Nissan GT Academy
Since 2008, Nissan, in partnership with PlayStation, has presented the GT Academy – an opportunity for a lucky yet talented gamer to go from virtual to reality racer and take part in the Dubai International 24-Hour race.
Last year more than 90,000 fans of the Gran Turismo games franchise, from countries all over Europe, applied to become part of the Academy. This year over 150,000 people from the UK alone, and more than 800,000 from across Europe, downloaded the free qualifying demo from PlayStation Store. The demo contains virtual versions of Nissan vehicles, driven around a number of tracks, with participants whittled down over a series of qualifying rounds. The final one lap time trial uses the Nissan 370Z on a virtual version of the Twin Ring Montegi circuit.
The culmination of this is to be selected as part of the National Finals Event, bringing together the top 16 racers from the UK and Ireland, alongside 16 other Live Event Wild Card winners. At this stage the contestants are expected to make the transition from the couch to the cockpit more fully, as challenges take place via the console and on the world-renowned Silverstone track, using the Nissan 370Z. That’s where any virtual elements of this unique challenge end and it becomes all about true driving ability.
After this the racing group is cut to just 6 racers, who return to Silverstone for the gruelling week long “Boot Camp”. At this stage, not only are the drivers pushed to the limit of their driving capabilities, but they’re now expected to rise to the mental and physical challenges that professional driving brings. The leading UK and Ireland candidate then goes on to compete against other European drivers to determine the overall GT Academy European Champion.
This year’s champion driver was 25-year-old Belgian, Wolfgang Reip, who earns the privilege of embarking on Nissan’s GT Academy Driver Development Programme - as comprehensive and immersive a driving course as you’re ever likely to find. The aim is to get the driver up to international race-license standard in order to prepare for the prize of a place on the grid in the Dubai International 24-Hour race in January 2013, driving the Nissan 370Z GT4.
Past winners have gone on to achieve great things in Nissan cars. Jordon Tresson of France, the 2010 winner, has competed in the FIA World Endurance Championships and Le Mans 24-Hours in the Signatech Nissan LMP2 car. The 2011 champion, Jann Mardenborough, from Ely, Cardiff, competed in a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the Blancpain Endurance Series.
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