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Jann Mardenborough and Red Bull Racing
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Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  17 Feb 2014   |  9:00 pm GMT  |  69 comments

Jann Mardenborough, the video gamer who graduated from console racing to Le Mans racing and F3 competition, has been signed to drive for Christian Horner’s Arden International Team in this year’s GP3 championship. He has also secured access to Red Bull Racing’s driver development facilities.

The 22-year-old driver graduated to professional racing by winning GT Academy, a competition organised by Nissan and Sony that saw gamers compete on the Gran Turismo video game in pursuit of a real-world drive. Mardenborough won the 2011 edition beating out some 90,000 other entrants.

Since then he has competed in GT cars, Le Mans Prototypes and single-seaters, his most recent efforts earning him the runner-up spot in the New Zealand-based TRS single-seater championship. He also finished third in the LMP2 class at Le Mans last year.

Apart from competing in GP3, Mardenborough will gain access to Red Bull Racing’s driver development tools including time in the simulator. He hasn’t, however, been signed to Red Bull’s Junior Team development programme, which this year has slimmed down its roster to just three drivers: Spain’s Carlos Sainz Jnr, Briton’s Alex Lynn and French racer Pierre Gasly.

“I feel ready for GP3,” said Mardenborough of the challenge ahead. “I’ve prepared well and I have all the right people around me to help my development so I can fully focus on my racing. Formula 3 has taught me so many things, both in the car and out of the car, both mentally and physically. It was a great stage in my development and I’m sure the skills I’ve learnt there will help me in GP3 and beyond. I’m excited to work with Arden. My initial impressions of them are excellent; they have a lot of experience and great success over the years. I’m looking forward to working with my race engineer Sean (McGill).

“I haven’t raced the GP3 car yet,” he added. “But going on initial testing, I prefer the GP3 car to an F3 car. The power is very addictive! This season is my opportunity to impress more people in the sport who make the decisions on who makes it into F1 and who doesn’t and I’m going to give it my best shot.”

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69 Comments
  1. Brian Hinder says:

    I wonder whether Senna had to overcome 90,000 rivals before joining F1?

    1. Step says:

      I don’t understand the relevance of Senna to this story?

    2. Random 79 says:

      9 rivals, 90,000 rivals or 9,000,000,000 rivals – if you’re the best of the best then it doesn’t really matter how many are behind you :)

      But if you think about all the drivers competing around the world and aspiring to get into F1 some day then yes, Senna probably did have 90,000 rivals, just in a more indirect way.

      1. Gaz Boy says:

        Is this the ultimate expression of the Playstation generation?

      2. Random 79 says:

        How so?

        If it’s the first sentence then I think that’s just an expression of sports people in general.

      3. Gaz Boy says:

        In so far as today’s crop of racing drivers learnt to race literally at home, not just when they turned the legal age to race a kart. I stand to be corrected, but I don’t think Jenson, Fernando, Kimi et al learnt about oversteer from their Spectrum ZX81 or Commordore C64.

      4. Quade says:

        Lewis Hamilton started in the exact same way. Only it was radio controlled cars on Blue Peter.

        In this new app driven World, the console is the logical choice to drive F1 forward – whether its drivers or fans.

        The new high tech age demands that F1 be at the crest of the curve, sadly the sport is led by a man who’s thinking is truly Precambrian. Its strange how F1 has had to rely on absolutely stupid tricks like fast wearing tyres. Give me just a couple of F1′s telemetry streams and I’d be the next billionaire.

      5. beardymart says:

        Point is that he won his seat in the Nissan GT Academy, to race real cars, by winning a virtual racing competition. Mardenborough had no real-world racing experience when he won Nissan GT Academy. The aim of Nissan’s impressive programme is to give each driver a lot of experience in a short space of time; enough to earn the driver their “International C” racing license, I believe.

