A taxi driver and a student prepare to join the Nissan racing team at the Dubai 24hr endurance race – thanks to PlayStation and Nissan
GT Academy, an international driving competition from PlayStation® and Nissan, has found its winners following a gruelling and emotional week-long international final at iconic British racetrack Silverstone.
Lars SchlÖmer, from Germany and Lucas Ordóñez from Spain beat 20 other competitors from across Europe to be crowned the GT Academy champions.
The pair now face a four-month intensive training programme with Nissan’s race team to earn their racing license and compete in the ultimate test of driving skill and stamina: the Dubai 24hr endurance race in January 2009. Winning the GT Academy will be life-changing for both competitors.
Lars SchlÖmer, a taxi driver from Bonn, and Lucas Ordóñez, an MBA student, will both put their lives on hold to become part of the Nissan race team. Both winners have harboured lifelong dreams to become racing drivers. During the five-day GT Academy at Silverstone the 22 competitors faced a series of rigorous tests to prove they had the physical and mental ability as well as the driving skills to become a real race car driver. The boot camp-style competition ran under the watchful eye of a panel of five judges who followed the competitors’ every move.
Racing legend Johnny Herbert acted as a mentor to the competitors and assisted the judges in making their final decision.
Speaking of his win, Lucas Ordóñez said: “I can’t believe it. This is a dream come true. I knew this would be difficult and I did not expect to win, but I just took each day as it came and tried to push to my maximum.”
Lars Schlömer said: “I have wanted this for the last ten years of my life but I just never had the chance. This is amazing. I truly would have been heartbroken if I hadn’t won. I would not have entered this competition if I did not believe I could win because coming to Silverstone and not winning would have been like giving a dog a bone and then taking it away again!”
Commenting on the talent of the two winners, Steve Deeks, Chief Director GT Academy said: “Virtual to reality? I would say unequivocally yes. In fact, after this process I have been re-evaluating how we should teach young drivers and I would now absolutely recommend to people that they get into PlayStation before they come to us.
All these guys arrived at Silverstone knowing about sequential gearboxes, over steer, under steer, driving lines etc... A keen driver from the streets would not have half the knowledge. And the reaction time and ability to cope with the pressure they have had coming through the gaming part of the competition made them very well equipped from day one.”
Racing legend Johnny Herbert commented: “This competition has far exceeded my expectations. I have often thought that somewhere out there is someone who is better than a Lewis, Kimi or Felipe but they just haven’t had the chance to drive. Looking at the 22 GT Academy finalists for the first time, I was sure that we would have a few with absolutely no feeling who wouldn’t make it out of second gear but we didn’t have one. Nobody disgraced themselves and they were doing stuff they have never done before and it was very impressive.”
Darren Cox, European Interactive Marketing Manager for Nissan Europe, said: "Three years ago we went to PlayStation with a simple question - could we turn a virtual racer into a real racer? We set out to try something that had never been attempted before but always believed we would unearth talent like we just have. Of course, it is not over yet and these guys have a lot of work to do before they race the 350z in Dubai. But our incredible team of instructors and judges - including Johnny Herbert - are totally convinced that these two have what it takes."
Mark Bowles, Gran Turismo Brand Manager from PlayStation commented: “The GT Academy has changed two Gran Turismo fans’ lives. Throughout the competition they proved themselves to be the best drivers on and off the track and we are delighted to have found such talent through the competition. GT is the ultimate driving simulator and GT Academy has proven just that.”
British GT Academy Drivers Remain Determined After Strong Showing Despite none of the three British GT Academy contenders making it through to the final six, they all walked away with heads held high and more determined than ever to follow their dream of graduating from virtual racers to real ones.
Matthew Gordon from Ipswich emerged as a true talent and made it through to the final day and last eight of the competition. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed to go out just before the final stage,” explained the 25-year old lawn maintenance manager. “But this has been an awesome experience. It was just way more than I had expected. It was intense, exhausting, exhilarating and a load of other words! It really was very hard work, but the perfect way to assess ability is to push people to the limit. I think I rose to the challenge. I’m very proud of what I have done because I have come from a base of nothing. I competed really well against people who had a lot more experience than me and I improved with each session.
“The competition was all about virtual to reality and the gaming definitely helps. GT does teach you a lot, but spending time in the cars with these instructors has been priceless. Tuesday morning going back to work will be a massive reality check. But I have proved I can drive, I know I can improve and I would love to get another opportunity to race in the future.”
Johnny Herbert was full of praise for Matthew’s achievement: “Matt emerged as a very good competitor and was very close, but in the end it was a step too far,” explained the former British Grand Prix and Le Mans winner. “He is a lovely guy and worked very hard so it was a horrible to have to take the decision with the judges to eliminate him. “If he really wants it and puts together a plan to work towards, there is no reason why he can’t have a career as a driver. This has been a great start. They have had an amazing opportunity to take part in GT Academy and chances like that are few and far between.”
Mark Perry from Tamworth in Staffordshire had made it through two eliminations but was out when the group reduced from 16 to the final eight, despite showing some excellent improvement behind the wheel.
John Cook from Tadworth in Surrey lasted until the second round of eliminations but failed to make the final 16 after struggling in some tough fitness tests on day three of the Academy. Running over eight months, GT Academy is an international driving competition that captures the spirit and ethos of both Nissan and PlayStation brands and unites the worlds of videogames and motorsport through ultra-realistic competition.
GT Academy received twenty five thousand entrants across 12 European countries for the first stage of the competition on PLAYSTATION®Network to record their fastest online lap in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue™ for PLAYSTATION®3.
From these 25,000 entrants the two fastest from each country went to the international final – the GT Academy at Silverstone - where 22 competitors battled it out for the two racing contracts.
To find out more, visit gtacademy.eu.