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GT Academy: a million-dollar shot that’s open to anyone

Trigger finger: Sony, Polyphony and Nissan back the ultimate prize in gaming – a shot at being a pro racer car driver.

Nissan and Sony’s video game talent quest provides an amazing opportunity

Nissan logo30 Apr 2015

By TIM ROBSON

IT’S the easiest competition in the world to enter, and the prize at the end of the journey is enormous, but software giant Polyphony Digital's computer game Gran Turismo will make someone's motorsport dream come true.

Now in its seventh year, the GT Academy is open to anyone aged over 18 who can handle a Playstation controller – and who wants to be a professional racing driver.

GT Academy includes separate competitions for Europe (France, Italy, UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic), an International group (Australia, Mexico, North Africa, Turkey and United States) as well as Asia (India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Japan).

The Grant Turismo game franchise was created by Polyphony but the academy also enjoys the backing of Sony – the maker of Playstation consoles – and Nissan.

Entrants simply log a virtual time around Silverstone track in a Nissan GT-R for the chance to be flown to the United Kingdom for a final-six shoot-out.

Young Sydneysider Josh Muggleton came perilously close to winning the grand prize in 2014, and two Australians are already in the top ten of the 2015 competition.

“The program truly changes lives, taking people from ‘gamer to pro’,” said Nissan Australia’s Corporate Communications Supervisor Chris Jordan. “As such, having an Australian winner would not only be a massive boost for the program in this country, it would give Nissan an Australian racing driver on the global stage.”

Mr Jordan explained that the prize wasn’t a one-off drive rather, it has the potential to launch a career.

“GT Academy winners become part of the Nissan NISMO global motorsport program, firstly through the Driver Development Program, then for their first race as a pro at the Dubai 24 Hours and then as NISMO Athletes where they traditionally concentrate on the Blancpain Endurance Series in Europe, racing the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3,” said Mr Jordan.

There would be obvious advantages for the local arm of Nissan should the winner call Australia home.

“NISMO athletes race all over the world in various categories as part of the NISMO Global Driver Exchange, so there is always scope to bring any NISMO athlete to Australia if the opportunity exists,” explained Mr Jordan.

NISMO athletes have raced in Australia, with two – Wolfgang Reip and Florian Strauss– winning the Bathurst 12 Hour in February for the NISMO team.

“If we had an Australian GT Academy winner, we would certainly look to work with NISMO to integrate them into our Australian motorsport activities where possible,” he said.

The GT Academy used a figure of $1 million to value the prize, which includes entry into 12 races prior to a start in the Dubai 24-hour as a minimum, but Mr Jordan valued the prize as “priceless”.

“The intense Driver Development Program that takes place once the winner is confirmed, and then the opportunity to be a factory racing driver for Nissan and NISMO, are both opportunities that cannot be bought,” he said.

“You could buy a customer drive, but not a position as a factory driver racing all around the world in categories like GT3, V8 Supercars, Super GT, LMP3, LMP2 and ultimately LMP1.”

However, the onus is on the winner to maintain their form in order for their career to progress past the Dubai endurance race.

“Once GT Academy winners become a NISMO athlete, they are considered a professional racing driver and with that they must continue to develop and prove themselves each and every season to earn their drives and continue to hold their place in the Nissan NISMO global motorsport program,” said Mr Jordan.

The Gran Turismo driving simulation game has sold more than 70 million copies over six versions since its debut in 1997.

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