        Comparing the Red Bull young driver programme with Nissan GT Academy is interesting. The Nissan programme contains a lot of fitness, driving and media coaching, in a very supportive “arm around the shoulder” atmosphere. The Red Bull programme is much more sink-or-swim it seems; just many a former Torro Rosso driver.

        I remember hearing someone from Nissan interviewed last year, admitting that Mardenborough is likely to be a hot properly in single-seaters and Nissan may not be able to keep him in GT and endurance racing.

        Best of luck to Jan.

      6. Random 79 says:

        @Gaz

        I’m not sure Jenson ever learned to oversteer :)

      7. Martin says:

        I have read that Lewis Hamilton started in radio controlled car racing before karting. The main difference to Playstation is the visual perception bit, which while 3D is different from the standard view in the race.

    3. Very good point.

      James – your former Network Ten colleague Craig Baird usually finishes in the top two in Singapore round of the Carrera Cup but finished dead last in the F1 2013 console game promotional event on the same track!

    4. Nick says:

      Senna may not have had 90,000 virtual gamers to compete against.

      Instead he won almost everything before F1 and then had Prost, Mansell, Piquet, Berger, Roseberg, Lauda, Schumacher and other greats to deal with when he got there.

  2. Chromatic says:

    Should give Grosjean a run for his money on the simulator.

    1. Roth says:

      In case you hadn’t noticed Grosjean is properly quick and recently quite poised. Or are you still stuck in August 2012?

  3. SteveS says:

    And all across the land you hear the cry go up – “You hear that, Mom? I really CAN make a living from playing video games!”

  4. JEZ Playense says:

    Jann Mardenborough if you read this firstly congratulations an secondly keep living the dream!

    1. aveli says:

      a very strong message. I like!

  5. F Zero says:

    I always wondered what happened to the winners of these competitions.

    Glad to see someone actually make it into a real race seat.

    1. Andy says:

      Lucas Ordonez, who won the competition before Jann, does a pretty good job at Le Mans and in GT racing.

    2. MattDS says:

      He’s not the first one – look up Lucas Ordóñez :)

    3. Andrew Carter says:

      Its not hard to find out, most are Nissan drivers in GT/Sportscar racing. I think the second winner Jordan Tresson is the only one thats not racing anymore.

    4. Phil Shotton says:

      So you haven’t heard of Lucas Ordonez either then?

    5. They tend to be racing for the most part actually.

  6. Jonathan Bowers says:

    What do you think of this news James? Is it a good thing for Motorsport? How do you think he will do in GP3?

    1. MattDS says:

      Don’t expect too much from him this year. It is still only his second season of single seater racing. To be in a GP3 car already is a huge accomplishment and if he can run mid-pack that would be a great achievement considering he’s up against vastly more experienced racers, and it’s a competitive series on top of that.

  7. Thompson says:

    Good for him. If he possesses the fearlessness that is an essential part of a racers make-up he may do well.
    It”ll be interesting to see how he gets on against those who could afford the traditional routes i.e carting over the season.

    Could this be the future of recruiting drivers of the future?

    Considering the lack of testing allowed it could well be.

  8. aveli says:

    when I first heard of jann, i thought it wasn’t possible for him to get into professional racing until i saw him in the le man car. the guy is awesome! he had 2 other more experienced teammates and he was faster than both of them. it was also impressive to see how johnny herbert was impress by jann in the gt competition.
    i hope he makes it into f1. his story is even more remarkable than hamilton’s.

    1. Great info. And I will search for youtube videos of Jann at Le Mans.

      1. dzolve says:

        Fantastic story! I hope he does well.
        There’s a good article about how he met Jonny Herbert here:
        http://www.houseofjapan.com/electronics/my-incredible-year-with-gt-academy

  9. Rich C says:

    While I don’t believe that 22 yr olds actually talk like a PR handler, I hope he rocks ‘em!

  10. Craig in Manila says:

    I thought the GP3 team was MW Arden and was joint-owned by Horner and Webber.

