Alex Buncombe is confident that changes at Nissan over the winter will not have a detrimental impact on his Blancpain Endurance Cup title defence.
As the sole survivor of last year’s championship-winning team after Katsuma Chiyo was promoted to the Super GT GT500 class and Wolfgang Reip’s contract was not extended, 34-year-old Buncombe will be the de-facto team leader at RJN, with a returning Lucas Ordonez and Mitsunori Takaboshi completing the line-up in the Endurance Cup. Takaboshi, twice a winner in the Super GT GT300 category last year, will also partner Buncombe in the Sprint Cup.
|Buncombe was the champion in BES last year, but his team-mates|
Chiyo and Reip won't be returning in 2016 (Olivier Beroud).
The Brit has not raced in Sprint since 2013 when it was still known as the FIA GT Series and Takaboshi is new to racing in Europe, so Buncombe isn’t expecting to have it all his own way, but has faith in his team-mates to help deliver results.
“I’ve got a very busy season ahead of me with Mitsunori and Lucas, but we’re really looking forward it," he said. "Although Lucas came the GT Academy way I honestly don’t think of him as that now, he’s a pure Pro driver who needs no introduction. We last drove together in 2013 and we’ve done the Nürburgring 24 Hours for the last two years, so to have him back for the full season is really great. Lucas is a really good friend of mine and when I was told he was going to be my team-mate this year I couldn’t have been happier.
“I think we can expect some good things from Mitsunori. It’s tough to come over from Japan to Europe, especially having to learn the tyre which is completely different to what he’s been used to, but as the year progresses, I’m sure he’ll improve. I’ve only seen him do a few laps around Paul Ricard and he’s been instantly on the pace, so fingers crossed everything will go smoothly and we can have a fantastic year.”
Whilst his team-mates may be slightly different, the GT-R Nismo GT3 is now a well-known quantity, which could prove to be a vital asset in the early rounds as other teams get to grips with brand new machinery.
“As far as the engine goes and aero-wise, the car is identical," Buncombe revealed. "We have improved the car on our tyre longevity which was our issue last year and we’re hoping to work on it more before we get to Misano. Although we’re not running specific updates, there are little bits on the car that I know we’ve improved on. As we know in this game it’s the little bits here and there that you piece together that can make a massive difference to the end result. I'm feeling pretty confident that it will be a good year."