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My 2014 Year In Review

2014 has been an incredible year for myself. I’ve gotten to travel half way across the world to experience countries I never thought I’d have the chance to see. I’ve raced cars I could only dream of, on tracks that carry so much rich racing history with them. I have had the opportunity to work with great people, in and around the sport of racing. I wouldn’t trade my experiences this year for anything else.

I won Nissan’s GT Academy program late 2013 which was an amazing experience in itself, but what I didn’t realize was that it was just the beginning of a great adventure. 2014 was kicked off with a trip to Dubai. My trip to Dubai would be a number of firsts, with my first international race, first 24 hour race, and ultimately ended in my first professional win with my teammates! After winning the 24 Hours of Dubai my reality set in. I had proved to myself I was a racing driver with a result to back it up. There was no better way to get my year and racing career started.

After Dubai, training began for the upcoming Blancpain Endurance Series where I would be piloting the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 alongside Alex Buncombe and Florian Strauss. Each day of testing made me more anxious to start the season. I still couldn’t believe I would be traveling all over Europe to race against manufacturers like Mclaren, Ferrari, Audi, and more; not to mention the nostalgic races including the 24 Hours of Spa and the 1000km of Nurburgring which have been around for decades.

The first round of the Blancpain Endurance Series was set in Italy at Monza, one of the fastest tracks of the season. I was nervous but very anxious to begin the weekend. All my anxieties melted away as I got in the car and began proving to myself I deserved to be there. At one point I was even chasing down first in class while running top ten overall during my stint. We finished 5th in class at our first race in the GT3 so I took what I had learned from Monza and carried it on to Silverstone.

Silverstone was the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series and a home race for us GT Academy drivers. We had put in hundreds of laps training and racing since we had won our regions in 2013 at Silverstone. This was a “home” race for us which was comforting going into the race weekend. Our experience would pay off with good pace during practice and qualifying sessions. In the end my teammates and I would run up front the whole race and cross the line in first place. We had officially won our first race in the GT3 car! I got to stand on the top step of the podium with my great teammates, pop champagne, and take home a massive trophy for our efforts. I had tasted success and wanted more of it.

We headed to Paul Ricard in the south of France next for the third race of the season. I was still on a high from Silverstone knowing we had the pace to win and were now in the battle for the championship. Our success from Silverstone would unfortunately not be repeated with struggles for myself during the whole weekend and more issues during the race for myself and my car. Unfortunate events resulted in us finishing something around 13th in class, out of the points. Paul Ricard was an ultimate low for myself during but it made me dig to find motivation to become a better driver and get back on pace for the last two races of the year.

After Paul Ricard I got to spend an extra day in France where I treated myself to the beach and took a short trip with Stanislav Akesnov to Monaco not knowing if we’d ever get the chance to go again. We wondered around for a little bit and made sure to do a lap of the famous grand prix circuit which we found to be insane. It was a pleasure to see the millions of dollars worth of cars, massive yachts, and high end shopping stores littered around the second smallest country in the world. I don’t know if there’s really another place like it but it’s definitely one I’d like to visit again.

Our next race would be the most important and well known races of the season and year for that matter, the Total 24 Hours of Spa. This race is located in the massive rolling hills of Belgium on one of the most famous tracks in the world called Spa-Franchorchamps. Spa is known for corners like Eau Rouge where you climb up what seems like five or six stories from top to bottom at 130mph and Blanchimont, a high speed and dangerous left turn. Then to attack the track at 100% effort for 24 hours through the night with over 60 cars is what truly makes it a special race. As I like to call it, 24 hours of beautiful chaos.

This years’ 24 Hours of Spa was full of chaos with huge crashes in the first four hours of the race at one point even halting the race for almost an hour under a red flag. My car ran in a points paying position for almost half the race until we had an issue with the car bringing us in the pits for an extended amount of time. After the car was fixed, we were able to move our way up the field but would never make it back to a points paying position. Even though our result wasn’t strong the 24 Hours of Spa, I must say it was my favorite race of the year.

The last race of the season was at the Green Hell, better known as the Nurburgring. For almost any gear head out there the Nurburgring is number one on the bucket list of tracks to drive on, and it was indeed an accomplishment to cross that one off the list. Car #80 and my team were unfortunately out of the running to win the driver’s championship but my team, RJN Motorsport, still had a chance at the team championship when combining points from both cars.

Both cars were running strong all weekend and when it came to the race we had an absolute downpour of rain during the first few hours. Alex Buncombe went on to put in a mega stint to run our GT-R first overall after the first couple hours. We would run near the front until an off track excursion in the 4th hour which would set us back slightly. I got in the car to run the final two hours and was making up time and positions. There was still a chance we could finish in the points and take home a team championship until we ran into a mechanical issue during my stint setting us too far back once the issue was fixed to make an effort at the championship. I still held my head high in the end where despite the issues, I had my strongest drive of the year when it came down to my pace.

All in all this year has been an amazing adventure. I’ve been able to travel to 11 different countries, flown on 53 flights over 130,000 miles, driven fast cars, and met a lot of great people. I can’t thank everyone from Nissan, Sony, Playstation, GT Academy, RJN Motorsport, SNAIL Spec Racing, friends, family, my girlfriend, and everyone else for the amazing support this year.

I don’t have any official plans for next year but I can assure you there is something in the works. The journey will continue and I can’t wait for what the future holds!

– Nick

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