Rare op­por­tu­nity to chase big time

If you want to be an in­ter­na­tional rac­ing driver, then the Nis­san GT Academy is for you

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - MO­TOR NEWS RE­PORTER

IN JUNE Nis­san not only stunned the mo­tor­sport community with its unique DeltaWing en­try at the leg­endary Le Mans 24 Hour race, but it also suc­ceeded in see­ing the win­ner of its GT Academy take to the podium.

Lu­cas Or­doñez took sec­ond place on the event, but it was how he got there that should re­ally get your at­ten­tion. The Spa­niard won the Nis­san and Plays­ta­tion GT Academy in 2008 af­ter com­pet­ing against thou­sands of on-line Gran Tur­ismo gamers from across Europe.

Or­doñez was in SA this week as Nis­san SA an­nounced that the next Academy will be open from Mon­day for en­trants from SA and the Mid­dle East.

“GT Academy changed my life,” said Or­doñez at a me­dia event held at the Zwartkops cir­cuit near Pretoria. He stud­ied for an MBA, but when the op­por­tu­nity to en­ter came up, he prac­ticed for hours each day on the PlayS­ta­tion be­fore en­ter­ing. Then as he pro­gressed through the com­pe­ti­tion, he hit the gym to achieve the peak phys­i­cal fit­ness re­quired of a rac­ing driver and honed his English skills to pre­pare for the me­dia ques­tion­ing that is part of the com­pe­ti­tion.

It was a dream come true for Or­doñez, who left Zwartkops to head for the US where he will com­pete in the Road At­lanta 10-hour en­durance race be­hind the wheel of the DeltaWing. With only a cou­ple of years rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ence now be­hind him, he said he had to ad­just to the DeltaWing, which weighs just 500kg and re­quires a much dif­fer­ent style of driv­ing to reg­u­lar GT and LMP cars.

More than 2.3-mil­lion hope­fuls have tried out for GT Academy since 2008 and now a South African will have the chance at mo­tor­sport glory. An ex­clu­sive, free to down­load gam­ing for­mat will go live on Mon­day and re­main open un­til De­cem­ber 10. An eight-step qual­i­fi­ca­tion pro­gramme, that can be played on­line by any­one with a PlayS­ta­tion3 (PS3), will use the Gran Tur­ismo 5 game as a base, but has been spe­cially de­vel­oped by the game’s cre­ator, Kazunori Ya­mauchi.

The fastest gamers from SA will join win­ners from a num­ber of live events to com­pete in a thrilling na­tional fi­nal in Jan­uary. The ac­tion will then make the tran­si­tion from the vir­tual world of PS3 to real Nis­san sports cars when the win­ners of the na­tional com­pe­ti­tion are in­vited to take part in the in­ter­na­tional Race Camp com­pe­ti­tion along with the fi­nal­ists from the Mid­dle East at the Sil­ver­stone cir­cuit in the UK in March next year.

“It’s fan­tas­tic how much you can learn from a sim­u­la­tor, but you can’t press restart on the track,” warned Or­doñez.

The ul­ti­mate win­ner from Race Camp will be put through an in­ten­sive and thor­ough driver de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme to pre­pare them for the chance to take part in the chal­leng­ing Sil­ver­stone 24 Hours next year.

Or­doñez is not the only suc­cess­ful grad­u­ate from the Academy. Jor­dan Tres­son (France, win­ner in 2010) is rac­ing in the FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship and Le Mans 24 Hours in the Sig­nat­ech Nis­san LMP2 car. Jann Mar­den­bor­ough (UK, win­ner last year) has just com­pleted a suc­cess­ful sea­son in the British GT Cham­pi­onship rac­ing a Nis­san GT-R Nismo GT3, nearly clinch­ing the cham­pi­onship in his first sea­son of rac­ing. His Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, Bryan Heitkot­ter, has been suc­cess­fully com­pet­ing in the Grand-Am Con­ti­nen­tal Tire Sports Car Chal­lenge Se­ries in the top GS (Grand Sport) class.

“Be­ing able to use our GT Academy grad­u­ates in our ever-grow­ing range of top-level mo­tor sport ac­tiv­i­ties is an­other ex­am­ple of Nis­san’s in­no­va­tive ap­proach to ev­ery­thing we do,” says Dar­ren Cox, gen­eral man­ager Nis­san in Europe. “If we didn’t be­lieve in the driv­ers they wouldn’t be in those seats, but GT Academy has ex­ceeded our ex­pec­ta­tions and each year has pro­vided us with some out­stand­ing driv­ing tal­ent. GT Academy is a cred­i­ble and ex­cit­ing route into mo­tor sport that will not cost you any­thing thanks to our part­ner­ship with PlayS­ta­tion.”

De­tails of how to en­ter GT Academy can be found on var­i­ous plat­forms in­clud­ing www.face­book.com/GTA­cademy, http://www.gran-tur­ismo.com and www.gta­cademy.nis­san.co.za

Lu­cas Or­doñez at the Zwartkops cir­cuit, af­ter join­ing Nis­san SA to an­nounce the lat­est GT Academy pro­gramme.

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