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The team of racers assembled from the Nissan Playstation GT Academy earned themselves a remarkable honor at the Dubai 24 Hour race this weekend, finishing third in their class and 26th overall. All four drivers, Lucas Ordoñez, Jordan Tresson, Bryan Heitkotter and Jann Mardenborough, are GT Academy grads, having started out behind the wheel of virtual race cars to win the opportunity to attend the GT Academy racing program.
The team qualified the #100 car fourth in their class and despite some mechanical issues the four drivers endured all 24 hours of the race without any damage to the Nissan 370Z while earning a podium finish.
This is truly an unprecedented achievement in the world of motorsports. As we all know, it’s tough enough to earn a podium finish as a professional racer with a complete team backing you up. So to take four virtual gamers from Gran Turismo, train them – with Heikotter and Mardenborough having less than a year to go from gamer to racer – and to finish third in the class, the GT Academy should be extremely proud.
Who said video games are a waste of time?
Nissan and Playstation are flexing their GT Academy muscles this year, enlisting four winners of previous GT Academies and campaigning a full gamer line up at this year’s Dubai 24 Hours Race. In previous years, GT Academy only used one winner along with three pros, but this year the team of drivers will consist of all virtual-to-reality competition winners.
The four drivers will take on the race in a Nissan-prepped, 410-hp 370Z as they try to take the crown as the first ever “all-gamer-turned-real-racer-team to tackle a major international race”. The four drivers are Lucas Ordoñez from Spain, the winner of the first GT Academy in 2008. His accolades since then also include second place in the LMP2 class at Le Mans 2011, winner of the Le Mans Intercontinental Cup (ILMC) series and ILMC Rookie of the Year in 2011. Winner of the 2010 GT Academy is Jordan Tresson from France, who was also the winner of the 2011 Blancpain Endurance Series. Winner of this year’s GT Academy is Jann Mardenborough from Great Britain and the last driver is Bryan Heitkotter from California, US who was the winner of GT Academy USA 2011.
Both recent winners Jann and Bryan undertook a rigorous five month Driver Development Programme, competing at regular races in a standard 370Z then in a GT4 race car. Both qualified for their International C race licenses quickly, but continued to undertake personal training sessions at Silverstone, karting to improve their race craft, physical training, race psychology, heat chamber sessions and race simulator sessions.
It will be awesome to see all four drivers compete on the big stage and to see how well they do – all thanks to Gran Turismo.
GALLERY: GT Academy Dubai 24 Hours Line Up
Nissan‘s GT Academy is the stuff of dreams. Of 54,000 virtual racers, the field has been whittled down to just 16, all of whom will then compete for a seat in a real race car, to take on the grueling 24 Hours of Dubai.
Honing their skills first racing in Gran Turismo on Playstation 3, the 16 contestants must now compete in a series of tests over a week at the Silverstone Racing Complex in the U.K., performing challenges and driving Nissan 370Zs and GT-Rs. And of course, the whole thing has been taped.
With the first episode already having aired on the Speed Network last week, in case you missed it, Nissan has provided the entire show on its YouTube channel.
Watch the video after the jump:
The lines between reality and virtual reality are getting blurred, as proven by Lucas Ordonez. He went from racing cars in the virtual world of video games, to actually competing in an LMP2 racer provided by Signatech Nissan in the 12-hours of Sebring, and actually finishing 2nd in the race. The 25 year-old Spaniard will now head to France to compete in this years 24-hours of Le Mans. Not bad for someone who only used to race sitting on a sofa.
GT Academy’s American chapter is now also looking to find their next star, and are hoping to turn the process into a reality TV show. More than 52,000 contestants signed up for this competition, and the list dwindled down to just 32. These virtual racers then went on to compete in further tests in Orlando, Fl. but only half have advanced through. So now the ‘Sweet 16′ virtual racers will go to the Silverstone racetrack in U.K. to compete in the final competition. These new tests will test a person’s physical fitness and actual skill in a race car.
There will be only one winner, and we wish all of the contestants the very best.