GT Academy Names Winning Drivers

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.