From armchair to asphalt – part one
Surely you can’t go from gamer to grid in under five months?
Every boy (and probably a fair few members of the fairer sex) dreams of being a racing driver at some point in their life, but the lack of money/talent/opportunity (delete as appropriate) often holds them back.
The advent of racing games has given us no-hopers a bit more of a chance to experience what the heat of battle behind the wheel – or more likely, control pad – is like. So much so that car manufacturers are now actively seeking out living room gamers, taking them from the armchair to the asphalt and moulding them into real racing drivers.
That’s what the GT Academy’s sole rationale is. Devised by Nissan and Sony, it takes the cream of the crop on the virtual stage, hand picking the fastest players of Gran Turismo 5 and chucking them in at the deep end in a real car.
I was at the finals of this year’s GT Academy to watch the six best from the 830,000 Europe-wide pool of competition entrants duke it out for top honours and a seat in a GT4-spec Nissan 370Z racer at next year’s Dubai 24 hours in January.
It’s not just a question of jumping into a car after having a bash on the console though. The process is all about forming the complete racing driver from the fastest players of the game – while that means training and time behind the wheel, it also means developing media skills, physical fitness and mental strength.
If you ever did the dreaded bleep test in high school – essentially a challenge to run a set distance between ‘bleeps’ that get closer and closer together, you’ll know how hard it is.
Now imagine doing it at 9am on a flat, open windswept airfield circuit in Northamptonshire. That’s how bad you’ve got to want it to win. You’re on your own here and only motivation, dedication and damned hard work will see you rise to the top.
It’s beneficial though. Getting a bit of blood pumping through the body might help cure some of that RSI gamers so often complain of…
When it came to the driving the contestants weren’t just left to their own devices to get race-ready though. Some of the finest names in world motorsport were called upon to mentor the young guns – including former F1 drivers Johnny Herbert, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Rene Arnoux and Sebastien Buemi.
You’ve not got time to be star-struck as a competitor. You just have to shut up, listen up and put up. Careful planning and strategy, and putting your mentor’s advice into practice – along with a decent splash of natural talent – is the recipe for success.
It’s a cool project, the GT Academy. Think of all the potential racing drivers out there – the guys and girls with equal or even greater abilities than the likes of Michael Schumacher or Ayrton Senna – that have slipped, are slipping or will slip through the net because of a lack of funds and backing.
It’s why this sort of programme should be commended – giving normal people with a passion a chance for glory. But can a crash course in racing and the world surrounding it actually replicate the experience garnered through years of motorsport and a gradual progression through the ranks of junior formulae?
You’ll find out. This is just the first in our five part series. We’ve got interviews with last year’s winner Jann Mardenborough and former F1 driver Martin Brundle – an experienced hand that has raced alongside inaugural GT Academy winner, Lucas Ordonez – giving us insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the programme and its products.
The point is can you take a video game enthusiast from armchair to asphalt and create a proper racing driver? The formbook might say you can, but stay tuned for the tomorrow’s instalment to find out how Nissan do it.
MSN Cars' Steve Walker takes the UK's cheapest new car for a test drive to see if it's worth parting only £5,995 for.
Date 23/05/13, Duration 4:17, Views 1136
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