Jann Mardenborough

How A Video Game Champ Became an F1 Driver, Star of Movie "Gran Turismo"

From Video Gamer to Professional Driver with Jann Mardenborough
In this week’s Team Never Quit episode, Marcus and Melanie bring you an incredible story that bridges the virtual and real worlds of racing. Join us as we dive into the fascinating journey of Jann Mardenborough, a British professional racing driver who went from playing sim racing video games to competing at the highest levels of motorsport.
Jann’s passion for racing ignited at a young age. Despite his father’s professional soccer career, Jann dreamed of holding a steering wheel. Growing up in Cardiff, Wales, his potential was clear even at age 8 when he impressed a local go-kart track owner. However, financial constraints forced him to give up real-world racing, pushing him towards sim racing games like Gran Turismo.
The turning point came in 2011 when Jann entered the GT Academy, a hybrid gaming-driving competition by Nissan and Sony Computer Entertainment. Competing against 90,000 entrants, Jann’s exceptional skills in Gran Turismo 5 propelled him to the finals. His dedication saw him practicing up to five hours a day on a simulator rig complete with pedals and a steering wheel.
Jann’s journey through the GT Academy was nothing short of extraordinary. Starting from virtual races, he proved his mettle on real tracks at Brands Hatch and Silverstone. His performance culminated in a winner-take-all race at Silverstone, securing him a professional racing contract with Nissan.
From winning the GT Academy, Jann quickly made a name for himself in the racing world. He has since finished on the podium in his class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, won races, and contended for titles in GT3 and junior formula cars. His career highlights also include competing in Super GT, Super Formula, and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
We’ll also touch on the Gran Turismo movie, which dramatizes the story of how a video gamer like Jann transitioned into a professional racing driver. This film highlights the transformative impact of the GT Academy and showcases the merging of virtual and real-world racing.
Jann’s story is a testament to how passion and dedication can turn dreams into reality, regardless of how unachievable they may seem. Tune in to hear more about his incredible journey from a bedroom gamer to a professional driver on some of the world’s most prestigious tracks.

In this episode you will hear:
• My dad isn’t an academic person, but he really instilled in me and my younger brother – things about life. You have one life. He was paid to do something he loved. (6:07)
• When you’re 8 or 9 years old, you don’t really understand, but as you get older – what do I want to do? And my thing was racing. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. It was always instilled in my head – the understanding what the job was. I thought to myself “I want to do that. I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but I want to do that.” (6:26)
• It was through my friends – the love of cars, and the objects, and the pictures. I had them on my wall. (8:38)
• I was a kid that could recognize a car on the street in the dark just by the headlights as a 6 year-old. (9:50)
• With my dad, when I was younger, he never forced anything on me. (17:39)
• [Melanie] Q: Using the video game simulation, did you ever think that that was actually going to propel you into real racing?
A: No. Absolutely not. It wasn’t a conscious thought. My dream was always to be a racing driver, but I didn’t know how it would happen. (25:52)
• I used to go to work with the keys of my BMW which I had maybe 6 months. I would always go to work with the key in my pocket. That little BMW emblem on the key ring – I’d be rubbing it in my pocket, just thinking, “This isn’t it, what I’m doing, but I have at least something which was bringing me joy.” (26:53)
• Confidence and arrogance. People want to give you responsibility.  If you’re a bit soft with your answers – the first impressions are what really matter. (41:11)
• Every day in the academy, there was somebody getting eliminated. (41:41)
• I box things off in my head, once I learn about them, and I don’t revisit them. (50:49)
• [His car went airborne] A horrible point in my life. I remember it vividly. (51:34)
• [Melanie] As [Marcus’] wife, I see the parallel between the two of you. Both of you never quit. (52:46)
• My favorite championship race is the one in Japan. It’s called GT500. (64:51)
• In motorsports, even in Formula 1, you have 1 tire supplier. (65:25)
• Yes, there’s things I want to do in the sport. I want my own race team. (67:42)
• Be the best that you can be. (71:35)

Photo creds:
– Ligier Automotive

Socials:
– 
https://www.jannthaman.com/
– IG: 
@jannthaman
 –  IG: team_neverquit , marcusluttrell , melanieluttrell , huntero13
– 
https://www.patreon.com/teamneverquit

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