Hello everyone. PlayStation owners with a love of the automotive world will perhaps be aware of the GT Academy contest that we have created with our partner Nissan. In its fourth year, GT Academy challenges the conventions of motor sport by taking some of the fastest PlayStation gamers in the world and fast tracking them to become a professional racing driver.
Back in August 2012, the renowned GT Academy Race Camp at Silverstone Circuit unearthed the latest virtual-to-reality Champions. Since then, Wolfgang Reip (2012 European winner from Belgium), Mark Shulzhitskiy (2012 Russian winner), Peter Pyzera (2012 German winner) and Steve Doherty (2012 US winner) have spent the last four months completing a highly advanced Driver Development Programme in order to prepare them for their ultimate prize – to drive a Nissan 370Z GT4 Nismo race car at last weekend’s prestigious Dubai 24 Hours race (11-12 January).
European and Russian GT Academy winners Wolgang and Mark, were in the first car, numbered 127, together with their more experienced team-mates, inaugural winner of GT Academy Spaniard Lucas Ordoñez and Nissan LMP2 Russian driver Roman Rusinov.
Peter and Steve, German and US GT Academy Champions respectively, were sharing the wheel of the second 370Z, numbered 147, alongside Germany’s ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ Sabine Schmitz and Nissan’s British driver Alex Buncombe.
The GT Academy entries got the race weekend off to a flying start, with the two cars qualifying first and second in class. True to form with an endurance race of this nature, both teams had to overcome a number of challenges throughout 24 hours of non-stop action. With Wolfie driving, car #127 was hit by a stray wheel which had flown off the car in front and #147 endured an off whilst running on cold tyres.
Car #127 was leading the class prior to suffering the unavoidable collision with the tyre, which forced it back to the pits for repair. The superhuman effort by the tireless mechanics, saw it back out onto the track in under an hour. However, the incident put them back into ninth place, but a great job from this year’s two recruits ‘Wolfie’ and Mark, and their two professional team-mates, meant that they crossed the finish line in a fantastic second position in class.
Across the garage, it was proving an even tougher race for car #147. After a Code ’60′ period at the start of the night (where cars slow to 60km/h rather than racing behind a safety car) Sabine went off the track on cold tyres. The car went straight to the garage for repair and initially the damage looked terminal, but once again the mechanics worked their magic and after an hour and a half the car was back on track with Peter at the wheel. Despite the set-back, American GT Academy winner Steve nursed the car across the finish line in ninth position.
The success in Dubai saw all four of this year’s GT Academy drivers once again proving that superfast Gran Turismo players can transfer their gaming skills onto the real race track, with the GT Academy programme discovering the latest crop of virtual-to-reality racers that are destined to make their mark in the competitive world of motor sport.