We've all dreamed it, but Lucas Ordoñez gets to live it. As the winner of the Nissan/Playstation GT Academy contest, in which Gran Turismo gamers competed to win a slot as a pilot in the European GT racing championship, Ordoñez spent the latter half of 2008 training under Johnny Herbert in preparation for this year's season.
At his first outing in the GT4 series at Silverstone this past weekend, the GT Academy team started in 11th place, moved to 6th, 4th and then 1st before the safety car was called out, the 350Z came into the pits and Ordoñez took the helm. With time running out, Ordoñez began his battle for the podium and after a crash on the final lap, our Playstation protagonist seized the opportunity to land a third-place finish – far better than the top-six result the crew's captain set for the team. Ordoñez and the GT team are due to run in Italy next weekend, followed by four more races this year.
PODIUM JOY FOR THE WORLD'S FIRST EVER VIRTUAL TO REAL LIFE RACING DRIVER
First GT4 European Championship weekend ends with a place on the podium for the winner of the GT Academy, Lucas Ordoñez
Racing success continues for the world's first virtual to real life racing driver Lucas Ordoñez, winner of the Nissan/PlayStation® GT Academy 2008. Following an intensive training schedule last year, where Lucas was coached by established drivers such as Johnny Herbert, his first foray into European GT racing has proven to be yet another positive step for the young gamer turned racer.
Last weekend Lucas yet again held his own on a track of seasoned competitors as he partnered experienced driver Alex Buncombe in the first race of the competitive European GT4 series. Recording two strong results, Lucas and the Nissan PlayStation team enjoyed an exciting weekend at Silverstone that provided the perfect next step for Lucas into the world of real Gran Turismo racing.
Race one saw a storming drive by Lucas and Alex from 11th on the grid to 6th position but it was race two that delivered a memorable result for the drivers. Buncombe displayed a textbook start from 4th on the grid and was leading by the end of the first lap. The advantage was lost due to the intervention of a safety car and a cautious pit stop and it was left to Ordoñez to rejoin the track and battle it out for 2nd, 3rd and 4th places. A titanic scrap raged throughout the rest of the race but Ordoñez seized his chance and in the last few corners made his move to take an unexpected but well deserved podium.
Lucas said: "I was really pushing hard on the last corners, trying to overtake the BMW. I could tell that he was losing grip on his rear tyres and I managed to overtake him on the last corner. I'm really happy that we came third in my first race weekend in GT4, it's great for me. We'll try to continue to improve in Italy in two weeks time. Alex showed that the Nissan can lead races and I need to help convert those chances."
Team boss of Nissan Playstation, Bob Neville added: "Last year the Nissan Z and Alex Buncombe won more races in European GT4 than anyone else, but the podium today feels like more of an achievement. We have seen Lucas grow in such a short space to deliver this exciting drive today."
Mark Bowles, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe added: "The creator of the Gran Turismo series of games, Kazunori Yamauchi was at Silverstone to witness this important chapter in our commitment to take a Gran Turismo gamer and turn him into a real life racing driver – he and I can't wait for the next instalment."
Darren Cox, Nissan Europe said: "I set Lucas, Alex and the team a objective of a top six result, they have overachieved against strong opposition from Aston Martin and BMW. Lucas must not let this result go to his head and focus on consistent results over the next five race weekends across Europe."
Launched in May 2008, GT Academy is an international driving competition from Nissan and PlayStation®, which invited gaming fans from across Europe to put their virtual driving skills to the test and win the chance to compete in the real life racing world. Ordoñez was the first winner of GT Academy which proved to be a resounding success – all that remains now is to see just how far the success continues.