The British racing driver Jann Mardenborough is one of the winners of the Nissan GT Academy virtual-to-reality contest. He won the contest in 2011 and since then he made a remarkable career in few racing disciplines all over the world, driving the single-seaters, GT cars and Le Mans prototypes.
His biggest success was 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours podium in the LMP2 class. He currently competes in the Japanese Super GT Series with Nissan.
Jann never dreamed to be a racer
When the Nissan GT Academy was launched in 2008, the 16-year-old Jann (born on September 9, 1991, in Darlington) wasn't even dreaming about racing career. As a son of the former professional football player, Jann was closer to enter some football club but, in 2011, but his life has changed when he decided to convert his gaming passion into real racing. Jann entered the 2011 edition of the famous virtual-to-reality contest and beat 90,000 other entrants, becoming the third Nissan GT Academy graduate.
Racing debut with Nissan 370Z
Jann had a racing debut in July 2011 at Castle Combe Circuit, partnering the winner of the American Nissan GT Academy Bryan Heitkotter in the race of Britcar GT Championship. They were driving Nissan 370Z for RJN Motorsport, which is an official partner of GT Academy. In the rest of the season, Jann participated in few more races with Nissan 370Z, including 24 hours of Silverstone.
In January 2012, four GT Academy winners (Lucas Ordonez, Jordan Tresson, Jann Mardenborough and Bryan Heitkotter) competed together at Dubai 24-hour race, finishing third in the SP2 class with Nissan 370Z.
Winning the race in the British GT Championship
For the rest of the 2012 season, Mardenborough switched to Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 car, competing both in the British GT Championship and Blancpain Endurance Series. In the British championship, his partner in the #35 car was Alex Buncombe. In ten races, they scored one victory at Brands Hatch and added two more podiums, to finish sixth in the GT3 class standings.
In the Blancpain Endurance Series, Mardenborough participated in four races, including 24 hours of Spa, sharing the car with Buncombe and Christopher Ward, but without notable results.
Switch to formula racing in 2013
In 2013, Mardenborough switched to open-wheel race cars, competing in the Toyota Racing Series New Zealand, British Formula 3 and European Formula 3 Championship. In those three series, the most notable results were two podiums in the British championship.
Mardenborough reached the podium in Le Mans debut
He continued to drive for Nissan, participating in two races of the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series and debuting at 24 hours of Le Mans. At 24 hours of Spa and 1000 km of Nurburgring, Jann was sharing the Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 with fellow GT Academy winners Lucas Ordonez, Peter Pyzera, Wolfgang Reip and Mark Shulzhitskiy.
At 24 hours of Le Mans, Mardenborough reached the podium in his debut participation, finishing third in the LMP2 class and ninth overall. He was driving the Nissan-powered Zytek Z11SN for Greaves Motorsport, alongside Lucas Ordonez and Michael Krumm.
GP3 Series victory at Hockenheimring
In 2014, Mardenborough's focus was still in the formula racing. After taking the second place in the Toyota Racing Series New Zealand, winning three of fifteen races, he entered GP3 Series with Arden International. In eighteen races he was victorious once, in the sprint race at Hockenheimring. He added one more podium to his account, finishing third at Hungaroring, to take ninth place in the final classification.
During the year, Jann had one-off appearances in the IMSA United Sports Car Championship and British GT Championship. In America, he participated in the 12 hours of Sebring, joining the Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf in the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's Oreca 03 prototype, but they didn't reach the finish. In the Brands Hatch's round of the British GT Championship, Jann partnered Chris Hoy in the Team RJN's Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, finishing 11th.
Second appearance at Le Mans with OAK Racing
In June 2014, Mardenborough returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe, partnering Alex Brundle and Mark Shulzhitskiy in the OAK Racing's #35 Ligier JS P2. After 24 hours of racing, they finished 9th overall and 5th in the LMP2 class.
One more season in the GP3 Series followed in 2015, this time with Carlin team. Jann's best result was third place is Spain and Russia, to finish ninth in the points. He missed the Italian round of GP3 Series at Monza to compete in Carlin's GP2 car.
Fatal accident at VLN race at Nurburgring Nordschleife
In GT racing, Jann participated in just two races. One of those two was the opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship at Nurburgring Nordschleife, on March 28. Jann had an accident with Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, flying over the fence and killing the spectator.
His second race with Nissan's GT3 car was Silverstone 3-hour race, which was the part of the Blancpain Endurance Series. Jann was sharing the car with two fresh GT Academy winners Gaetan Paletou and Ricardo Sanchez.
Nissan's LMP1 prototype was a failure
The highlight of the season was supposed to be the 2015 24 hours of Le Mans. Nissan entered the 2015 FIA WEC season with brand-new LMP1 prototype GT-R LM Nismo but the car was a complete failure, including Le Mans. Mardenborough was driving the #23 car, together with Max Chilton and Olivier Pla. They retired after 234 laps.
2016 - good results in Japan
In 2016, Jann continued his connection with Nissan, moving to Japan to compete in the Super GT Series and Japanese Formula 3 Championship. In the Super GT Series, Jann was driving the #3 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 for NDDP Racing, sharing the car with Kazuki Hoshino. In May, they won the 500-km race at Fuji. After eight races, they were fourth in the championship.
In the Formula 3 championship, Mardenborough was one of leading drivers and title contender. He scored four wins and finished second in the points, behind Kenta Yamashita.
Racing in Japanese major competitions
In 2017, Mardenborough stayed with Nissan in the Super GT Series but progressed to GT500 class, driving the #12 Nissan GT-R for Team Impul, sharing a car with Hironobu Yasuda. Mardenborough also made a progress in open-wheel racing, stepping from Formula 3 to Japanese Super Formula. He was driving the #20 Toyota for Team Impul but without notable results, finishing 14th in the points.
In 2018, he reduced his racing comittments to Super GT Series only, continuing to drive the #12 Nissan GT-R for Team Impul. His new partner was Daiki Sasaki. They scored one podium to finish 12th in the points. In 2019, he stayed in Super GT Series but switched to Kondo Racing #24 Nissan GT-R, sharing a car with Mitsunori Takaboshi.