the competition. I had some fun battles out there today. I felt very comfortable in the car, didn’t make any mistakes and certainly didn’t hit anyone! I had a good long run; I was watching the clock that is just before the finish line so I know that the fun lasted for over an hour.”
The first race of the season always provides a lot of data for all of the race teams to dissect and digest. The next race on the calendar is in early June, which gives the teams plenty of time for development work before battle resumes at Silverstone.