Whether it is a Codemasters Formula One game, Forza Motorsport or Grand Turismo, the majority of us will have sat down and enjoyed the odd gaming session where in our own online world, we are a world famous racing driver. Jann Mardenborough is one of the few gamers, who has turned his online racing career into a reality. Following his successful graduation from Nissan’s GT Academy in 2011, Jann has enjoyed a stint in Sportscars as well as in British Formula Three and is now firmly on the Formula One radar after being signed by Arden International’s GP3 team, placing him firmly on the Red Bull radar.
GT Academy was not your typical TV competition. Drivers on the PlayStation 3 platform would prove their racing credentials on Grand Turismo, with the final twelve being chosen to take their skills into reality. With the help of professional mentors, the drivers would compete against each other in various on-track driving events and the weakest would be eliminated in the typical format. In 2011, Jan Mardenborough was the last man standing and consequently won a professional racing contract and the chance to drive for Nissan’s team in the Dubai 24 Hours Hours.
It is an enthralling series, yet its winners are often criticized for never making a mark in the world of motorsport. Similar programmes have come in for similar criticisms, (if anyone remembers “Football’s Next Star,” they will know exactly what I mean.) However, Mardenborough has made the most of his opportunity and after a season of competitive sportscar racing in 2012, the Brit switched to single seaters and performed admirably in the British Formula Three Championship last year, finishing sixth in the standings. Meanwhile, his busy 2013 also featured a successful outing in the Le Mans 24 Hours, where he finished third in the LP2 category.
His 2013 successes have paved the way to GP3 for 2014, as Jann will drive for Christian Horner’s Arden International outfit and earn a complementary place in Red Bull’s famed Young Driver Programme. “I feel ready for GP3,” Mardenborough said. “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. I haven’t raced the GP3 car yet 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.”
While Formula Renault is currently proclaimed to be a better path to Formula One than GP3 and GP2, I am yet to be convinced. Following the F1 paddock and gaining experience on the acclaimed tracks is important and can provide another attribute in a Young Driver’s repertoire. Meanwhile, the stars of GP3 and GP2 can work alongside F1 teams and establish a foothold in their driver programmes, whilst maintaining a prominent position in a Team Principal’s thoughts. Their progress is much easier to track, meaning that GP3 is perhaps the best step forward Jann could have taken. I look forward to seeing how he progresses this season…