Nissan’s inaugural GT Academy winner, Lucas Ordonez, received his best ever birthday present this week when he was selected to join the test team for the Company’s revolutionary motorsport experiment, the Nissan DeltaWing.
As the fourth season of the life-changing GT Academy competition began this week, the very first ‘virtual-to-reality’ racer received confirmation that he would play a key role in the challenging development of the prototype car.
The Nissan DeltaWing project aims to change the face of motorsport by completing the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours on June 16/17, using half the fuel and half the tyres of its contemporaries and hinting at a more efficient future for endurance racing.
Ordonez, who turned 27 on Tuesday this week, will join Nissan DeltaWing race driver Marino Franchitti at Magny-Cours in France and Motorland Aragon in Spain as the team behind the prototype continues its huge challenge to prepare the radical racer for its race debut.
The challenging development process of the Nissan DeltaWing – which will take to the grid on motorsport’s biggest stage just 101 days after first hitting the track – is being charted by a series of ‘behind-the-scenes’ online films, hosted at http://www.facebook.com/NissanSportsCars.
The latest in the series, showing how French tyre manufacturer, Michelin, created bespoke tyres almost as radical as the Nissan DeltaWing itself for the innovative project. The front tyres on the Nissan DeltaWing are only four inches wide.
The Michelin episode launched at the website today, to coincide with the latest European test of the car at Magny-Cours, close to Michelin’s global HQ, where Ordonez will complete his first laps at the wheel.
Spaniard Ordonez won GT Academy, an innovative competition created by Nissan and Sony that seeks to discover raw driving talent via the Playstation gaming platform. Lucas was the first winner of GT Academy in 2008 and the first student of Nissan’s driver development programme, which saw him progress through the sportscar ranks and, in just three years, go from virtual racing to reality, lining up for his first Le Mans 24 Hours last summer.
Having taken a podium finish last year, Ordonez will race at La Sarthe again this summer, with the class-winning LMP2 prototype squad, Greaves Motorsport, alongside ex-F1 driver and Sky F1 commentator, Martin Brundle and his son, Alex.
But he said he was honoured to be playing an important part in Nissan’s pioneering Le Mans experiment and said he will particularly look forward to making his debut behind the wheel for Nissan in his home country: “I have always wanted to test or race for Nissan in Spain but, so far, I have not had the opportunity so that will be exciting for me, personally.
“It was very emotional to be asked by Nissan Europe to test such an important project. I am delighted that they believe in me to help with the work on this prototype car. I can’t wait to get in the car, focus and give the best feedback I can to help the development of the project. To be involved in the development of an innovative car like this is another big step in the career of a racing driver.”
Darren Cox, General Manager, Nissan in Europe, said: “The GT Academy is a major innovation in motorsport, designed to make the elitist sport of motor racing genuinely accessible to ordinary people, who don’t have access to huge budgets. Lucas was our first champion and is living proof that Nissan’s different and entirely original way of looking at things can work.
“Lucas has proven himself in every category of motorsport we’ve put him in and I’m delighted that we have the opportunity to marry Nissan’s home-grown talent with its next game-changing initiative.
“Four years ago, Lucas was a student playing computer games and now he is helping to develop the most important motorsport innovation of its generation. We have a colossal journey ahead of us to make the Nissan DeltaWing project come to fruition and I’m proud to say that we couldn’t have a better ally than Lucas.”
The Nissan DeltaWing team comprises a group of key partners, comprising designer Ben Bowlby, American motorsport entrepreneur Don Panoz, Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers organisation and Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft Racing team.
This group now faces a race against time to make the car race-worthy in time for the world’s most gruelling 24-hour race, using Nissan’s 1.6-litre direct injection, turbocharged DIG-T engine.
The remainder of its testing schedule will take the Nissan Deltawing engineering team to race circuits across Europe, before joining its fellow Le Mans 24 Hours entrants at the official ACO pre-Le Mans test on June 3.
To keep abreast of the full story behind the innovative technology powering Nissan DeltaWing, catch the forthcoming episodes from the series of films at http://www.facebook.com/NissanSportsCars.