The original winner of Nissan’s GT Academy, Lucas Ordonez, has certainly come a long way since his student days of 2008. After winning the first-ever round of GT Academy that year, Ordonez was propelled into the world of GT4 racing where he competed in a Nissan 350Z and then the 370Z. In 2010 he raced an LMP2 car for the first time, competing in a 1,000-kilometer race at Silverstone.
He impressed with his performance and earned himself a seat in the Signatech Nissan LMP2 car for the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans, an event in which he and two other drivers finished second in class. In the years since, he has been racing with Greaves Motorsport in the famous race at Le Mans, but this year he will be driving Nissan’s radical ZEOD RC.
The electrified race car, which will occupy the ‘Garage 56’ experimental entry is being used by Nissan as part of its planned assault on the top-level LMP1 class next year, including in the full 2015 season of the World Endurance Championship.
But Ordonez has a lot more on his plate than just Le Mans. The 28-year-old Spaniard will also compete in Japan’s premier touring car series Super GT this season, competing with a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 in the GT300 class. This Super GT drive is just reward for the hard work Ordonez has put in since winning GT Academy in 2008, Nissan said in a statement.
All of the winners of GT Academy who make the grade, as Ordonez has, are eligible for the NISMO Global Driver Exchange, a program that provides Nissan drivers opportunities to race all over the world. Ordonez’s Super GT drive is the first of two full-season exchanges to take place.
Another up-and-coming GT Academy winner is Britain’s Jann Mardenborough, who won the video game competition in 2011. Together with Ordonez and Nissan factory driver Michael Krumm, Mardenborough finished 3rd in class at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Greaves Motorsport LMP2 car.
Now the 22-year-old has been signed up for the intensive driver development program for Formula One team Red Bull Racing, which is sponsored by Nissan’s upmarket Infiniti brand. He will also compete with Arden International in GP3 racing this year, a traditional F1 feeder series. Arden’s most recent success story is that of Russian racer Daniil Kyvat who won the GP3 title in 2013 and will now race in F1 with Toro Rosso in 2014.