Jann Mardenborough: Life in the fast lane

by Oscar Boyd

Staff Writer

Name: Jann Mardenborough
Age: 26
Nationality: Welsh
Occupation: Racing driver (Super GT, Super Formula)
Likes: Cars, women, winter holidays
Dislikes: Queues, motorways outside of Germany, constrained architecture

1. How did you first get into racing?Six years ago, I won the GT Academy PlayStation competition, played on “GranTurismo” (GT). The competition was supported by Nissan to find the fastest driver on the game. I progressed through various stages of the competition and for winning, I was awarded a position in the 2012 Dubai 24 Hour race. I finished third overall in that race. Nissan/NISMO have employed me ever since in various categories.

2. Had you raced on a track before that first drive for Nissan? Not at all.

3. What do other drivers think of your route into the sport? They’re impressed so I hear, I haven’t asked them personally.

4. How did it feel driving on a physical track the first time? I didn’t find the difference too big at all, especially in the GT-style car. Lately, the throttle, brake and steering inputs are so accurately modelled in racing-game car physics engines. So taking a car to its limit of adhesion and keeping it there requires similar inputs in both the virtual world and in reality. And self-preservation at 19 years old isn’t much of a obstacle to overcome!

5. Do you have a favorite circuit in Japan? Sugo Sportsland, nailing a lap there in qualifying is a massive rush. The slightest mistake and you’ll have the biggest crash of your life. It’s terribly addictive.

6. Cardiff or Tokyo? Tokyo. The lights captivate me at night and there’s so much going on to experience. Fashion too, the people have such good style. On Sundays the fancy cars come out to play in Tokyo, that alone sways me toward Tokyo.

7. You drive both Super GT and Super Formula cars competitively: Which is more fun? Super Formula for qualifying, as the car really comes alive on new tyres: It’s incredibly sensitive to driver inputs. But GT500 during a race.

8. How about your favorite car to drive, ever? In terms of racing, the Nissan GT-R GT1 from 2011. It’s a proper race car with a huge rumble from its V8 engine. Road car? The Ferrari 458.

9. What’s been your greatest challenge when racing? Acting professional after my teammates and I had been leading the LeMans 24 hours for 22½ hours, only for the engine to develop a problem during that last 1½ hour, dropping us to fifth.

10. Have you experienced anything unexpected in your career racing in Japan? The supporters. They’re hugely passionate and know each driver’s history. I recently signed the rear window of a fan’s car!

11. What goes through your head during a race? I go through the basics I need to achieve in order to get a top result: Remembering the amount of burnouts I need to do at the beginning of a race, the optimum clutch temperature settings while doing the burnouts and how much slip I need to apply to the clutch during a race start launch. If I focus on these fundamentals, my mindset is crystal clear. The start is everything in motorsport.

12. Who — living or deceased — would you invite along for a bender, and where would you take them? 2Pac to the mysterious Shinjuku.

13. You’ve got 30 minutes to kill. How are you going to spend it? On Reddit looking at memes and watching PewDiePie videos on YouTube.

14. What’s your favorite song/artist to drive to? CASisDEAD, the British grime artist.

15. Name a Japanese custom or expression that should be exported and why? Genuine compassion to others. In Japan, there’s a respect everyone has for each other. It’s admirable to witness it. It makes day-to-day public engagements more enjoyable and most of the time, both parties leave with no bad thoughts.

16. If you were to write an autobiography, what would you title it? “I rage-quit too.” Because I still do on games. Considering my career so far, most people think I never lose in online racing games, but to be frank I do and I get angry like everybody else when I lose a race. And sometimes I rage-quit too!

17. If you weren’t a driver, what would you like to be doing now? Designing furniture for an uninspiring company. I had some talent for designing products in secondary school.

18. You get the opportunity to win one title/trophy/competition in any sport — what would it be? I’d like to become the F1 Drivers World Champion at Silverstone Circuit in the U.K. To me that goal is everything.

19. When do you think we’ll see a female Formula 4 champion? Juju Noda (the 12-year-old Japanese Formula 4 driver) by 2028.

20. It’s now 2030, who’d win a race between you and a self-driving car? Me, without a shadow of a doubt.