US-ENTERTAINMENT-IT-E3

The path to become a racing driver is a difficult one. It requires starting early, with karts, and then building up through the years and if you're really, really good (and really, really lucky), a team will notice you and sign you up. Or, you know, you could just become really good at Gran Turismo, and beat out other like-minded fanatics for a seat in the GT Academy.

The racing school, which culls its students from the ranks of Gran Turismo players has already pumped out successful racers, most notably, Lucas Ordoñez, who has a second and third-place finish under his belt at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the 2014 GT Academy kicking off April 21 and running through June 16, you could have a chance to be the next Ordoñez.

That won't be easy, though. We recently had a playthrough on GT6 the proper way - with a racing seat, pedals and a steering wheel, complete with column-mounted paddles. (Our setup looked just like the one you see above, though that image is from E3.) In other words, it was as close to driving an actual car as most console games can get.

During the 2014 New York Auto Show festivities, we took part in a tournament put on by Toyota that pitted this humble Autoblog scribe against some writers from other publications. Using a full driving setup, we raced around Fuji Speedway in Toyota's 2014 Detroit Auto Show concept, the FT-1. It didn't go too well.

After practicing at home, the best we could manage was a 1:47. In the NYC hot seat, though, our times improved rapidly. Initial practice laps started at 1:45 and dropped steadily, until we belted out a fast time of 1:37.295, which put Autoblog in the lead. It was a brief triumph, though. A friend from Cars.com bested us by a few tenths of a second, turning in a high 1:36, before we were royally whopped by a hot shoe from Popular Mechanics, who delivered a time in the 1:35s.

Looks like we won't be winning the GT Academy any time soon. That said, the improvement provided by a good wheel-and-pedal setup is enough to make us believers. It's a sound investment if you're looking to experience your favorite racing games a new way and a must-have if you're thinking about tackling the 2014 GT Academy.