Sony Computer Entertainment and Polyphony Digital Inc. have partnered with Nissan once again to find the best virtual racer and transform him or her into a real race car driver on actual tracks. This gamer-to-racer strategy was controversial when it began five years ago, but has proven to be an innovative and effective way to both find great drivers and begin their path towards excellence as professional motorsport racers. This year, one of the finalists is from the United States and is headed for the International Race Camp for a shot at becoming the next NISMO up-and-comer.
Past champions from the GT Academy include Jann Mardenborough, who will pilot the GT-R LM NISMO at Le Mans in the pinnacle of endurance racing this June. Bryan Heitkotter is racing the Nissan GT-R GT3 in the Pirelli World Challenge this year as well. Other GT Academy graduates are training and building their names in the NISMO stables of excellent drivers as well. These include Steven Doherty, Nick McMillen, and last year's winner Nic Hamman, who're all slated to co-drive the 370Z NISMO in the IMSA Continental Sportscar Challenge Series this season.
Currently, the American PlayStation3 Gran Turismo 6 gamers are fighting to become one of the 20 who'll compete in the National Finals this summer. The top six gamers from those finals then go on to the International Race Camp to aim for a shot at the professional placement for Nissan in the GT Academy television show where gamers get into real cars and test their mettle and ability to adapt from the virtual to the real.
"All of us at Nissan North America have been extremely impressed with the caliber of racing driver the GT Academy competition has produced," said Rick Kulach, NNA Motorsports Manager. "Every one of them has been on a podium driving for Nissan, and they continue to learn the craft of racing while being great teammates and brand ambassadors for Nissan."
The online competition has begun and will end on June 16. At that point, the 20 fastest in-game race times in GT6 qualifying challenge runs will be invited to the U.S. Finals to be held mid-July. The best six of those head for Silverstone in the United Kingdom this August.