From armchair to asphalt – part two
Sean chats to last year’s GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough to find out what it takes to go from zero to hero
He’s only 20 years old and less than 12 months from taking the spoils in the 2011 GT Academy, yet he’s already raced in a 24-hour endurance race and taken a win in the British GT championship at the wheel of his GT3 spec Nissan GT-R. Sickening.
Now he’s sat beside me nonchalantly eating a vanilla yoghurt. “I wouldn’t want to be where those guys are now,” he says talking of this year’s GT Academy competitors as they make their way to the pits to get in their cars for qualifying. “They’ll be nervous as hell.”
That might be an obvious statement. What isn’t so obvious is the areas the contestants will be scored on behind the scenes. Sure, pace in the car is a must-have, but the judges – learning from mentors’ feedback such as Mardenborough’s – also look for someone who in Jann’s words “is a sponge.”
He’s the best-placed person in the world to tell us what leads to success here:
“You need to soak up everything you can from your instructors. If you don’t listen, you don’t progress fast. Being calm and collected is a must, but the judges are also looking for someone who can learn, is easy to get along with, is physically fit, good in interviews and articulate – a well rounded package.” Not much then…
It’s clear to see Mardenborough fits the bill though. He’ll almost certainly have had the edges of the “rough diamond” metaphor he so eloquently uses to describe what the judges are looking for buffed away, but it’s obvious he holds these qualities in spades.
It’s interesting to hear the psychological coaching he’s gone through since passing out of Race Camp, however.
“My mistakes really hurt me at the start and I found it difficult to get over them. But going to see a psychological coach and learning methods to get over them – as well as training in how to prepare for a race so as not make the same mistake again – has been so beneficial.”
Jann tells me that he now draws up an hour-by-hour spreadsheet of his race weekend and writes everything down – “that way I’m not running around to do things I’ve forgotten – like leave tickets at the gate for sponsors – meaning I’m calmer and more relaxed.”
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. He continues to highlight that it means his head is less full of guff, meaning he can glean more from his mentors and other professional drivers around him.
“Being mentally strong can help you be physically strong, too.” Racing sportscars is all about endurance, whether it’s in the head or in the body - as plenty of eliminated GT Academy finalists know...
After all Mardenborough’s well-polished lines – and fair play to him, he’s still a truly likeable guy with it – a chink of light shines through his media armour.
“That’s what hurt me. You have to get on it quick in the car and it’s not always easy to do that straightaway as a rookie. I made a few mistakes and it took me a while to get over them.”
He salvages it nicely though: “But I did. I worked at it and got stronger mentally. It shows how important it is and GT Academy can deliver that with the calibre of mentors it has all over the place.” Smoothly done.
Mardenborough is the manifestation of what the GT Academy process produces.
His almost fanatical level of detail in terms of planning his race weekend, the mental preparation for his race and the way he deals with his triumphs and his mistakes when they happen shows the GT Academy can mould a bedroom gamer with zero experience into a real racer.
Don’t just take our word for it though, check back later in the week to hear former F1 driver and 1990 Le Mans winner Martin Brundle’s opinions on the GT Academy and the strengths and weaknesses of its graduates.
As he walks away to what I presume will be a debrief with his team boss detailing something or other, I’m surprised when he takes a detour via one of the GT5 simulators.
You can take the racer out of the gamer, but you can’t take the gamer out of the racer…
Engineers are using robots to test Ford vehicles through some of the most strenuous obstacles in the industry.
Date 18/06/13, Duration 2:20, Views 357
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