Nissan and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe have joined forces again to bring gaming and motor sport fans the ultimate racing competition. GT Academy 2010 will go live on 17 December, 2009 and will use the virtual world of the new PlayStation Gran Turismo 5 game to find a real-world racing driver.
GT Academy 2010 is the second instalment of this incredible competition. In 2008/09, Lucas Ordoñez, a 23-year-old Spanish student, graduated from his PlayStation 3 console to become a full-on racing driver via the GT Academy. Lucas is living proof that the answer to the question posed by PlayStation and Nissan - "can the world of virtual racing unearth a real racing talent?" - was a resounding "yes".
After a debut in the Dubai International 24 Hour race alongside former F1 driver Johnny Herbert, Lucas teamed-up with British driver Alex Buncombe to campaign a Nissan 350Z. Driving for the RJN Motorsport GT Academy team, the pair took part in the full European GT4 Cup season, mostly run alongside the prestigious FIA GT series. Their stunning performances included two race wins and two second-place finishes that left them an agonisingly close second in the drivers' classification, but winners of the Teams' Championship.
The success of Nissan and PlayStations' 'experiment' spurred them on to make GT Academy 2010 even bigger and better. The competition falls into four 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 PrologueTM game itself, and so even more hopeful racing drivers are expected to take part.
Stage Two - the holders of the twenty fastest online lap times from each participating country will qualify for their national final event. 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 national finals events, will head to the world famous Silverstone circuit for the GT Academy itself - a five-day, comprehensive race driver 'boot camp'. They will have a chance to develop new driving skills in an array of Nissan, and other, hardware, while also being judged on fitness and mental attitude.
Stage Four - For the two competitors that display the talent, fitness, aptitude, drive and determination to succeed in motor sport, the action will hot-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.
The GT Academy competition is open to participants from the following territories: Austria; Belgium; France; Germany; Ireland; Italy; Netherlands; Portugal; Spain; Switzerland; UK; and Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Also joining in will be Australia and New Zealand to make it a truly international promotion. This year's rules stipulate that anyone who holds, or has held, a national or international race license will not qualify for GT Academy. This rule is aimed at maintaining the purity of the "virtual to real" concept.
The online section of the game will run from 17 December until 24 January with national finals following soon afterwards. The GT Academy itself takes place from 26 February until 3 March. The two winners will have to quickly clear their diaries, as 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 2 May.