Ok…this is pretty awesomePosted: March 1, 2011
I like video games. I like sports video games – golf, baseball, football – but specifically I like racing video games. I originally got into racing games with the Gran Turismo series. Back in 1999 I had a Nintendo 64. 64 bits of greatness. Now that I think about it, I guess my first racing game would have been the awesomeness of Mario Kart.
At some point, my N64 was stolen and I upgraded to the Playstation. With the purchase of the PSOne, I picked up this racing game I knew nothing about. I only picked it up because it was a Greatest Hits game and it was only $20 or something like that. That game was Gran Turismo. And it blew my mind. All the cars, all the customization, all the racing. It totally exposed me to cars and brands I knew nothing about. I learned all about toe-in/toe-out, camber, rebound, extension, and this unknown Japanese car: the GTR. In time, my catalog expanded from Gran Turismo to Gran Turismo 2. During my divorce, I bought the PS2 just to piss off my soon-to-be ex-wife and GT3 came out shortly thereafter. Finally GT4 came out. From GT1 to GT4, the series kept expanding, getting more detailed, more cars, more tracks, more everything.
Two and a half years ago, I bought my PS3. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was the first game I bought. It had been on the market for about 6 months and was just a teaser game for the upcoming full Gran Turismo 5. Finally, after a couple of delays GT5 came out in November. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a great racer. Anyway, about 2 years ago, the game developer, Polyphony Digital and Nissan teamed up together and created the GT Academy. Using the GT5P’s online capabilities, we gamers entered into a competition using virtual cars to earn a chance to drive real cars. I can’t remember all the specifics, but ultimately, a Spanish post-graduate student won the competition. Lucas Ordonez won the opportunity to race on the European circuits in a GT3-spec Nissan 350Z. He’s been racing the past 2+ years and has had some success. Well, today I see this announcement:
Winner of the first GT Academy, Lucas Ordoñez, has just been announced as a driver with Team Signatech Nissan, to compete in the 2011 International Le Mans Cup – including the 24 Hours of Le Mans! He’ll be piloting their ORECA O3 LMP2 car at ILMC events around the world, starting with the 12 Hours of Sebring next month.
This is an awesome step forward – not just for Lucas, GT Academy, and the Gran Turismo series, but for sim-racers everywhere. Here’s what Darren Cox, European Marketing Manager for Nissan Sports Cars, had to say about the announcement:
“When we started the GT Academy in 2008, we knew we were going to discover new talent, but we did not imagine that the Academy would take the turn of a training program to serve as a springboard to the biggest race in the world. With Lucas, we have indeed proved that a player on PlayStation could translate his skills on a real car on a real operating system. His progress in just two seasons racing sports are spectacular. They reflect the reality Gran Turismo and know-how and support that Nissan was able to provide players who have gone through the Academy. Nissan has a rich history in international motorsport and we are also a very innovative company. Therefore, we return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a driver that we have discovered three years ago through a race on PlayStation, for us is quite normal, although this will probably surprise many. “
A few weeks ago, now that GT5 is out, they rolled out the GT Academy for North America. I competed. I did not advance to the second round. I don’t claim to be a potential Le Mans racer, but I finished around 1,700th out of 50,000 competitors. Not too bad.