Nissan’s DeltaWing racecar and the victory that almost wasn’t.
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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.