Baptism of Water for GT Academy Winners‏

Four races in two days as Gran TurismoTM gamers start their journey to become real racers with PlayStation® and Nissan

GT Academy winners Lucas Ordóñez from Spain and Lars SchlÖmer from Germany were back in the UK last weekend and being introduced to Britain’s thriving club racing scene.

Both drivers competed in two races of the Nippon Challenge series at Lincolnshire’s wet Cadwell Park circuit on Saturday followed by a second double header in the Dunlop Sport Maxx Cup races at the ultra-fast Thruxton circuit in Hampshire.

The races formed part of their intensive training programme as the Nissan PlayStation Racing team and GT Academy chief instructor Rob Barff aim to prepare the drivers to race in the Dubai 24hr endurance race in January 2009. Before  Lucas and Lars can compete in Dubai they will need to qualify for an MSA international competition license that will require 20 “signatures”, typically gained on completion of an MSA-sanctioned race.

It is a massive task for 23-year-old Lucas, an MBA student, and 23-year-old Lars, a taxi driver from Bonn. From a European entry of more than 25,000 Gran Turismo gamers, the pair emerged victorious just over one week ago at the international final round of the GT Academy competition that took place at the famous Silverstone circuit.

After a brief  trip  home,  they  were  flown  back  to  RJN  Motorsport’s  Oxfordshire  base  to familiarise themselves with their new Nissan 350z cars in GT Academy and PlayStation colours. It was then straight into action at Cadwell followed by a dash down to Thruxton before flying back home.

Results were not the objective of their first competitive outings in the 350z’s, but both drivers  acquitted  themselves  admirably  with  midfield  qualifying  performances  and finishes. Sadly, a small fuel pump problem halted Lucas in the second race at Cadwell but seven “signatures” from a possible eight was deemed a good return by Barff.

“It was an almost perfect weekend,” explained the experienced Le Mans 24 hour driver. “From the team’s point of view I think it went better than expected in terms of pace, consistency and lack of mistakes. Both drivers understood exactly what was required from them - to have fun, gain experience but, most importantly, finish safely and get the signatures.”

For both drivers it was an incredible experience.

“I cannot believe I am racing so soon after  winning  this  chance  to  be  a  race  driver,”  enthused  Lucas. 

“There  was  lots  of pressure and it has been hard work, but it is my dream. I would like to thank the team who  have  been  so  helpful  over  the  last  days.  Since  arriving  back  after  Silverstone  I have been so busy sorting out my studies, finding a fitness trainer and signing on to an English school.”

“I have waited so long to be a racing driver, this weekend I did it,” said an excited Lars. “I   now   need   more   experience.   To   drive   a   Nissan   350Z   on   a   real   track   after experiencing it first on a PlayStation is incredible. I cannot thank everybody enough.” The pair will be back in action later this week for a test and races at Pembrey with three more signatures up for grabs.

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