Nissan/PlayStation® race team reach their ultimate goal
After nine months of hard work, challenges and successes the Nissan/PlayStation® race team have achieved what they always believed to be possible. GT Academy has found a talented virtual racer and turned him into a real racing driver with the skills, determination and talent required of a GT champion.
Having been described as 'an idea somewhere between crackpot and genius' the team have proved that this was an idea nearer to the genius end of the scale. This weekend saw GT Academy winner Lucas Ordoñez realise his and their dream - to qualify for his International race license and successfully race as a key member of the team at the Dubai 24hr endurance race. This is the first time a racing driver has ever been found in this way and Lucas competed in a series of races to earn the required license to compete at this level. The challenges on the day were constant, with the race comprising of a mix of punishing day and night driving, searing temperatures and a packed 80-car grid. Lucas rose to the challenge not least of all at one stage achieving the 9th fastest time overall on an individual lap.
Lucas said; "As soon as I got in the 350Z I calmed down and felt at home. It was the most amazing feeling, at the end I saw all of my team climbing the barrier and cheering me on. It was the craziest feeling of my life."
In addition the whole team experienced a huge amount of drama throughout the race and encountered a series of incidents that forced the car into the pits a total of 21 times. This included two accidents, a puncture and damage sustained from debris. Lucas dealt with the puncture and was not involved in any accidents. In short Lucas impressed his whole team with his driving.
Former F1 driver and teammate Johnny Herbert said; "Lucas did brilliantly, producing a mistake-free drive under big pressure. He has achieved everything we had hoped from him and proved that with the right level of dedication and talent it is possible to make the transition from virtual racing to the real thing".
Darren Cox, Nissan Europe added; "Lucas just kept on impressing us. He was fast and safe and his dedication to the whole process has stood out at every stage. We are incredibly proud of what he has achieved and he has helped both Nissan and PlayStation to realise a dream - with teamwork, belief, passion and a lot of hard work we have proven that anything is possible".
Mark Bowles, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe said; "It's been a long journey and Lucas taking the chequered flag in Dubai was a fantastic moment for all of us. PlayStation and Nissan have always believed the virtual to reality story was possible and through nine months of commitment from the team we have achieved what we set out to do - take a Gran Turismo gamer from his PLAYSTATION 3 to behind the wheel of the Nissan 350Z GT4 in Dubai"
Launched in May 2008, GT Academy is an international driving competition from Nissan and PlayStation®, which invited gaming fans from across Europe to put their virtual driving skills to the test and win the chance to compete in the real life racing world. Ordoñez was the first winner of GT Academy and has spent the last four months competing across the UK in an intensive training programme designed by the Nissan/PlayStation® racing team to prepare for the challenge just completed in Dubai. GT Academy has been a resounding success and all that remains now is to see just how far the success continues.