If ever proof were needed that you can make a real racing driver from a video gamer, Spanish driver Lucas Ordoñez's second place in the LMP2 class at the recent Le Mans 24 Hour race in France should be proof enough.
In just three years Lucas has made it from living room to Le Mans having won the first GT Academy, a competition organized by Sony Computer Entertainment, publishers of Gran Turismo 5 on the PlayStation 3, and Nissan.
Now, a 19-year-old from Cardiff in Wales, Great Britain, has won the 2011 GT Academy, joining the ranks of gamers turned professional racing driver. Jann Mardenborough took pole position in a 20 minute, four way race on the Silverstone national circuit, driving a 2011 Nissan 370Z. Ex Formula One driver Eddie Irvine declared Jann the competition winner, culminating a competition that saw 90,000 entrants from ten European countries.
The Academy final began at the Le Mans 24 Hours where the final 12 contestants watched Ordoñez take second place in class in the Signatech Nissan Le Mans prototype.
Over the next few days the 12 contestants were gradually whittled down to just four - Welshman Mardenborough, Thibault Lacombe from France, Carlos Murillo from Spain and Danilo Bordino, an Italian. It wasn't an easy journey getting that far though - the fun of racing go-karts, the 370Zs, Nissan GT-Rs, single-seat race cars countered by a gruelling military-style assault course. The contestants even took part in aerial dog-fights in stunt planes.
Judge Eddie Irvine was impressed by the talents of all the finallists, but said of Mardenborough, "Jann did a great job throughout... He has been given an amazing opportunity by PlayStation and Nissan, but the hard work has only just begun for him."
Jann Mardenborough wins the 2011 European GT Academy
Jann didn't understate his achievement though. "I am really buzzing, ecstatic... This competition is going to change my life massively."
Jann's result comes just a couple of weeks after 30-year-old Brian Heitkotter won the first U.S. GT Academy, winning himself a place in the Dubai 24 Hour race next January. The U.S. competition will be shown on Speed TV in the fall.
Think you could be a racing driver? Best dust off your games console...