Johnny Herbert and team are ready and raring to go as they conclude their nine-month adventure, with the ultimate real life race
The excitement is building as the team prepare in Dubai. Their Nissan 350Z GT4 race car has been shipped to the Middle East for the final stage of GT Academy, the virtual to reality racing programme. For Lucas this marks the realization of his ultimate dream, to go from virtual to real life racer, capable of the standard required for this difficult race. A dream shared by both Nissan and PlayStation®.
Three months ago Lucas Ordo˝ez, 23 and Lars Schl÷mer, 28 beat 25,000 competitors in the virtual motoring world on Gran Turismo 5 PrologueT on PLAYSTATION® 3 to secure a place in GT Academy. They then went on to battle it out against 22 other national finalists at Silverstone in a series of physical, mental and real world driving challenges to ultimately win the chance to race in Dubai. An arduous 4 month testing schedule followed, where both drivers were put through their paces to ascertain whether either would be ready for the challenge they would face in January. This was the first time anything like this has been attempted and both drivers have done exceptionally well in qualifying for their international racing licenses whilst defying expectations to reach the level they have in such a short period of time.
Johnny Herbert, lead driver of the Nissan/PlayStation® racing team said: "GT Academy is an extremely innovative initiative. F1 has just crowned its youngest ever Champion. He, like so many others have come through Karts and Single Seaters. PlayStation® and Nissan are challenging that convention and seeing if there is another way to discover and train outstanding young drivers. Lucas and Lars are two extremely passionate drivers and I am astounded at the progress they have made in such a short space of time."
Everyone always knew it was going to be tough to train the two winners to the level required by January 2009. To take a driver from being a novice to an International license holder in just three months has never been attempted before in this way. The pressure was immense on both drivers throughout the programme and Lars met additional challenges along the way. Unfortunately he was forced to miss vital training exercises such as the night race, leaving him with less experience than Lucas. This forced the team to make a tough decision - to ask Lars to relinquish his seat in Dubai.
Darren Cox, Nissan Europe says:
"As was always due to be the case the Nissan/PlayStation® team have assessed the situation prior to Dubai and have made the decision that although an integral part of the team and hugely successful, Lars is not quite ready to join the team on the track for the final race in Dubai. The requirements on the competitors were extremely tough at every stage and only the ultimate dedication and focus along with maximum fitness have ensured Lucas is ready to race. Lars' safety is of utmost importance to us and has to be put first. We are proud of what he has achieved and look forward to working with him in 2009."
Lucas Ordo˝ez commented: "To have Mr Herbert as a team mate in the car in the Dubai 24 Hours is incredible. I need to put everything I have learnt on the PlayStation and on the track to good use to make sure I don't let him and the rest of the team down."
Launched in May 2008, GT Academy is an international driving competition from Nissan and PlayStation®, which invites 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. Ordo˝ez and Schl÷mer are the first two winners of GT Academy and have spent the last four months competing across the UK in an intensive training programme designed by the Nissan/PlayStation® racing team to prepare themselves for what awaits them in their future racing careers.
Nissan have announced that a second 350Z will run in Dubai, entered by RJN Motorsport. The driver line up for this car is led by Nissan Motors Global Executive Vice President Carlos Tavares (Portugal). Tavares is an experienced racer who competes regularly in the EUROBOSS Series which will give him and his team a strong grounding for this January 2009 race.