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Tsugio Matsuda: The Road to Le Mans

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Feb. 5 – Tsurumi, Kanagawa – Super GT champion driver Tsugio Matsuda was named Thursday as one of the GT-R LM NISMO drivers at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Matsuda spoke with the Global Media Center on what the chance to drive at Le Mans means to him:

“I was born in Kuwana, Mie Prefecture, a town very near the Suzuka racing circuit. From a young age I often went to the track to watch races or drive go carts. I also loved collecting miniature cars.

Early on, I wanted to find a job related to cars, and when I saw my first race, I realized that I actually wanted to be a race car driver. In middle school, I begged my parents to let me start carting. Later, I joined the Suzuka racing school as a scholarship student.

From then, my career began and progressed to Formula 3 and above. In 2000, I raced in Formula Nippon, then the top Formula racing series in Japan, which later became Super Formula.

I won championships in 2007 and 2008. At the same time in Super GT, I joined Nissan’s team in 2006, and my car claimed the series championship in 2014, so I have won both of the top Japanese titles.

When I earned my driver’s license, the car I wanted to drive was a GT-R (R33). At that time, Nissan had begun participating in Le Mans with the R33. When I saw the Nissan team on the podium in 1998, I wanted to race and win there, because Le Mans is the apex of touring car racing, and to me is as special as Formula 1.

Winning at Le Mans then became a goal of my career.I haven’t seen the actual car yet, but I was surprised to learn about the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO’s innovative design. The approach the car designers took in returning to Le Mans was to bring a vehicle that no one had considered before, which is very like Nissan.

Personally, I have worked on customizing and tuning cars for many years, and that experience has now contributed to my giving developmental input on NISMO’s road cars. In terms of innovation, I was also part of the development team working on the all-electric Nissan LEAF NISMO RC. At first I was skeptical that an electric car could ever race, but it turned out to be a great vehicle with excellent track performance.

It’s been a dream of mine to race at Le Mans, and if I’m competing, then I aim to win. Moreover, I will do my best to ensure a great performance for all the fans following us. I am really excited to drive Nissan GT-R LM NISMO.”

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