Jann Mardenborough will join Red bull for the next step on his remarkable rise up the motorsport ladder, having joined Arden International to compete in F1 feeder series GP3.
The 2011 GT Academy winner has been transformed from avid gamer into a fully-fledged racing star over the past couple of years, excelling in GT cars, Le Mans prototypes and single-seaters, with his most recent efforts earning him the runner-up spot in the New Zealand-based TRS single-seater championship. His podium finish at Le Mans in 2013 came two years to the day after he reached the final stages of GT Academy in 2011.
Having raced in F3 last season, Mardenborough showed well in testing in both GP3 and Renault World Series cars, and now links up with Christian Horner's Arden operation as well as joining an intensive driver development programme with four-time reigning F1 champion Infiniti Red Bull Racing.
“I feel ready for GP3,” Mardenborough insisted, “I've prepared well and I have all the right people around me to help my development, so I can fully focus on my racing.
“I haven't raced the GP3 car yet but, going on initial testing, I prefer the GP3 car to an F3 car. The power is very addictive! This season is my opportunity to impress more people in the sport who make the decisions on who makes it into F1 and who doesn't and I'm going to give it my best shot.
“F3 has taught me so many things, both in the car and out of the car, both mentally and physically. It was a great stage in my development and I'm sure the skills I've learnt there will help me in GP3 and beyond.”
Arden International was selected for its championship-winning pedigree, and the team's most recent success story sees Russian racer Daniil Kvyat translate the 2013 GP3 title into an F1 seat with Toro Rosso in 2014.
“I'm excited to work with Arden,” Mardenborough admitted, “My initial impressions of them are excellent; they have a lot of experience and great success over the years. I'm looking forward to working with my race engineer Sean [McGill].”
A crucial element of GT Academy is Nissan's driver development programme, which helps the winners switch from the virtual world of gaming to the reality of the race track. Having learned his craft over the past couple of years, Mardenborough makes the most of the link between Nissan and Infiniti to transfer to a bespoke development programme with Red Bull Racing in order to push his talent as far as it will go.
“We're delighted to welcome Jann onto our programme,” Andy Damerum, Red Bull Racing's driver development manager, said, “We have been tracking Nissan's innovative approach to motorsport and, in particular, GT Academy that challenges the status quo
“The traditional route to F1 of karting and single-seaters is a tried and tested success, but Nissan and PlayStation have gone down a very different road and started to find some very talented drivers who have been doing all their practicing on a games console. I'm very interested to see how Jann fares on our programme and in GP3 this season, and I look forward to taking him under the Infiniti Red Bull Racing wing to further progress his career. ”
The mentor for the UK finalists of GT Academy 2011 was former F1 racewinner Johnny Herbert, who has kept a close eye on his protégé ever since.
“I have been mightily impressed with what Jann has achieved since winning GT Academy,” he noted, “For someone with Jann's experience doing so well is very rare to see. Last year he raced in the European F3 series which is hell of a tough challenge during your first season; the fact that it was Jann's first season in any kind of single-seaters is incredible.
“Whilst he has had a very successful first year in GT racing and he has now got an amazing result at Le Mans 24 Hours under his belt, he is competing against drivers that have grown up with seasons of karting and single-seater experience behind them.
“His talent has not only impressed me, but has now got experienced figureheads in motorsport talking about what Jann, Nissan and GT Academy are achieving. The world of motorsport is recognising that GT Academy is helping bring talented young blood into the sport. The success of Jann and other GT Academy winners is also inspiring a new legion of gaming and motorsport fans by giving them a new route to becoming a professional racing driver. The only question that remains unanswered is 'Can a gamer make it all the way to F1?'”
For Nissan's director of global motorsport, Darren Cox, Mardenborough's latest step is further justification of the brand's decision to work with games players.
“Jann's progress is just the tip of the iceberg for the success of the graduates of GT Academy,” he concluded, “Last year we took 41 podiums around the world including Le Mans, the Spa 24 hours and the Dubai 24 hours and won two championships in the GT-R Nismo. The innovation is now obvious to everyone who looks into the detail.
“However, like most innovations, this was not the case when we kicked the programme off six years ago. Nissan and Playstation have bought motorsport to a new generation of digital fans and now we are expanding even further geographically. Recent additions to our core markets of Europe, Russia and USA are India and the Middle East and more new markets will be announced in the coming weeks.”