- Gran Turismo®6 players transcend virtual world to race in Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 race car
- GT Academy European, International, Middle East and North America winners put skills to the test in Dubai
This January 9-10, four elite PlayStation® gamers take the ultimate step to real-world racing as they compete in the Hankook Dubai 24 Hours race behind the wheel of a 550bhp Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 race car.
GT Academy 2014 winners (left to right) Gaëtan Paletou (France), Ahmed Bin-Khanen (Saudi Arabia), Nicholas Hammann (USA), and Ricardo Sánchez (Mexico) at Silverstone Circuit during their Driver Development Programme
This incredible opportunity is their prize for winning the 2014 edition of the highly-acclaimed NISMO PlayStation® GT Academy, the virtual-to-reality competition that gives the very best Gran Turismo® gamers the opportunity to make it as a real-world Nissan racing driver. GT Academy has established itself as a credible new route into top-level motorsport.
The Dubai 24 Hour race is the traditional prize for GT Academy. The new graduates will be making their international debuts and trying to show they have what it takes to become the next crop of NISMO Athletes. The race comes only three months after these four PlayStation gamers made the cut to take part in the coveted GT Academy Driver Development Programme.
At the Dubai 24 Hours last year the GT Academy team recorded a class-win in the Nissan 370Z, setting a gauntlet for this year’s gamer-to-racers. For 2015, the #23 car will be a full GT-R NISMO GT3 car competing in the A6 Pro-Am class, the quickest category in the race. A record 95 cars will take the grid in this special tenth anniversary edition of the Dubai 24 Hours.
At this prestigious race, GT Academy European winner Gaëtan Paletou of France will team up with International competition winner Ricardo Sánchez of Mexico, Middle East winner Ahmed Bin-Khanen of Saudi Arabia, and North American winner Nicholas Hammann from the U.S. Also joining the team is GT Academy 2013 German winner and NISMO Athlete, Florian Strauss, whose victory at the Dubai 24 Hours in 2014 set a benchmark for this year’s team. They will compete against some of the world’s fastest racers.
The race will be televised to an audience of millions across multiple markets live from the Dubai Autodrome, where the training and skills of GT Academy competitors will be put to the ultimate test. Bob Neville, team principal of RJN Motorsport, attests his faith in the young drivers. “Our boys showed fantastic promise in the Driver Development Programme, and like those before them have defied the necessity of long-term experience by taking wins and podiums at club level across the UK with just a few weeks of training. GT Academy is aiming to unearth future champions and there is some real potential in the team. The higher standard they’re competing against in Dubai compared to last year, this early on in their racing experience, will be a great chance for them to prove themselves and further validate GT Academy as a route to professional motorsport.”
The Driver Development Programme is undertaken by all GT Academy winners and is used to fast-track each driver’s experience in acquiring an international racing license, a requirement for competing at the Dubai 24 Hours. Over the intensive three-month period, Gaëtan Paletou came first in class at the Britcar night race alongside Ricardo Sánchez, with Ahmed Bin-Khanen and Nick Hammann coming fourth. At the Arrowpak Saloon & Sportscar Championship, Ricardo, Ahmed, Gaëtan and Nick took the top four places in class respectively at Silverstone International Circuit in October.
The scepticism that once met GT Academy racing drivers at Dubai and other races quickly evaporated amid the success enjoyed by previous champions now competing as professional NISMO Athletes. These racing drivers continued to excite in 2014. Jann Mardenborough took a race win in Formula One feeder series GP3 and tested impressively in Japan’s top single-seater category Super Formula as well as Formula Renault 3.5. Inaugural GT Academy winner Lucas Ordoñez impressed the world with a Super GT300 race win, while Wolfgang Reip broke new barriers as he completed the first ever all-electric lap of Le Mans in the Nissan ZEOD RC.