Two years ago, if someone told you that you could have a career in international motorsports by being great at video games, you’d have attempted to check the contents of their coffee. Motorsports is generally considered to be one of the most capital intensive pursuits, with a prolonged gestation period and a very small margin of error. Video games, on the other hand, are the exact opposite, so just how do those worlds collide?
The Nissan GT Academy is a recruitment program that selects individuals from across the globe based on their ability to master lap times on the highly sophisticated Gran Turismo 6 racing simulator, followed by months of intense physical training. The final goal? Being recruited as a professional driver for Nismo – Nissan’s performance and motorsport division. It’s as simple as it sounds. All you have to do is purchase a Sony PlayStation 3 or 4, get a copy of GT6 and set the quickest lap possible in a virtual Nissan GT-R Nismo at a designated race track. Nissan also allows individuals to participate via their Live Events, which are held over a weekend across four major cities (Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore) at a prominent mall. A total of 11 winners from the Live Events join nine players from the online rounds and head to the national finals, out of which six are selected for a week long training camp at Silverstone, UK.
Now in its second year in India, the GT Academy recently finished hosting its National Finals in Chennai. The six selected winners are slated to head to the famed Silverstone race track in the UK, where their stamina and real world driving abilities will be put to test. Kicking off in early June this year, the contest saw a huge influx of participants. However, shaving off milliseconds from your lap time is what gives you the edge, and that takes a lot of practice and finesse. The finalists were judged onan aggregate of their final lap times, fitness quotient, teamwork, verbal skills and their overall attitude. They were also subject to a small Autocross session around a race track (MMRT, Chennai) where their real world driving skills, mechanical sympathy and adaptability levels were evaluated by trained Nismo professional.
The six finalists – Abhishek Dwarknath,Anush Chakravarthi, Akshay Gupta, Dhruv Dayal, Jaideep Chahal and Shantanu Kallianpukar – will now spend a day with endurance racer Karun Chandhok, who will act as a mentor for Team India. Karun, who also served as a judge for the event, said “I have always vouched for driver development programs that help budding racers. GT Academy is a wonderful initiative to enter motorsports, especially if you do not have the necessary backing. My next task is to bring the six winners to a level where they can compete with other challengers at an international level.”
The chaps from Team India will then spend a week at Silverstone driving a variety of track-bred sports cars, including the Nissan GT-R Nismo they all set their virtual lap times in. They will then compete with the finalists from Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines in the GT Academy Asia Championship. The winner of the Asia Championship then gets to compete for Nissan in the 24 hours of Dubai, following a driver development program where they further enhance their skill.
So what could a life as a Nismo athlete get you? If you truly dedicate yourself and deliver great results, you could be on your way to racing for Nissan in the World Endurance Championship – the holy grail for many motorsports professionals, who have to shell out a fortune attempting to get enough sponsors to get a seat in a team. The Nissan GT Academy is a one of a kind opportunity for driving enthusiasts across the globe. It’s the only platform of its kind, which continues to gain credibility with each season. Even if you don’t make the cut as a full-time Nismo athlete, you could still win an all expenses paid trip to Silverstone and drive some of the greatest cars on the planet.