Nissan and PlayStation® have joined forces again to run the fourth year of the innovative GT Academy virtual-to-reality racing competition. While the four previous GT Academy graduates line up in top-level race series in 2012, the programme that set them on their path to motor sport fame has been expanded and will now incorporate four separate competitions covering Europe, Germany, USA and Russia.
Over 1.5 million hopefuls have tried out for the GT Academy since 2008, and graduates of the dreams-to-reality programme have so far netted a Le Mans 24 Hour podium and won the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and Blancpain Endurance Series. In January of this year an all-gamer line-up made history when they finished on the podium of the Dubai 24 hour race.
A brand-new gaming format for the European GT Academy will go live on 1 May, 2012 and remain open until 24 June. An eight-step qualification programme, that can be played online by anyone with a PlayStation®3, will use the best-selling Gran Turismo®5 as a base, but has been specially developed by the game’s legendary creator, Kazunori Yamauchi.
The fastest PlayStation gamers from each country will join winners from a number of live events to compete in thrilling national finals in July. The action will then make the transition from the virtual world of PS3 to real Nissan sports cars when the winners of each National competition are invited to take part in the intense international Race Camp competition, which takes place at Silverstone Circuit in August.
The ultimate winners of each of the GT Academy competitions from Race Camp will then be put through an incredibly intensive and thorough Driver Development Programme to prepare them for the chance to take part in the challenging Dubai 24 Hours in January, 2013 – the ultimate competition prize.
GT Academy is now established as a potential route into top-level motor sport. Lucas Ordoñez (Spain, winner in 2008) took second place at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hour race and will aim for one better this year racing alongside father-and-son pairing Alex and Martin Brundle. Lucas will also contest the full European Le Mans Series in the Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan LMP2 car. 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 in 2011) is racing a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the Blancpain Endurance Series while his American counterpart, Bryan Heitkotter, will drive a Nissan 370Z Nismo RC 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,” explains 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 original expectations and each year has provided us with some outstanding driving talent. As our drivers continue to impress on a world stage, GT Academy continues to expand. I would urge anyone that feels they have the talent to get involved and give it a go. GT Academy is a real, credible and exciting route into motor sport that will not cost you anything thanks to our partnership with PlayStation®.”
Kazunori Yamauchi, President of Polyphony Digital, adds:
“It makes me very proud to see the graduates of the GT Academy racing around the world with Nissan. This year we are aiming to make GT Academy bigger and better than ever before and so I am creating a new series of driving challenges open to anyone with a PS3 (terms and conditions will apply). You don’t have to be an expert to have a go. Added to that, each country will host live GT Academy entry events to ensure that as many people as possible can enter the 2012 GT Academy.”
Details of how to enter GT Academy Europe 2012 can be found on various platforms including: www.facebook.com/GTAcademy