Rare opportunity to chase big time
If you want to be an international racing driver, then the Nissan GT Academy is for you
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.