An unlucky, early mechanical failure put paid to the hopes of the PlayStation® Nissan team’s chances for a class win at the Spa 24 Hours. The Polyphony Digital- and PlayStation-backed Nissan 370Z GT4 car, run by RJN Motorsport, suffered a transmission failure just over an hour into the race.
The race result came with disappointment, following the team’s stellar qualifying performance. The weekend saw the 370Z’s first visit to the legendary Belgian race venue and, following tireless work from the mechanics and drivers, the Nissan took a qualifying time of 2.39.00 – which put the team first in class as well as starting ahead of GT3 and GTN class cars.
However, after one hour and 15 minutes into the race proper, the car lost all power. With Rob Barff at the wheel, the 370Z had fought through to 30th place overall and was putting in consistent, quick lap times. The car coasted to a halt a frustrating 300m from the pit entrance, effectively ending the team’s weekend.
Bob Neville, Team Manager, said: “Stopping on a track is the worst result for a race like this – there are only two circuits on the calendar where, if you break down, they don’t tow you back to the pits: Spa and Magny Cours.
“We still don’t know what caused the failure – the car is still out on the trackside and will be until the 24 hours is up. We had terrible luck – a few more yards and it would have coasted to the pits and we could have got it fixed up and back out into the fight. As long as you get back to the pits under your own steam, even if you’re missing a wheel, you can fix it and re-join the race!”
The PlayStation Nissan team drivers were British trio Rob Barff and brothers Chris and Alex Buncombe and up-and-coming Spanish racing star Lucas Ordoñez – winner of the inaugural GT Academy in 2008. Lucas’ prize was a spot in the Dubai International 24 Hour Race alongside Johnny Herbert which led to a full-season drive in the European GT4 Cup in 2009 with Alex Buncombe where the pair finished a close second in the Drivers’ Championship and secured the Team title.
Nissan and Polyphony Digital – creators of the successful Gran Turismo driving games – took the decision to support Lucas during the 2010 season and devised a programme of support and mentoring to prepare him for a full-time career in motorsports.
Lucas Ordoñez said: “It’s a shame we only got one hour on the track – but that’s racing. In practice and qualifying we were going very well, we had worked very hard on the setup of the car. We’d had some early braking problems which we managed to work out with a few different tweaks and this allowed us to qualify right at the top of our class.
“We tried to be gentle with the car – 24 hours is a long time to keep racing – aiming to finish on the podium – but after only an hour we were out of the running. I’m disappointed; but we can be very encouraged by our performance in qualifying.
“We’ve got three races left this season: the Nurburgring F1 circuit at the end of August, Algarve in Portugal and then the final round at Magny Cours in France. I’m looking forward to all three. We’re currently sixth in the championship. I think we’ve done well with a brand new car, it’s taken a lot of set-up and hard work but it’s clearly performing well – qualifying first in class this weekend. Our objective now is to make the 370Z as fast as possible and get the best setup so the 2011 drivers can start the season with all guns blazing.”
Team Manager Bob Neville said: “We’ll be back on the track at the Nurburgring on the 28-29 August. The short circuit is a fantastic racing venue, the drivers and team have experience there and we’ve got a brilliant set-up for the car. Once we get to Germany we can show everyone just how fast the 370Z is!”