Jann Mardenborough achieved fame when he won the 2011 Nissan PlayStation GT Academy competition that gave him the opportunity to translate success on a games console motor racing game into a chance to go racing in the real thing through Nissan's driver development programme.

Many were sceptical about whether Mardenborough would be up to the challenge, but a consistently improving race career has proved the doubters wrong. Now with his first race victory in an major international open-wheel single seater championship at Hockenheim in the GP3 Series, there can be no one left in any serious doubt that the 22-year-old from Darlington has true race-winning potential that is starting to be delivered with Arden International.

"During race 1, I started 14th but worked hard to manage my tyre wear," he said, explaining that his win on Sunday had been the culmination of a weekend of strategic planning. "The tyre wear on Saturday was amplified by the heat so it was good that the team had drilled all this information into me and I was able to manage the situation.

"Sure enough when some of the others 'fell off the cliff' I was able to get up to eight place, which I was very pleased about, he continued, pointing out that eighth place on Saturday means pole for Sunday's race under GP3's reverse grid system.

All that remained was for Mardenborough to keep his cool on the starting grid and get into turn 1 ahead of the other 26 cars behind him. He did, but he was under immediate pressure from ART's Dino Zamparelli who was all over the back of the Arden through the opening laps, which were run on tricky conditions with the track greasy from light rain.

"I got a good start and was able to control the pace," said Mardenborough, who had remained calm and assured under pressure and never gave Zamparelli a chance to get past. "I could push when I wanted to push and ease off when I wanted to.

"It feels so good to win," he added. "The only time I ever drink Champagne is when I win a race - not a podium finish, only a win - and I haven't tasted it since February so it tasted good today! I call it Winner's Juice!"

Mardenborough had previously taken a race win in the 2014 Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand, but victory this weekend in front of an international audience is a whole new level of success for him.

He's certainly come a long way since winning that competition while on his gap year as a student just three years ago. Last month he was competing in sportscars at the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance event, rubbing shoulders with the top talents in motor racing that used to be his idols are who are now his fellow competitors at some of the biggest events in the world.

The future looks even bigger and brighter, but Mardenborough isn't forgetting where he got his big dream break in the sport.

"The training that Nissan gives us is amazing," he said. "For me to get to this level in single seaters just shows how good the programme is. It's not a case of winning GT Academy and going racing at all. They push us hard, every day.

"I keep learning and progressing all the time and today's result proves that it works," he added.

"This is an incredible result for Jann and a great day for Nissan and for GT Academy," said Darren Cox, NISMO Global Head of Brand, Marketing & Sales. "To put it all into context, Jann is competing against drivers who have been racing in GP3 for as long as Jann has been a racing driver.

"He wasn't out karting every weekend from the age of eight, he was going to school and playing football with his mates. We're all very proud of him and believe that this is just the beginning of his story."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment