The Nissan PlayStation GT Academy (also The NISMO PlayStation GT Academy or GT Academy, GT abbreviated from Gran Turismo) is an international virtual-to-reality contest that allows the video gamers of the Gran Turismo game the opportunity to become a real-world car racing driver.
Created in June 2008 in collaboration between Nissan Europe, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and Polyphony Digital. , GT Academy provides an alternative route into professional motor racing for people.
The contest comprises different phases. Players begin with virtual racing on PlayStation's Gran Turismo, and progress to National Finals before the winners of each region compete for real in Nissan cars at Race Camp. This experience involves week-long testing and challenges which can result in elimination. Since 2008, Race Camp has been based at Silverstone Circuit, UK, where the title of GT Academy Winner is awarded to whoever demonstrates the greatest potential to make the switch from Gran Turismo gamer to real racer.
Competition winners are rewarded with a place in Nissan's Driver Development Programme as well as entry into an international race or series with Nissan.
GT Academy was originally run only across Europe. The sixth season in 2014 grew to include separate competitions for Europe (France, Italy, UK, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Russia, Sweden, Poland and Czech Republic), Germany, North America (USA and Canada) and an International group (Australia, India, Middle East, Mexico and Thailand).
Nissan's Driver Development Programme is included to try and assist GT Academy Winners to develop the skills needed to compete against those with years of car racing experience. Over six seasons, more than five million people have entered GT Academy via PlayStation 3. GT Academy Winners who qualify to compete in the international race or series are also considered for a potential future racing career with Nissan as a NISMO Athlete.
Since 2008, each season of GT Academy has followed with a reality entertainment TV series which has been broadcast in over 160 countries. The series is localised for TV channels in different markets, which has included ITV4 (UK), Discovery (Spain) Rossiye 2 (Russia), and Europe's largest broadcast network RTL in Germany and Holland. In 2013, the GT Academy TV programs recorded a global TV audience of over 100 million . In the North American GT Academy competitions, the TV series is hosted by a celebrity, which began with TV personality Kristin Adams in 2011 and continued with former NFL star Dhani Jones since 2012 on Spike TV.
Players qualify for GT Academy through Gran Turismo 6 on PlayStation 3. Gamers in the participating territories sign in with their PSN (PlayStation Network) ID and enter the competition via a free automatic update on the game. They then set the fastest lap time possible in order to succeed four rounds, each with a different track and Nissan vehicle, before the final round determines whether or not the player qualifies for the next phase of GT Academy.
Nissan and PlayStation host Live Events for the qualifying rounds in the participating territories. These events allow those who don’t have a PlayStation 3 or copy of Gran Turismo 6 to enter the competition on gaming pods set up at public venues or events, such as motor shows and gaming conventions . The fastest gamers at the Live Events will go through to the National Finals.
National Finals identify which gamers have real-life racing potential and determine the top selection of competitors who will progress to the next phase of GT Academy. In addition to onsite Gran Turismo 6 time trials, competitors are also tested on real driving in Nissan vehicles. Additionally, players undergo a personality test, and assessments of physical fitness, vision and general health.
Winners from the National Finals receive a place at Race Camp, a week-long selection process that determines the GT Academy Winner. Headquartered at Stowe Circuit in the premises of Silverstone Circuit, UK, Race Camp assesses competitors both on and off the real-world track. Competitors are split into regional groups where they compete against each other and also against other territories. They are allocated a judge - each with a professional background in car racing – responsible for mentoring and eliminating all but one of their group based on various eliminatory challenges. A head judge also oversees the eliminations and has the ultimate responsibility of naming the GT Academy Winner. On the last day, the remaining competitors - one from each group – compete in a final race against each other, where the results of the race, along with their development over Race Camp, are used by the judges to determine the winner.
Activities take place within Silverstone Circuit and a number of other neighbouring venues to accommodate numerous types of challenges. On the track, these include pit stop challenge, gymkhana, dogfight, stock car racing, traffic challenge, and more, with competitors driving in buggies, single seaters, and Caterham cars, as well as actual Nissan cars such as the 370Z, Juke, GT-R, Leaf, and Pulsar. Off-track challenges typically involve an assault course, triathlon, laser challenge, written tests, interviews and more.
GT Academy Winners are invited to take part in Nissan's Driver Development Programme. Headquartered at Silverstone Circuit, UK, the Driver Development Program consists of two-to-four months of training and racing at club and national level with the GT Academy Nissan RJN Motorsport Team in order for drivers to qualify for an International Racing License, a process that normally takes three years. This is a requirement to compete at an international endurance race – the final prize for the majority of the GT Academy Winners – which for most has been the Dubai 24 Hours.
RJN Motorsport have been the racing team for GT Academy Winners for the Driver Development Programme ever since the first GT Academy in 2008, where inaugural winner Lucas Ordoñez upgraded his National B racing license to an International C racing licence after six weekends of racing.
In addition to building fitness, racing experience and theory, the Driver Development Programme also includes training in the NISMO Lab, where technological equipment includes Nissan's In-Body machine, which analyses body composition; a brainwave monitor, which trains the mind to simultaneously focus and relax; a BATAK console to improve peripheral vision and reaction times; a racing simulator which allows simulated racing practice on any track in the world; a biometric harness and the JukeRide which measure biometric and telemetry data respectively.
According to the GT Academy site on the Gran Turismo website, GT Academy requires entrants to be over the age of 18. Any contestant who made it to Race Camp in any of the previous GT Academy competitions is generally only allowed to progress within the Online Qualification stage of the GT Academy.
In 2006, Darren Cox of Nissan made a promotional deal with Sony Computer Entertainment UK that brought fans of PlayStation driving games for a day of driving in Nissan cars. After the event, one of the driving instructors explained that the skills of some of the video gamers made a clear impression on the track. Nissan Europe and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe recognised the value of the concept and after two years, GT Academy was born. The Gran Turismo series from Polyphony Digital Inc. was chosen to provide the digital component. Series director Kazunori Yamauchi has been quoted as being a keen supporter of GT Academy since its inception. GT Academy was initially meant to last for only one year.
The debut GT Academy took place in 2008, attracting 25,000 PlayStation 3 gamers from across 12 participating countries in Europe who entered through the Gran Turismo 5 game. Lucas Ordoñez from Spain became the inaugural GT Academy Winner. His efforts at the Dubai 24 Hours in 2009, racing alongside Johnny Herbert, then prompted Nissan to sign Ordoñez to a full program in the 2009 GT4 European Cup, where he finished the season in second place with two wins and six podiums. Following the outcome of GT Academy, Nissan Europe and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe decided to continue the contest in 2010.
A virtual-to-reality competition had not previously been attempted in the motoring industry, and GT Academy received a lot of scepticism in the beginning. After it was launched, Autoblog.com described GT Academy as "either the stupidest idea ever or the most brilliant co-promotion for two brands."
GT Academy continued in 2010, expanding to 17 countries including New Zealand and Australia, where the demo required for qualification was downloaded more than 1.3 million times. In 2011 the competition went to the United States, where Bryan Heitkotter became the first GT Academy Winner outside of Europe. The European competition in 2011 began at the Le Mans 24 Hours in France, as inaugural GT Academy Winner Lucas Ordoñez made his Le Mans race debut. 2012 saw the beginning of Live Events, offering a way into GT Academy for those without a PlayStation 3 or Gran Turismo game. In 2013, GT Academy included competitions in Europe, the U.S., Germany, Russia, the Middle East and South Africa, each entering the competition for the first time on Gran Turismo 6. In 2014, a new International competition was introduced, broadening GT Academy again to Australia and the Middle East, and for the first time to India, Mexico and Thailand. In the Dubai 24 Hours 2015 race, four new GT Academy winners finished second in the GT3 Pro-Am class and fifth overall out of 95 cars, just months after winning their respective GT Academy competitions. The round in Malaysia is planned in 2015, together with new countries such as Japan and Indonesia as well.
For 2015, there were three GT Academy competitions based on region. These were:GT Academy Europe: France, Italy, Germany, UK, Iberia (Spain, Portugal), Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands) and CEE (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary)
GT Academy Asia: Japan, India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia
GT Academy International: USA, Australia, Mexico, North Africa (Egypt, Morocco, Algeria), Turkey
GT Academy has turned video gamers to racing drivers over a period of months, and NISMO Athletes have competed at international car racing competitions since 2009.
At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Lucas Ordoñez finished second in the LM P2 category in 2011 and in 2013 finished third alongside Jann Mardenborough (2011 European winner). In 2014, Wolfgang Reip recorded the first ever all electric lap of the Le Mans circuit, driving in the Nissan ZEOD RC.
In the Blancpain Endurance Series, Jordan Tresson was winner of the GT4 class in 2011. In 2013, the Pro-Am cup was won by Lucas Ordoñez, while the Pro-Am team cup was won by Nissan GT Academy Team RJN, which included Jann Mardenborough, Wolfgang Reip (2012 European winner), Mark Shulzhitskiy (2012 Russia winner), Peter Pyzera (2012 Germany winner) and Steve Doherty (2012 USA winner). In 2015 Reip was part of the team that won the Pro Cup.
GT Academy Winners have also competed in the Dubai 24 Hours, FIA GT Series, FIA World Endurance Championship, British GT Championship, European Formula Three Championships, British Formula Three Championship, TRS Single-Seater Series, IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, SCCA Solo National Championship and the United SportsCar Championship. In 2012, Lucas Ordoñez competed at the Petit Le Mans in the Nissan DeltaWing race car, and in 2014 began racing in the Super GT Series, class GT300, with NDDP Racing . In the same year, Jann Mardenborough began racing in the GP3 Series with Arden International, and at Motorland Aragon raced for the first time in a Formula Renault 3.5 test. In September 2014, Nissan announced that former US GT Academy Winners and finalists would be considered for Nissan's new LM P1 Le Mans 24 Hours and FIA World Endurance Championship Team.
On 8 February 2015, GT Academy graduates Wolfgang Reip (2012) and Florian Strauss (2013) teamed with Super GT driver Katsumasa Chiyo to win the 2015 Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour at the famous Mount Panorama Circuit in Australia driving a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 for the NISMO Athlete Global Team
Mardenborough's achievements since winning GT Academy saw him named as one of the 50 most marketable athletes in the world by Sports Pro Media.2013 AUTOSPORT Awards, Pioneering and Innovation Award
2012 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Bronze Lion, Best Use of Branded Content
2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Gold Lion, Best Use of Branded Content
2011 ‘Campaign’ magazine Media Awards, Best Transport Campaign
2011 ‘Campaign’ magazine Media Awards, Best Media and Entertainment Campaign
2011 Media Week Awards, Best International Campaign