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Mardenborough ‘at home’ ahead of Fuji 24 Hours racing return

Jann Mardenborough says he has “felt at home” on his return to Japan as he prepares to return to race action this weekend in the Fuji 24 Hours.

Jann Mardenborough, #1 HELM MOTORSPORTS GTR GT3

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

The ex-SUPER GT racer is sharing a Helm Motorsport-run Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 with brothers Yuya and Reiji Hiraki, Shaun Thong and gentleman racer Yutaka Toriba for this weekend’s blue riband round of the Super Taikyu series.

It will mark his first professional outing since the end of his tenure as a Nissan GT500 driver, with Formula E development work and the forthcoming Gran Turismo movie having kept the 31-year-old Briton occupied in the meantime.

Speaking to Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition ahead of this weekend’s Fuji race, Mardenborough remarked on how much he is enjoying being back in the country where he spent five years racing full-time from 2016 to 2020.

“Everyone has been very welcoming - many teams, many old faces, friends, people from other manufacturers,” he said. “I was very surprised. It’s a really nice feeling for my soul.

“When I got off the flight from the UK, I felt like I’m home. I spent a lot of my career in Japan, living in Tokyo, integrating myself as much as possible. So to return here is a good feeling.”

Jann Mardenborough, #1 HELM MOTORSPORTS GTR GT3

Jann Mardenborough, #1 HELM MOTORSPORTS GTR GT3

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

On how the chance to race for Helm came about, he said: “Reiji and Yuya [Hiraki] contacted my management [Motors Formula Team] with the offer of racing here, and we started negotiations quickly afterwards. 

“Of course I wanted to do it, but it also had to fit into my schedule for this year, because I am quite busy with other projects. But we made it work. 

“The team is a great team, very strong, everyone is very professional. They are last year’s Super Taikyu champions and Fuji 24 Hours winners. Once I understood the line-up with Shaun [Thong] and Yutaka [Toriba], I knew we had a good package.”

Mardenborough said it took him only five laps of practice to get up to speed in the Helm Nissan GT-R, helped by private testing in GT3 and GT4 machinery during his absence from racing.

The team will start the race from pole position thanks to the combined efforts of Toriba and Yuya Hiraki, who outpaced their nearest rivals in the Rookie Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 by around seven tenths during qualifying on Friday.

“It’s my first time doing a 24-hour race at Fuji, but the objective is to win,” added Mardenborough. “Helm’s objective is to win also. The driver line-up, all five drivers, are strong. So the objective is to win and defend the crown.”

#1 HELM MOTORSPORTS GTR GT3

#1 HELM MOTORSPORTS GTR GT3

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

On what the future holds beyond Fuji, Mardenborough said that he is open to exploring other areas outside of Japanese racing.

"I spent a lot of time in Japan, in SUPER GT, and the GT500 car is a cool which I like a lot, but there are other things I would like to try," he said. "I’m interested in [WEC] Hypercar and in IMSA. Wherever the best opportunities lie, I will go.

"We will see what the future holds. But for now it’s not confirmed that I will focus on one area, or one region of the world."

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