LE CASTELLET, France – Nissan, NISMO and GT Academy Team RJN will take their first steps towards defending their Blancpain Endurance Series championship this week at Circuit Paul Ricard in the South of France.
Nissan's 2016 lineup will continue the development of the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 at the Blancpain pre-season test at the venue where the team triumphed in 2015.
Victory in the Six Hours of Paul Ricard last season was a key step in the team's drive for championship success. For 2016, Nissan will not only defend its driver's endurance championship, but also contest the Blancpain sprint title for the first time.
At this week's test, Nissan's full line-up of seven GT-R drivers will complete laps aboard the No.23 (Pro) and No.24 (Pro-Am) entries including:
No.23 - Pro: Alex Buncombe, Mitsunori Takaboshi
No.24 - Pro Silver Cup: Sean Walkinshaw, Ricardo Sánchez
No.23 - Pro: Alex Buncombe, Lucas Ordóñez, Mitsunori Takaboshi
No. 24 - Pro Am: Sean Walkinshaw, Matt Simmons, Romain Sarazin
Japanese ace Mitsunori Takaboshi will make his European debut this week while Sean Walkinshaw makes his factory debut after impressive Blancpain efforts on board a GT-R last season.
Reigning Endurance champion Alex Buncombe is back along with former GT Academy winners Lucas Ordóñez and Ricardo Sánchez. The inaugural GT Academy winner, Ordóñez, returns to Europe after two seasons racing in Japan.
The Paul Ricard test will also be next step in the driver development program for Nissan's 2015 GT Academy winners Matt Simmons (International) and Romain Sarazin (Europe).
"For myself, I want to get as comfortable as I can with the car and learn as much as I can from my pro driver teammate Sean Walkinshaw, and obviously Romain (Sarazin) – working together to get ourselves up to speed," said Simmons. "I don't want to set too high expectations on myself because I feel like it's going to be a challenge. For me, I want to be able to enjoy it, but also learn from the team and overall just get really comfortable and work forward.
"The first race we would obviously love to finish, and that's what our goal is, and obviously the higher the better, because we are racing drivers and we are competitive. I feel like I've prepared really well coming into the test but will continue to push towards the first race. I feel very ready and well prepared to give myself the very best opportunity in the car."
Upcoming NISMO Calendar
Blancpain Endurance Series Pre-season Test, Circuit Paul Ricard, France
Pirelli World Challenge, St Petersburg street circuit, Florida, USA
V8 Supercars, Australian Grand Prix Support Race, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
European Le Mans Series Official Test, Circuit Paul Ricard, France
FIA WEC Prologue, Circuit Paul Ricard, France