Nissan confirms all-star squad

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Nissan will enter the 2017 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with a star-studded driver line-up next month.

Entering the classic GT endurance race with two cars, Nissan has selected 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Katsumasa Chiyo, experienced Bathurst campaigner Alex Buncombe and local gun Michael Caruso to drive the #23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, while fellow 2015 race winner Florian Strauss will be joined by race debutants Jann Mardenborough and Todd Kelly.

Japanese star Chiyo has been one of the most popular drivers at the race in recent years, with his on-track flair and his off-track personality proving a winner with the fans.

Chiyo’s co-drivers, Buncombe and Caruso, will prove to be one of the fastest line-ups in the competitive 61 car field.

“I’m really looking forward to having a crack at the Bathurst 12 Hour again this year with my Australian family, Team Kelly and Team RJN,” said Chiyo.

“I have strong team-mates. It’s like a dream team.

“I’m always excited when I hear about the Bathurst 12 Hour. It is such an amazing track, awesome fans with amazing history.

“In 2015, we achieved winning the race after a dramatic finish. Last year, we tried to defend the title, but we were beaten by the McLaren.

“This year, I think our mission is simple – win back the trophy for the Nissan GT-R.”

The #24 car sees 2005 Bathurst 1000 winner Todd Kelly joined by two GT Academy stars that have made the most of their ‘gamer to racer’ status. Strauss needs no introduction to Bathurst having finished first and second in his two attempts (2015 and 2016). Mardenborough is regarded as one of the best GT Academy talents to filter through the system and starred in his first season in Japan last year in Super GT and Formula 3 – he will be one to watch as he makes his Mount Panorama debut.

“Firstly, I’m honored to be chosen by NISMO and Nissan Australia to represent them in the Bathurst 12 Hour,” said Mardenborough.

“It’s a race I’ve watch on television and played on PlayStation. I’m really excited to take part. Just playing the game, Sector 2 looks mega, so I can’t imagine what it will be like on the first lap and on qualifying tyres.

“I‘m hugely excited to compete with drivers that have lots of experience at the track, and with some drivers that I know quite well, like Florian and Chiyo.

“It will be great to be a part of a two-car team to put a fight to everyone else and aim for the top step. Time is ticking now – I can’t wait to jump on the plane to Australia.”

The Nissan GT-R GT3 NISMO has been a dominant global performer in recent years having tasted championship success in both Europe and Japan and as well as winning races in Australia and the USA.

The 2017 ‘once-around-the-clock’ race will be the fourth-straight year that Nissan has entered the race with a fully-fledged factory effort.

In 2014, Alex Buncombe, Wolfgang Reip, Rick Kelly and Katsumasa Chiyo failed to finish after Chiyo was involved in an early morning incident at the top of the mountain.

Vowing to make amends, Chiyo, Reip and Florian Strauss made international headlines with victory in 2015, defeating a strong line-up of international and local competitors.

Last year, Chiyo, Rick Kelly and Florian Strauss went within a whisker of repeating the feat, finishing second to the McLaren entry.

The 2017 Nissan entry marks the first time that the manufacturer has entered two cars in the race.

The two GT-R NISMO GT3s will be prepared by a combination of engineers, mechanics and staff from Japanese-based NISMO International, Team RJN from the UK and the local Nissan Motorsport Supercars team.