2014 Auto Expo: Nissan launches its famed GT Academy in India

Team OD Updated: February 04, 2014, 11:24 AM IST

It is still a day to go before the 2014 Auto Expo and we can't contain our excitement about what's in store today. The outrageous Nissan GT Academy has been launched. This is terrific news, especially considering that one of the world's toughest off-road event the Rainforest Challenge was also launched today.

The GT academy programme has been defying both common sense and motorsports tradition since its inception in 2008. It takes people who are good at video games and, in a matter of months, turns them into professional racers.


However, unlike the original series where more than one person is trained for the race track, the GT Academy in India will have only one winner. He/she will be sent to other countries to participate in a national final event where they will race in special pods during a series of live GT elimination rounds.

In the final selection round, the top performers from the national finals across the world will take part in a race at the Silverstone racing circuit. This is where the virtual world ends and the competitors will be given actual Nissan sports cars. The jury will decide the winner based on passion, talent, drive and what it takes to become a professional race driver. The grand prize though will be a spot in the Nissan racing team with the company sponsoring all the licensing and training required for international motorsport events.

In 2011, Bryan Heitkotter, a parts deliveryman in Fresno, California, was laid off. 2011 also saw the very first edition of GT Academy USA. How are the two events related? The hard-on-luck gaming enthusiast tried his luck in the gaming event and won it. He then went on to train alongside fellow gamer Jann Mardenborough at Silverstone, and stood with him on that podium in Dubai. In 2012, he competed at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Unemployed in 2011, racing at Indy in 2012.

In 2008, Nissan and Sony held the first GT Academy. Spain's Lucas Ordonez, 23, a student who had never driven a real racecar before, won GT Academy Europe. This year, he was on the podium at the legendary Nürburgring, and is knocking at the doors to the F1 circuit.

In the history of GT Academy, such cases are aplenty. In 2011, 19-year-old Welshman Jann Mardenborough won the second installment of GT Academy Europe. Six months later he had an international racing license, and by January, he was standing on the podium with his GT Academy teammates at the 24 Hours of Dubai.


Similarly in 2012, Steve Doherty, a mechanic from Plainfield, Illinois, took GT Academy's checkered flag and the cherished red helmet in the show's finale. From there, he raced under the pseudonym "Dan Mitchell" (so as not to give away the show's ending before it aired on the web) in various development series in Europe, working towards his international racing license. In January 2013, he teamed up with three other GT Academy drivers to race to a top 10 finish in the Dubai 24 Hours.


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