Nissan is headed to the Dubai 24 Hours with a specially prepared 370Z. While the 410-horsepower Z is an impressive piece of hardware, we're more interested in who's behind the wheel. This year, Nissan will take to the track with a full team of racers who have graduated from the company's GT Academy. The four-man team is made up of individuals who got their start on the virtual tracks of the Gran Turismo video game franchise before beating out the competition for a spot on track.

Lucas Ordonez of Madrid won the 2008 GT Academy, and the young driver has since managed to take second place in the LMP2 class of the 2011 Le Mans series. The 26-year old also took home the honor of being named Rookie Of The Year in the 2011 Le Mans International Cup. Ordonez will be joined by 23-year-old Frenchman Jordon Tressman, who won the 2010 GT Academy and the 2011 Blancpain Endurance Series.

Jann Mardenborough, the 20-year-old racer who won the 2011 GT Academy will also join the team alongside this year's GT Academy USA winner, Bryan Heikotter. Hit the jump for the full press release.
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16/12/11 from Nissan GT Academy Print this page

Nissan and PlayStation® are aiming to demonstrate the phenomenal success of their GT Academy programme with a ground-breaking driver line-up at the prestigious Dubai 24 Hours (12 to 14 January 2012). All four winners of the innovative virtual-to-reality competition will tackle the demanding endurance race as a team sharing the wheel of the awesome 410bhp Nissan 370Z.

The first ever all-gamer-turned-real-racer team to tackle a major international race are –

Lucas Ordoñez (26 from Madrid, Spain) - winner of the first GT Academy in 2008, second place in the LMP2 class at Le Mans 2011, winner of the Le Mans Intercontinental Cup (ILMC) series and ILMC 'Rookie of the Year' 2011; Jordan Tresson (23 from northern France) – winner of GT Academy 2010 and winner of the 2011 Blancpain Endurance Series;

Jann Mardenborough (20 from Cardiff, Great Britain) – winner of this year's GT Academy;

Bryan Heitkotter (30 from California, USA) – winner of GT Academy USA 2011

A seat to race in the 2012 Dubai 24 Hours was always set to be the ultimate prize for the winners of the European and USA GT Academy competitions this year. Jann Mardenborough was one of 12 international finalists from across 10 European countries to emerge from a field of more than 90,000 Gran Turismo®5 gamers.

Having taken the GT Academy crowns, Jann and American counterpart Bryan embarked on a demanding five month Driver Development Programme. With regular races at national level – first in a standard 370Z and then in the GT4 race car – the pair qualified for International C race licences in super-quick order. However, the in-depth programme also included personal training sessions at Silverstone with their own, experienced race instructor, karting to improve race craft, physical training, race psychology, heat chamber sessions and i-zone race simulator sessions. The pair even ran the New York marathon as part of their training.

As Darren Cox, Nissan International's European chief marketing manager for sports cars, explains: "This was the most comprehensive and intensive driver training programme to date in GT Academy and a fantastic opportunity for Jann. We planned every detail to make sure that it was not just a case of him being 'qualified' to race in Dubai, but that he is a fully-rounded package capable of challenging for a strong finish alongside all of the other winners of GT Academy. Is it a risk to have four drivers in the same car when even the most experienced had never raced before 2008? Definitely not. They said we were crazy when we launched the programme and the GT Academy team keep proving the doubters wrong. All eyes will be on them again in Dubai and they won't let Nissan or PlayStation down."

"It will be an exciting day for me on 13th January when the Dubai 24 Hour race gets underway with a team full of GT Academy champions," echoed Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi, president of Polyphony Digital. "In the past few years a lot of top works teams and famous drivers have raced in Dubai. The success of the GT Academy programme since its debut in 2008 means that they will not take the challenge of the GT Academy Nissan 370Z lightly. The motor sport world certainly took notice of the raw talent that has emerged from Gran Turismo through our GT Academy partnership with Nissan when Lucas stood on the podium at Le Mans. In Dubai we shall give them even more to think about."

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