The sixth installment of Nissan’s GT Academy is launching next Monday, once again giving virtual racers the chance to make it big in racing.
When the GT Academy was first held in 2008, their promise of taking a race gamer all the way from Gran Turismo to the racing world seemed like not much more than a clever publicity stunt to many.
Six years later, the programe has worked up a very impressive track record of helping young drivers make their mark in racing. From inaugural champion Lucas Ordonez who has become a stalwart sports car racer and Nissan works driver to Jann Mardenborough and countless others – GT Academy champions have all made their marks in real racing, reaching competition in some of the world’s most prestigious events like the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The growth of the Nissan GT Academy concept is also visible in the increased national competitions. While the first GT Academy was only open to players from certain European countries, 2014 will see national championships in various territories including the United States, Germany, Europe as well as a new international competition that includes countries like Thailand, Australia, India as well as the Middle East.
As usual, the entry requirements for the competition’s first stage couldn’t be much lower as only a Playstation 3 and Gran Turismo 6 are required to enter. The quickest drivers from the first stage will progress to the latter stages, all the way to the real-life Nissan training events for the best of the best.
While the winners are edging one step closer to a professional racing driver career, having a guaranteed seat in the 2015 Dubai 24 Hours, the less skilled will be rewarded with free Gran Turismo 6 in-game credits as an incentive to keep on practicing.
- 2011 GT Academy winner to compete in GP3 with Arden International after just two seasons of racing
- Mardenborough joins intensive driver development programme with Infiniti Red Bull Racing
- Nissan PlayStation GT Academy now confirmed as a genuine alternative route into professional motorsport
Jann Mardenborough will compete in Formula One feeder series, GP3, in 2014 with the championship-winning Arden International team. The 2011 GT Academy winner also joins an intensive driver development programme with Infiniti Red Bull Racing, the most successful Formula One team of recent times.
In the last two seasons Mardenborough has competed and excelled in GT cars, Le Mans Prototypes and single-seaters, his most recent efforts earning him the runner-up spot in the New Zealand-based TRS single-seater championship. His podium finish at Le Mans in 2013 came two years to the day after he reached the final stages of GT Academy in 2011.
Arden International was selected for its championship-winning pedigree. The team's most recent success story is that of Russian racer Daniil Kyvat who won the GP3 title with Arden in 2013 and will now race in F1 with Toro Rosso in 2014.
A crucial element of GT Academy is Nissan's driver development programme, which helps the winners switch from the virtual world of gaming to the reality of the race track. This is where Jann learnt his craft. He will now add on a bespoke development programme with Infiniti Red Bull Racing to push his talent as far as it will go.
"We're delighted to welcome Jann onto our programme," said Andy Damerum, Red Bull Racing's driver development manager. "We have been tracking Nissan's innovative approach to motorsport and in particular GT Academy that challenges the status quo of motorsport. The traditional route to F1 of karting and single-seaters is a tried and tested success but Nissan and PlayStation have gone down a very different road and started to find some very talented drivers who have been doing all their practicing on a games console. I'm very interested to see how Jann fares on our programme and in GP3 this season and I look forward to taking him under the Infiniti Red Bull Racing wing to further progress his career. "
The mentor for the UK finalists of GT Academy 2011 was none other than Johnny Herbert, who has kept a close eye on Jann ever since.
"I have been mightily impressed with what Jann has achieved since winning GT Academy," said Herbert. "For someone with Jann's experience doing so well is very rare to see. Last year he raced in the European F3 series which is hell of a tough challenge during your first season; the fact that it was Jann's first season in any kind of single-seaters is incredible. Whilst he has had a very successful first year in GT racing and he has now got an amazing result at Le Mans 24 Hours under his belt, he is competing against drivers that have grown up with seasons of karting and single-seater experience behind them.
His talent has not only impressed me, but has now got experienced figureheads in motorsport talking about what Jann, Nissan and GT Academy is achieving," continued Herbert. "The world of motorsport is recognising that GT Academy is helping bring talented young blood into the sport. The success of Jann and other GT Academy winners is also inspiring a new legion of gaming and motorsport fans by giving them a new route to becoming a professional racing driver. The only question that remains unanswered is 'Can a gamer make it all the way to F1?'"
"Jann's progress is just the tip of the iceberg for the success of the graduates of GT Academy," said Nissan's Director of Global Motosport, Darren Cox. "Last year we took 41 podiums around the world including Le Mans, the Spa 24 hours and the Dubai 24 hours and won two championships in the GT-R Nismo. The innovation is now obvious to everyone who looks into the detail, however like most innovations this was not the case when we kicked the programme off six years ago. Nissan and Playstation have bought motorsport to a new generation of digital fans and now we are expanding even further geographically. Recent additions to our core markets of Europe, Russia and USA are India and the Middle East and more new markets will be announced in the coming weeks."
