British driver Alex Buncombe has completed the Nissan Motorsport line-up for the Pirtek Enduro Cup after being confirmed to again link with Todd Kelly.
Buncombe’s return for a second year alongside co-team owner/driver Kelly was announced as he was preparing for final qualification in the #22 GTR-LM NISMO in the Le Mans 24 Hour.
Part of Nissan’s Global Athlete Program, Buncombe won high praise for his efforts for the first time at the enduros last year.
The final call on Buncombe being cleared came after it was confirmed he would not be required in the #22 GTR-LM for the Fuji round of the WEC which clashes with the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 in October.
“I’m delighted to be heading back to Australia for the enduros with Nissan Motorsport,” Buncombe said, who finished seventh in the Bathurst 1000 last year.
“Last year was tough as it was my first time in a V8 Supercar but what I did then will stand me in good stead for this year.
“Knowing the car is what it’s all about so I’ll know what to expect and I should be a lot more comfortable than last year.
“I’ll also have good knowledge of Sandown and Gold Coast, which are tricky circuits and were new to me last time out.
“Top ten results would be great and it would be good to improve on the P7 we took in Bathurst last year and maybe go for a podium there.”
There remains a solid chance Buncombe will have a chance to familiarise himself with the improved Altima ahead of the opening practice session for the Sandown 500 in September with Nissan Motorsport deliberately holding its single test day for enduro preparations.
Richard Emery, Nissan Australia’s managing director and chief executive, said the continuation of Buncombe in the #7 Altima strengthens the company’s international ties.
“Not all international drivers take to V8 Supercars quickly but Alex proved last year why he is regarded so highly by NISMO when he adapted almost instantly to our Nissan Altima.
“The Nissan Global Driver Exchange not only further strengthens our ties with Nissan and NISMO globally, it also brings an international profile to the V8 Supercars endurance events.”
Previously announced line-ups at Nissan Motorsport for the trio of shared driver races sees Dean Fiore continue with Michael Caruso while the James Moffat and Taz Douglas combination also remains unbroken.
Rick Kelly will also have recent ADAC GT Masters victor David Russell in the #15 Altima in a combination which has stretched back for the last five seasons.
The confirmation of Buncombe at Nissan leaves the second Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport seat as the only obvious vacancy ahead of the Sandown 500 in September.
Team manager Barry Hay continues negotiations to secure an international driver to join Tim Blanchard, having already signed Brit Oliver Gavin for its Nick Percat entry.
See below for a summary of the Pirtek Enduro Cup field
|#1||Triple Eight Race Engineering||Jamie Whincup||Paul Dumbrell||Holden Commodore VF|
|#2||Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Warren Luff||Holden Commodore VF|
|#3||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||Tim Blanchard||TBA||Holden Commodore VF|
|#4||Erebus Motorsport||Ashley Walsh||Jack Le Brocq||Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG W212|
|#5||Prodrive Racing Australia||Mark Winterbottom||Steve Owen||Ford Falcon FG X|
|#6||Prodrive Racing Australia||Chaz Mostert||Cameron Waters||Ford Falcon FG X|
|#7||Nissan Motorsport||Todd Kelly||Alex Buncombe||Nissan Altima L33|
|#8||Brad Jones Racing||Jason Bright||Andrew Jones||Holden Commodore VF|
|#9||Erebus Motorsport||Will Davison||Alex Davison||Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG W212|
|#14||Brad Jones Racing||Fabian Coulthard||Luke Youlden||Holden Commodore VF|
|#15||Nissan Motorsport||Rick Kelly||David Russell||Nissan Altima L33|
|#17||DJR Team Penske||Scott Pye||Marcos Ambrose||Ford Falcon FG X|
|#18||Charlie Schwerkolt Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Sebastien Bourdais||Holden Commodore VF|
|#21||Brad Jones Racing||Dale Wood||Macauley Jones*||Holden Commodore VF|
|#22||Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Jack Perkins||Holden Commodore VF|
|#23||Nissan Motorsport||Michael Caruso||Dean Fiore||Nissan Altima L33|
|#33||Volvo Polestar Racing||Scott McLaughlin||Alexandre Premat||Volvo S60|
|#34||Volvo Polestar Racing||David Wall||Chris Pither||Volvo S60|
|#47||Walkinshaw Racing||Tim Slade||Tony D’Alberto||Holden Commodore VF|
|#55||Rod Nash Racing||David Reynolds||Dean Canto||Ford Falcon FG X|
|#97||Tekno Autosports||Shane van Gisbergen||Jonathon Webb||Holden Commodore VF|
|#99||Nissan Motorsport||James Moffat||Taz Douglas||Nissan Altima L33|
|#111||Super Black Racing||Andre Heimgartner||Ant Pedersen||Ford Falcon FG X|
|#222||Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport||Nick Percat||Oliver Gavin||Holden Commodore VF|
|#888||Triple Eight Race Engineering||Craig Lowndes||Steven Richards||Holden Commodore VF|
*driver yet to be confirmed