    Has Webber now departed the scene ?

    1. 1.6V6T says:

      I think that’s the GP2 team name. I’m not 100%

    2. Yes – Webber has split from Arden’s GP3 operation. He was never associated with the GP2 team.

    3. Quade says:

      Isn’t it owned by Christian Horner?

  11. Witless76 says:

    Let me be first of JM’s fellow GT racers to congratulate him on this next step towards F1 stardom and success. Winning GT Academy is not easy, and I should know; I’m one of the 90,000 he beat…

  12. Nico says:

    James – Did he have any real racing experience before being plucked out of cyber world?

    Plus, wasn’t one of Perez’s criticisms that too much focus was placed on the simulator which led to his replacement?

    1. James Allen says:

      No. I met him last year and he had not raced

      1. Gerard says:

        Surely James the article suggests different, he has raced as per the article and been reasonably successful.

      2. jhynesadmin says:

        I believe Jann had done some karting when very young but then stopped. When he won the GT Academy he graduated to a real race seat and has had some success, but prior to the competition he had not raced.

      3. Tim Walters says:

        Right. I think what James means is that when he met Jann last year, Jann said that he had not raced (cars) before the GT Academy.

  13. Warren G says:

    Wow, that’s pretty impressive. Clearly the guy has some talent. What a story if he eventually makes it to F1!

  14. Good luck to him. This is a superb opportunity.

  15. Chris Chong says:

    Driving games with convincing physics have been around for a long time, now, so it’s only a matter of time before the majority of race drivers hone their skills from an early age in the living room.

    1. Gaz Boy says:

      Perhaps the emerging generation of F1 drivers already has………….

    2. Grant says:

      Agreed.
      That’s why this man’s succees will indeed be quite symbolic in the history of the sport.

  16. Gerard says:

    Gaming is the future of racing as are the simulators therefore you would expect the cross over to real racing to be simple. I’m sure there are some 120kg experts on the internet which puts them out of top class racing but it takes a lot of finesse to be ultra quick on a console and a simulator. Yet another avenue for racers with small budgets.
    And hats off to Nissan for making this possible

  17. Nedder says:

    I’m pretty damn good on a video game myself, but I’ll admit that, when I raced powerful karts a few years back, I was taken aback by the sheer physicality involved, and how much that limits your mental capacity. That was a bit of an eye-opener, and it turned out I wasn’t quite as good in the real world as I had expected to be… Stepping from video games to real racing machinery is a pretty impressive feat, and for Jann to do such a good job at this stage of his career is quite incredible! Best of luck to him, I say. I shall be watching GP3 this year with great interest…

    1. Jimbob says:

      +1

      I race karts and race on GT… In the rental karts I’m around a 1-1.5 seconds off the lap record at just about every track I’ve ever driven a rental on and that’s quite a few. Guess how far I am off the top guys on GT? About a second.

      That tells me a couple of things, 1) I am not pro racer material and 2) Provided you have the strength\fitness to drive in reality as you do in the game you’ll be close. After all, it’s all about lines, braking points and holding the car on the limit whether in reality or virtual and racing sims are pretty damn good these days.

      In fact, I’d only driven properly in anger with a wheel on GT4\GT5 before starting to race karts and I was immediately on the pace I drive at now, other than being more consistent I’ve hardly improved my speed at all – Seems I found my limit on the game before getting in a kart.

  18. Bjornar Simonsen says:

    I love this. I have been a big Gran Turismo fan since the first edition. I’m usually in the top 20 in my country and 200-250 internationally in GT academy.

  19. Andrew S says:

    This is a really interesting way to “find” a new race driver (at whatever level)
    Whether it has success or not only time will tell but I find this quite exciting.

  20. Paul Mc says:

    There is now a new class of driver sitting at home in front of racing games. GT Academy proves that there are a lot of very fast drivers in the gaming community that do not have the means to go racing themselves in real life. I hope this is the first of many to come through that route.