If you participated in GT Academy 2013 and downloaded the Gran Turismo 6 demo which hosted the competition back in July, you’re set to receive a free car in the full game.
Many eligible players were notified yesterday in emails sent out by Sony, which verify they’ll be receiving a download voucher for a Nissan GT-R GT3 race car. A free GT6 PlayStation 3 theme is also available to download immediately.
In a weekend busy enough to merit its own Twitter hashtag, the Nismo Athletes have been showing off their skills over seventeen timezones.
Getting the racing underway in Kansas were Bryan Heitkotter – again racing the 370Z for Doran Racing in the Grand Sport class of Grand Am’s Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge – and Steve “Dan Mitchell” Doherty. Steve had been drafted in to drive the Super Touring class Nissan Altima in the same race.
The 370Z once again proved a pacy car in the hands of Bryan and BJ, qualifying second and being the fastest in the warm ups, and Bryan took full advantage after a middling start to leap to the top of the order. However a broken rear damper put paid to their race just a quarter of the way through – joined shortly after by Steve’s #34 Skullcandy Altima.
Heading over to Europe saw Jann Mardenborough competing in European F3 at the Nürburgring and Alex Buncombe and Wolfgang Reip in the FIA GT at Slovakia Ring.
Unfortunately Jann’s weekend was marred by being taken out – yet again – in a turn 1 incident in race 2, though this time not by a team mate. However, in all three races he managed to improve on his start position before the race end – with a battling 11th being the best result.
In Slovakia though, Wolfgang and Alex were again proving tough to beat in FIA GT. Although they missed out on superpole for Saturday, the qualifying race had them starting from 2nd in class following a twenty minute battle between Reip and the AF Corse Ferrari. Sunday’s feature race started quite unfortunately, as Wolfgang found himself caught up in the chaos of Sebastien Loeb’s first lap accident with Peter Kox – precipitated by Stephane Ortelli’s jump start. However, he managed to hand over to Alex 4th in Pro-Am with sufficient ammunition to nab the final podium place and eighth overall.
Last and certainly not least came GT Academy’s Super GT debut as Lucas Ordoñez co-piloted the #3 S-Road GT-R GT300 in the Suzuka 1000km. With a second place start in class, the race progressed steadily throughout the first third of the race until the team were given a 90s stop-go penalty for what appears to have been a pitlane infraction under safety car conditions following the #86 Lamborghini’s fire at 130R. This came at the worst possible time and dropped the team from consistent podium places to the lower reaches as the bunched-up pack came past. The team eventually finished in 9th overall.
It wasn’t just about the Nismo Athletes this weekend though, as Ashley Oldfield, the 2012 South African winner, was also in action, winning the Britcar Production Sportscar event at Snetterton. This race is a traditional haunt for GT Academy RJN as part of the driver development program ahead of the Dubai 24hr each January.
VVV Automotive’s Alan Boiston recently had the chance to conduct an extensive interview with Jann Mardenborough, the 2011 Nissan GT Academy Champion.
Nissan’s competition held in cooperation with Sony’s Gran Turismo franchise gives talented virtual racers the chance to make their way into real-life racing, starting with a hot lap competition using Gran Turismo.
Just like other GT Academy winners such as inaugural champion Lucas Ordonez, Mardenborough has made an impressive impact on the real-life motorsport world, scoring a podium finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours and moving to high-profile F3 single seater racing.
Details on GT Academy 2013 have finally been released, as we are now less than a week away from the start of this year’s competition.
The competition officially begins at 08:00 GMT/UTC on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, with the release of the Gran Turismo 6 demo as a free download from the PlayStation Store.
GT Academy 2013′s public qualification round will continue until 10:59 GMT/UTC on Sunday, July 28, 2013. The GT6 demo will remain available to play until August 31, 2013.
Eligible contestants from the following regions will be able to enter the competition. As in previous years, each region will crown its own 2013 champion:
GT Academy 2013 Europe
GT Academy 2013 North America
GT Academy 2013 Germany
GT Academy 2013 Russia
The GT6 demo will guide players through beginner rounds of a GT Academy-themed race camp using the Nissan Leaf, 370Z, and GT-R, before unlocking the final qualifying event featuring the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit. Anyone who registers and submits a qualifying time will receive free “bonus content” (it’s not specified if this bonus content will be available in GT5 or GT6).
The official announcement also confirms more “GT Academy Live Events” will be held around the world to offer more contestants a chance to participate.
The prize for the 2013 competition is bigger and better than ever, with the winners set to receive a complete racing season behind the wheel of a Nissan GT-R GT3 NISMO.