Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All eyes on GT Academy winners

Schlömer and Ordóñez prepare for a thrilling climax to their racing adventure: the TOYO Tires 24h of Dubai endurance race.

When German taxi driver Lars Schlömer and Spanish student Lucas Ordóñez bought their copies of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, they were unaware of the incredible journey that lay before them.

Ten months on, they line up alongside legends of motoring and compete as racing drivers in the TOYO Tires 24h of Dubai endurance race, all thanks to GT Academy. The pan-European search for undiscovered talent began on PlayStation Network, with 25,000 PLAYSTATION 3 owners competing to set the fastest lap around the Eiger Norwand course. The quickest in each country, as decided by National Final events across Europe, were invited to Silverstone in England to prove their skills behind the wheel of a real Nissan GT-R, and when the final chequered flag fell, Schlömer and Ordóñez claimed their places on the Nissan PlayStation Race Team.

Driving alongside them on the team is British Formula One legend Johnny Herbert, who has a wealth of experience in endurance racing, having won the famous Le Mans 24 Hours in 1991. Completing the team are Alex Buncombe, a driver with considerable experience in the Nissan 350Z GT4 race car that the team will be using, and GT Academy head of driving, Rob Barff.

In its fourth year, the TOYO Tires 24h of Dubai is growing in esteem among the racing community and, as a result, the Nissan PlayStation Race Team will have a strong international line-up of competitors to deal with, not to mention the gruelling distance and searing Persian Gulf heat. Competitors include German touring car stalwarts Roland Asch and Kurt Thiim in the Besaplast Racing Team’s Porsche 997 and Chinese GP2 driver Ho Pin Tung, who will take his seat in the Mosler MT900 GT3 run by Gravity Racing of Luxemburg.

In preparation, Schlömer and Ordóñez have been competing in events across the UK, earning their racing licenses and getting to grips with a range of Nissan racing cars. “It's going to be a tough race and I have much to work on before January,” Schlömer told eu.playstation.com. “I need to improve my fitness in order to race for longer periods and I need more time in the Nissan 350Z GT4. Everything is going to be new for me in Dubai: my first international race, a new style of racing and a new car.”

It has been quite a year for the two drivers in-training; their racing dreams have been taken from the virtual world of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and made real by the GT Academy. However they fare in Dubai, nobody can deny that they have made magnificent progress in just 10 months, and with the guidance of Johnny Herbert and the support of the Nissan PlayStation team, they have every chance of leaving a lasting impression on the racing community.

For more information on GT Academy and live coverage of the TOYO Tires 24h of Dubai from January 8, 2009, head to granturismoworld.com. Read more