Nissan, together with Sony, held the first GT Academy in 2008, and since then the event has gone on to become a global phenomenon with gamers-turned-drivers from all parts of the globe now competing.

Nissan’s GT Academy essentially pits gamers, playing the popular racing simulator Gran Turismo on Sony’s PlayStation console, against each other in a knockout competition. To put into perspective just how difficult the competition is, more than 830,000 people entered the GT Academy Europe competition last year.

For the winner, he or she goes on to compete in real-life motorsport events using Nissan race cars. The winner of the first GT Academy was Spanish student Lucas Ordoñez, who has since competed in various races including the 2012 Nürburgring 24 Hours where he made the podium.

Nissan is even boasting that Ordoñez may eventually have a shot at Formula One.

In 2012, the world saw four separate GT Academy competitions, the original European division plus additional events for the U.S., Germany and Russia. The winners representing each of these academies will now compete at the 2013 Dubai 24 Hours race taking place from January 10-12.

The latest GT Academy USA winner Steve Doherty will pair up with GT Academy Germany winner Peter Pyzera, while GT Academy Europe winner Wolfgang Reip from Belgium will pair up with GT Academy Russia winner Mark Shulzhitskiy. Each of the pairings will be competing in the arduous Dubai race using a Nissan 370Z Nismo GT4 race car.

They will also be paired with more experienced drivers Lucas Ordoñez, ‘Ring Queen Sabine Schmitz, GT Academy mentor Alex Buncombe and Nissan endurance racing driver Roman Rusinov.

2012 Nissan 370Z Nismo GT4 race car

2012 Nissan 370Z Nismo GT4 race car

The four newcomers have all undergone a comprehensive driver development program, which attempts to incorporate every conceivable element of a racing driver's skills. The recruits were given regular driver coaching, karting, fitness and nutrition programs, and sports psychology and simulator sessions.

In addition, all four winners competed in a number of races in the UK in order to quality for an international race license and to prepare them to take center stage in Dubai later this month driving the Nissan 370Z Nismo GT4 race car.