Nissan and PlayStation have expanded their GT Academy virtual-to-reality racing competition from Europe and America to South Africa and the Middle East.
More than 2.3 million wannabee racing drivers have entered for the GT Academy since 2008, and the four previous graduates of the virtual-to-reality programme have so far netted a second place finish at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, a championship win in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and, most recently, a podium finish in the World Endurance Championship. In January 2012 a three-man team - all gamers - made history when they finished on the podium of the Dubai 24 Hour race.
A special free-to-download gaming format will go live from 15 October until 10th December. An eight-step qualification programme, that can be played online by anybody with a PlayStation 3, will use Gran Turismo 5 as a base, but has been further developed by the game's creator, Kazunori Yamauchi.
The fastest PlayStation gamers in South Africa will join winners from a number of live events to compete in a National final in January - and then the action will move to real cars when the winners of the SA nationals take part in the international Race Camp competition at Silverstone Circuit in March, along with the finalists from the Middle East competition.
The winner of Race Camp will then go through an intensive driver development programme to prepare them for the chance to take part in the Silverstone 24 Hours in 2013.
FROM VIRTUAL TO REALITY
GT Academy is now an established route into top-level motorsport. Spanish gamer Lucas Ordoñez, the first GT Academy winner in 2008, finished second in the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hour race and contested the full European Le Mans Series in a Zytek LMP2 car.
Jordan Tresson of France, who won in 2010, is racing in the World Endurance Championship and competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours in the Signatech LMP2 car.
British driver Jann Mardenborough, winner in 2011, has just completed his first season racing a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the British GT Championship - and nearly took the title at his first attempt, while his American counterpart, Bryan Heitkotter, has been successfully competing in the Grand-Am Sports Car Challenge Series.