MONZA, Italy – The Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 is a car that likes a bit of room to stretch its legs. At Monza – the Cathedral of Speed – there is plenty of room for that, albeit shared with 59 other cars racing in the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Nissan's gamers-to-racers also like a bit of room to show what they are made of and Monza was the perfect place for them to sample some flat-out GT racing, amongst some of the best professionals in the business.
The YouTube-liveried No.35 GT-R came home sixth in the Pro-Am class at Monza after dramatically taking the lead in the early stages of the race. The No.32 GT-R, raced by three GT Academy winners who only graduated last August, finished eighth in class.
This was the first race at Monza for Lucas Ordonez and the four most recent winners of GT Academy – Wolfgang Reip, Mark Shulzhitskiy, Peter Pyzera and Steve Doherty. Alex Buncombe has raced at the home of the Italian Grand Prix before and it was his performance today that shone as bright as the Italian sunshine.
Alex took the start in the YouTube GT-R after qualifying in a very strong fourth position. By the end of lap one he was up to second place and hounding the McLaren that had grabbed the lead at the start. It wasn't long before the GT-R got the better of the McLaren and he sailed into the outright lead.
Wolfgang also had a fantastic opening stint in the No.32 GT-R, moving up from 27th to 15th overall during his run. Starting the race was a big responsibility for the Belgian but he made a very mature Monza debut.
He said: "I tried to be careful at the start as turn one is so tight but I was also keen not to lose any positions. I was surprised at how slow the cars went through there; we almost stopped. The first lap was okay but after that it all went a little crazy. I had a great battle throughout my stint with the Marc VDS BMW of my GT Academy mentor Bas Leinders. He wasn't actually driving the car during my stint but I made sure that BMW didn't get past me! Peter and Mark drove so well today and I think we are all happy with our first race here at Monza."
It was Peter Pyzera who took over after Wolfie's stint and then Mark Shulzhitskiy took it too the flag. After losing some time in the pits the gamers had a fight on their hands to regain position but they kept cool heads and brought the GT-R back in eighth place.
After Alex's blazing start it was Lucas who was next up in the YouTube GT-R and after the pit stop he was fifth overall and first in the Pro-Am class.
He said: "The GT-R has been great here all weekend so it has been a lot of fun for us to race at Monza. When I jumped into the car everything felt great and I could push hard for the first half of my stint. After that I started to struggle a little with tire pressures and I struggled throughout my run with very heavy traffic. I think I learned more in this race than I have learned in any race, fighting with the top GT drivers. Unfortunately I 'did a Hamilton' when I pitted, stopping a couple of garages short so we lost a bit of time. It has been a pleasure to race the GT-R here. It felt great to take it through the famous Monza corners and I will take away some great memories."
The Nissan GT Academy Team RJN moves swiftly on now to Zolder in Belgium for the next round of the FIA GT Championship.
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