Jann Mardenborough: "I just want to go fast"

TG catches up with very fast gamer turned very fast racing driver

Jann Mardenborough is a top lad. He won Nissan’s GT Academy – where gamers are turned into proper racing drivers – when he was 19 years old. Now 26, he’s raced at Le Mans, in the British GT Championship and in Formula 3. Nowadays he lives in Japan. Last year he raced Super GT’s GT300 class and in Japan’s F3 series. This year he graduated to GT500 and Super Formula – bigger and more serious series by all accounts. We’ve followed his career from the start, so we popped up to Silverstone the other day for a catch-up.

TG: This year you’re racing in GT500 and Super Formula in Japan. How’s that going?

JM: GT500 cars are super cool, for one. This season so far hasn’t gone as I expected it to go. We haven’t been strong. It’s a combination of the tyre, the car and the setup not working. There are new rules this year, new regulations, and we just haven’t been as quick as we should have.

It’s a bit frustrating. We haven’t really got a good result yet - I can’t even remember the top result we’ve had. It’s nothing to write home about. I haven’t spoken about next year – but I’d like to think I’ll be driving again, and with all the preseason testing we’ll do well get back to where Impul and Calsonic should be. Fighting against Nismo, at the top, at the front.

Then Super Formula, the last round we didn’t do the correct strategy. It was a track called Sugo, it’s about a 90 minute race. We don’t need to change tyres because they last a whole race. But we did need to pit for fuel, but our calculations were completely wrong because two cars raced without a pit stop, just with fuel saving. We pitted too early in the race, which meant we came out behind everyone else and were in 15th/16th.

It’s so hard to overtake anyway, and Sugo is just the most mad circuit ever. Gassly does the championship with me, and he said it’s the most crazy track he’s ever driven on.

TG: What do you prefer, GT or single-seaters?

JM: This year, the single-seater stuff. The car is in the window, it’s working. I prefer the racing in 500, but for one lap it’s the single-seater. It’s just unbelievable over one lap. Super Formula is the quickest single-seater bar F1.

TG: Last time we spoke, you said F1 was “the dream”. Is it still? 

JM: It will always be the ultimate goal. I want to drive an F1 car, I want to reach the top, but what I’m doing at the moment – I’m not blinkered. I’m in a very good position, getting paid to race cars. And I get to race a car which has a different engine in it in Super Formula. It’s a Toyota engine and Nissan has allowed me to do that, which is very rare. GT500 is the top, the fastest GT cars in the world. So I’m happy, but you can always be happier!

TG: What do you make of this year’s F1 season?

JM: Hamilton will get it. Last race [Singapore] was very exciting. It was raining! I was hyped – I was in Tokyo, and I rushed home that race-weekend to go and watch it at a reasonable time. I was like “this is going to be sick!”. Got all my food ready… And the start, just couldn’t believe it. I was like “no way!” Shouting at the TV! 

TG: Any plans to race more in the US/Europe?

JM: No plans, but – at the moment I love what I do, so championship-wise I want to keep doing that. But this year there have been gaps where I could have done races that I would have loved to do. One of them Daytona, Le Mans, the Spa 24hrs– I’d love to do it again. So there’s no plans, but if there was ever a gap I’d love the opportunity to do it. I want to drive as many cars and do as much driving as possible. I just want to go fast. I’d rather have a constant weekend’s racing, than fill it with training which isn’t as exciting.