Nissan GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough is to move to the GP3 Series this season with Arden International, as he sets his sights on Formula One.
Alongside his move to the team owned by Red Bull F1 team principal Christian Horner and his father Garry, the Welshman also joins the Red Bull junior driver development programme, but is not a member of the Red Bull junior team.
Having won the Sony PlayStation competition in 2011, Mardenborough spent last season in the FIA European F3 Championship with Carlin, having also competed in both British GT and the Blancpain Endurance Series with RJN Nissan .
Indeed during the Brands Hatch round of the 2012 British GT campaign that Mardenborough, alongside teammate Alex Buncombe, grabbed a famously a narrow victory over the Beechdean Aston Martin pairing of Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard.
The 22-year-old has also claimed a class podium in the LMP2 category in the Le Mans 24 Hour race with Greaves Motorsport and took his first single-seater race wins earlier this year in the Toyota Racing Series, eventually finishing runner-up by only eight points to Andrew Tang.
It will be an interesting move for Mardenborough having shown plenty of speed in the past few seasons; however at times, some avoidable accidents have exposed his inexperience; however he feels ready for the challenge ahead. “I feel ready for GP3. 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. Formula 3 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.”
Focussing on the task ahead, Mardenborough added: “I’m excited to work with Arden. 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). 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.”
For Red Bull, the inclusion of Mardenborough presents a new dimension to the young driver programme, as noted by Red Bull’s driver development manager, Andy Damerum. “We have been tracking Nissan’s innovative approach to motorsport and in particular GT Academy that challenges the status quo of motorsport. 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.”
Former racer and GT Academy judge Johnny Herbert was also hugely impressed with Mardenborough’s progress. “His talent has not only impressed me, but has now got experienced figureheads in motorsport talking about what Jann, Nissan and GT Academy is 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?’”
Arden have enjoyed GP3 success in recent years with champions Mitch Evans and Daniil Kvyat. For 2014, Mardenborough will be partnered by Robert Visoiu and Patric Niederhauser.