Nissan has now revealed that previous finalists and winners of its GT Academy gamer-turned-racer program will be given a chance to join its LMP1 team, and among the contenders are some American drivers. Yes, former U.S. GT Academy winners Bryan Heitkotter (2011), Steve Doherty (2012) and Nick McMillen (2013) plus a number of other past American finalists will be given the chance to impress the LMP1 team’s management.
Of course, impressing the managers won’t be enough to get a seat in the new LMP1 straight away. Once the most suitable GT Academy alumni are identified, they will have to go through an intensive driver training program before initially driving in a new LMP3 car in 2015, which Nissan will supply engines for. Nissan-powered LMP2s would be the next step, with racing at Le Mans included, and then they would be ready for the LMP1 arena, expected to be in time for the 2016 season.
"It is going to take more than just talent to get them into an LMP1 car, but the opportunity will be there if they are prepared to work for it,” NISMO sales and marketing chief Darren Cox said in a statement. “Getting experience in prototype machinery will be a critical component of the development process.”
Nissan's new LMP1 team will have a base in the U.S., taking advantage of track facilities in the warmer southern states climate to test the new GTR LM NISMO. The team is currently setting up its new U.S. home, refurbishing the former Indianapolis headquarters of Champ Car team Forsythe Racing. The team will also be run by managers at NISMO’s headquarters in Japan and have a base in Europe as well.
Not much is known about Nissan’s GTR LM NISMO LMP1, unfortunately. The new race car will feature a hybrid drivetrain and a design influenced by the lines of the next-generation GT-R, whose own design will be influenced by Nissan's Concept 2020 Vision Gran Turismo. The list of drivers as well as the date of the GT-R LM NISMO's debut will be revealed in due course.