Can the skills you acquire hustling a car around a racetrack in the virtual world translate into the real world? That’s the question raised by GT Academy, a new series the debuted on Speed this week.
The concept behind GT Academy isn't new, only the television show is. The idea originated in the UK back in 2008, and previous GT Academy winners have gone on to earn contracts as pro drivers. Lucas Ordonez, who won the very first GT Academy competition has raced for Nissan at both Sebring and Le Mans.
This time, GT Academy focused on American drivers, and sixteen contestants were chosen for their skills behind the wheel at Gran Turismo 5 on the PlayStation 3 console. Now, they’ll compete head-to-head in physical and driving challenges alike, and only one will earn a (temporary) spot on Nissan’s endurance racing team.
We haven’t watched the show yet, but it seems to be a cross between Speed Racer, Survivor and Big Brother. From the two-minute trailer, found on Autoblog, it’s clear that the social game will play a huge part in who gets picked and who goes home.
We’re not professional racers, nor do we play them on TV, but we know a few things about making it in motorsports. The comment from one contestant, “to be a professional race car driver, you never work another day of your life,” tells us that these guys have no idea what they’re in for.
Being a successful racer these days is as much about attracting and retaining sponsors as it is about being fast behind the wheel. If you’re not as adept at business as you are at driving, you stand no chance of making it as a professional driver, at least beyond your first season.
We wish the contestants of GT Academy a lot of luck. Frankly, they’re going to need it.