In 2011, more than 90,000 people participated in the online trials for GT Academy, with the hopes of fulfilling their dream of becoming a professional race driver. One young Briton named Jann Mardenborough placed in the Top 20, then made his way to the finals, held at Silverstone Circuit in his native U.K. After an intense week at Race Camp with the other finalists - where he was confronted with challenges that ranged from driving race-prepped cars to strenuous physical exercises - Mardenborough emerged the champion.
Before the Academy, Mardenborough was prepping to go to university to study design and engineering. He has always been a race enthusiast, and preferred Touring Cars and the World Rally Championship (WRC) because he could recognize the same cars from the track to the street. Among his favorite drivers were Alain Menu, Tim Harvey and Colin McRae. Now he roots for Lewis Hamilton.
Mardenborough comes from good athletic stock, as his father was a professional soccer player, and although he expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, he discovered he was more comfortable playing golf and driving an indoor go-kart.
Once Mardenborough completed the Drivers Development Program, he took to the track as a pro. He impressed Nissan’s race team right away, finishing Third In Class at the 24 Hours of Dubai. Then, armed with a Nissan Nismo GT-R GT3 racecar, he competed in the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series and 2012 British GT Championships. While driving in the latter, he took pole position at the famed Nürburgring racetrack and ultimately finished Third Place, driving with his GT Academy teammate Alex Buncombe. They later won the race at Brands Hatch and placed Third at Snetterton.
Mardenborough’s ultimate ambition is to contest in Formula 1. He also aspires to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but for now, he says his immediate goal is to “learn something every time I get out of the car.” With an attitude like that, he just may one day be sharing the grid with his hero, Lewis Hamilton.