    Best of luck to Jann!

  21. Tim Walters says:

    Congrats to Jann, but he’s just lucky that I didn’t enter the GT Academy. Imagine the headline: Arden signs 56 year-old to GP3 drive!

  22. Johnson says:

    So this kid has no Kart racing under his belt?
    This is where you learn your bread and butter, in Karts.

    1. Alexander Supertramp says:

      I read he was in karts from age 9 to 12, then the circuit closed and he didn’t have the money to continue karting..

  23. JB says:

    Hang on? He won a game competition.
    He didn’t even race in a real car.

    You don’t experience anything real in a sim. no bumps, no g-force, no-imperfection on roads, no mech failure.. You get the idea? It is not real!

    It’s like Neo can be superman in the Matrix and beat up countless of agents but in the real world he is just another man with no muscle tissue.

    1. Quade says:

      Dude, read the story again. The boy is pretty handy in a real race car too.

      1. JB says:

        I did read the story and nothing impressive came out in terms of real racing records. yes, he got famous then got a chance to drive in real racing cars with little notable results. Anyone can drive average if given the opportunities. Very few can be stand outs and even fewer brilliant at it.

      2. Quade says:

        You seriously think he is an average driver? Hmmmmmm!

    2. Jimbob says:

      There are plenty of bumps and road imperfections in GT… Have you ever driven on that game with a decent force feedback wheel\pedal setup?

      If not then your opinion doesn’t mean anything and if you have you were most likely pootling around too slowly to notice the realism.

      Don’t get me wrong, racing sims aren’t the real thing but if you know how to drive quick on a sim then chances are you can apply that to real world driving…

      1. Jb says:

        Yes I have driven many force feedback steering but they are nothing compared to the real impact of from g-forces. What I meant is the g loads on drivers body.

        Even on a gokart, you can feel 10000x more impact than a simulator.

      2. Random 79 says:

        I think what Jimbob is saying is that a simulator can help you develop your skills as a driver, which is why real race drivers use them – except the ones they use are just a tad more advanced and expensive than the ones we have at home.

        G-Force is something that is very difficult (probably even impossible) to simulate realistically, but you can get a feel for the way a car will handle, but what is probably more of a benefit than anything for your average driver is how to handle one when you lose control – many new drivers would slam on the brakes and jerk the wheel, while a more experienced driver would try to go with it a bit and ease it back to where they want it (always dependent on the circumstances).

        But you are also right – no simulator is a substitute for the real thing.

      3. Jimbob says:

        You’re definitely right about g-force but the actual driving technique is the same… I posted further up regarding my first hand experience with both virtual and real racing – I’m not the quickest by any stretch of the imagination but I am about the same distance from the top guys on GT with a wheel as I am in a real kart on a real track.

  24. Quade says:

    I just learnt his dad used to be a footballer (not for any great team though), so sports (good reflexes) could run in the family.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Mardenborough

  25. Paul says:

    Anyone who’s followed Jann will know that he’s looked mighty in GTs but quite average in single seaters – a handful of points in Euro F3 last year, a few podiums but no wins in a quite weak British F3 field, and only 2nd in the Toyota Racing Series when he was one of the most experienced competing. I can’t help but think he keeps getting these breaks because of his great story rather than genuine talent in single seaters.

  26. Goob says:

    He can probably do a better job then Vettel… after all he is better at pushing buttons…

    1. Random 79 says:

      Ahhh, but how good is he at pointing his finger?

  27. Delgado says:

    Perhaps Nissan will run their competition again though make it girls only. There must be many young and talented female gamers out there, some of whom may already manifest their racing talent through go-karting and the like. Yeah, I’m thinking of the recent article on Simona De Silvestro.

  28. Bur1yman says:

    If you’re 6’5″ and 350 lbs., I don’t think it’ll matter how well you do in the game. There’s only a finite amount of skills in the game that apply to reality.

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