Sony Computer Entertainment New Zealand, in collaboration with Nissan, has announced the GT Academy racing competition, which will use the virtual-racing world of Gran Turismo 5 to discover a real-world racing driver.
The winning virtual racer will undergo an intensive training programme and a season-long drive in a full race-spec Nissan 370Z in the European GT4 Cup.
The competition falls into five main stages:
Stage One – will offer Gran Turismo fans a sneak preview of the hotly-anticipated Gran Turismo 5 game, due for release during 2010. Competitors will record flying laps on a time trial-based track available via PlayStation Network, accessed through PS3. Unlike the first GT Academy, participants will not have to enter the competition using the GT5 Prologue game itself, and so even more hopeful racing drivers are expected to take part.
Stage Two – the holders of the 20 fastest online lap times from each participating country will qualify for their national final event where we will find the New Zealand representative to head to the world-famous Silverstone circuit in England for the GT Academy– a comprehensive five-day race driver ‘boot camp’. Tensions will run high as they battle each other on another exclusive Gran Turismo 5 level for the chance to move to the next phase of the competition.
Stage Three – twenty finalists, chosen from each of the international finals events, will be able to develop new driving skills in an array of Nissan, and other hardware, while also being judged on fitness and mental attitude at the Silverstone circuit GT Academy boot camp. All 20 drivers, win or lose, will come out of the academy a fully licensed driver.
Stage Four – for the two competitors that display the talent, fitness, aptitude, drive and determination to succeed in motor sport, the action will heat-up even further. A UK-based intensive driving and racing programme will prepare them to qualify for an international racing license.
Stage Five – there is only one place available for the driver with the most potential to compete on an international stage. The overall GT Academy 2010 champion will race a full season in the European GT4 Cup in a Nissan 370Z prepared by RJN Motorsport. The opening race is currently scheduled for May, 2010.
Although it’s the first opportunity for Kiwis to participate, the GT Academy 2010 is the second such event for Europe. Lucas Ordoñez, a 23-year-old Spanish student, took out the 2008/2009 competition to debut in the Dubai International 24 Hour race alongside former F1 driver Johnny Herbert. He then teamed-up with British driver Alex Buncombe to campaign a Nissan 350Z for the RJN Motorsport GT Academy team over the course of the European GT4 Cup season. The pair managed two race wins and two second-place finishes, resulting in a close second in the drivers’ classification but overall winners of the Teams’ Championship.
“The original GT Academy exceeded expectations,” begins Nissan International’s Vice-President of Marketing, Vincent Wijnen. “We did not expect to find a driver of Lucas’s calibre and it was a real bonus for the programme that we were able to help him demonstrate his potential over a full season with the European GT4 Cup drive. We are even more excited about GT Academy 2010, and I would encourage anyone who has ever wondered if they might have what it takes to be a racing driver to give it a go.”
The competition’s online component will run from December 17th to January 24th 2010, with the national finals taking place shortly afterwards. The GT Academy itself takes place from February 26th until March 3rd, meaning that the two winners will have to quickly clear their diaries. Their intensive training programme will start immediately and culminate in one driver racing in the opening European GT4 Cup race that could be at Silverstone on May 2nd.