This is either the stupidest idea ever or the most brilliant co-promotion for two brands in the history of mankind. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, the distributor of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue across the pond, and Nissan are joining forces to host a competition that could place a really good gamer behind the seat of a real Nissan 350Z at a very real 24-hour endurance race in Dubai. The competition is called GT Academy, and the first round will be an online GT5 Prologue tournament hosted on the PLAYSTATION Network (for Europeans only, we presume). Based on the picture provided, it appears that entrants will be racing a Nissan GT-R in a special livery when the competition begins later this month. The rest of the competition will span some eight months, at the end of which the winner will receive a four-month training program to earn actual racing licenses. With his or her newfound knowledge of real physics and how actual damage occurs, the winner will then be given a stint behind the wheel of a Nissan 350Z in the 24-hour endurance race in Dubai.

Based on the press release after the jump, we're a little unclear exactly how GT Academy will whittle down all of these entrants over eight months or how much driving the winner will actually be doing in Dubai. Having raced GT5 Prologue online using the PLAYSTATION Network, we can't imagine qualifying is going to be a pretty sight. There are always plenty of jerks willing to brake late in a corner and buddy bump you into the wall regardless of the game's imposed penalties, especially if they know that seat time in a real 350Z is beyond their own reach.

[Source: Nissan, SCEE]


PRESS RELEASE

PLAYSTATION & NISSAN UNVEIL GT ACADEMY

Opportunity to drive for the Nissan team at the 24H Dubai endurance race – courtesy of PlayStation, Nissan and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue ™

London, 6 May 2008: Industry leaders PlayStation and Nissan have come together to create the ultimate competitive driving test - GT Academy. The eight-month, pan-European competition sees virtual and real-life racing merge to make the wildest dreams of two aspiring race drivers come true. The prize: a four-month training programme to earn their racing licences, followed by a real-life race driving a Nissan 350Z as part of the Nissan team at the 24H endurance race in Dubai in January 2009.

To earn a place in GT Academy, candidates will face a series of elimination-based competitions on and off the racetrack - starting at a national level with an online GT5 Prologue tournament hosted on PLAYSTATION®Network.

GT Academy builds on the long-standing partnership between PlayStation and Nissan that began with Nissan working with Gran Turismo developers Polyphony Digital. Nissan provided vehicles, racing drivers and feedback to help perfect the game's ultra-realistic driving simulation.

Roles were reversed in 2007 when Nissan called upon Polyphony Digital to design the interface for the onboard computer for the GT-R, Nissan's new supercar. The 'multifunction meter' provides drivers with updates on the car's performance and systems – a collaboration recognised as a motoring industry first. In the latest game, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue on PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3™), Nissan's GT-R joins a garage filled with 71 dream cars including seven other top Nissan sports cars.

Speaking at PlayStation Day, David Reeves, President and CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe said:

"Gran Turismo is one of the most successful global gaming franchises of the last decade and is renowned for its realism, quality of design and in-car physics technology. PlayStation is now part of the global motor sport community from its games to its Gran Turismo TV channel – and now the GT Academy. The academy brings the real and virtual worlds of racing together and is the ultimate test to see if virtual drivers have what it takes to race in a competitive environment where there isn't the option to play again."

Simon Sproule, Corporate Vice President, Global Communications, Nissan Motor Ltd, added:

"We're delighted to build on the close relationship between Nissan and Sony PlayStation. This represents the competition prize of a lifetime for racing enthusiasts; a prize that brings the worlds of gaming and racing even closer together. We look forward to welcoming our new team drivers for the race in Dubai."

GT Academy goes live at the end of May. Entrants must register, via their PS3s, on the PLAYSTATION®Network (PSN) to compete in the special online tournament. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue on PS3 has sold over one million units since its launch, with the Gran Turismo franchise now having sold more than 50 million units worldwide.