From Playstation to Le Mans - Lucas Ordonez proves it is possible to be fast-tracked from virtual to real racing
By Mike Hanlon
March 3, 2011
Everyone who has ever played a video game knows that the skills required for success are essentially the same as a racing driver. Anyone who has raced knows different. So setting up the Nissan/Playstation GT Academy was bound to yield some interesting results. Essentially, they run a national contest and the best guys get tested in real cars and given an intensive program and then given a chance at the real thing, at a very high level. This is the inevitable fairy story – a fellow who played Playstation for fun until May 2008 has since established a successful international racing career entirely due to the series. Every time Lucas Ordoñez has been given the opportunity, he has performed, and his international racing career is living proof that you can turn virtual racing into the real deal.
Twenty five year old Lucas Ordoñez began racing karts at an early age, but gave it up at 16 to concentrate on academia. He was studying for his MBA in May 2008 when he took part in a preliminary round of the GT Academy using the Playstation3 Gran Turismo 5 Prologue multiplayer game. He won.
Indeed, he kept winning at each subsequent round until he was chosen to represent Spain, then he subsequently won himself a place in the final selection race-off in real cars held at Britain's Silverstone circuit where he was pitted against the fastest of the 25,000 people that entered the competition.
The last three months of 2008 saw Lucas on an intensive driver training program so he could qualify for an international racing license. He got the license faster than anyone had before, then joined former Le Mans and Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert in a Nissan/Playstation Academy Nissan 350Z in the Dubai 24 hour race.
A spectacular first-up effort prompted Nissan to sign Ordoñez to a full program in the 2009 GT4 European Cup which saw him finish the series in second place with two wins and six podiums – by this stage he was racing at the forefront of an international series less than 12 months after full time studies.
Ordoñez raced again in 2010 European GT4 Cup for a series fourth alongside the 2009 Academy champion Frenchman Jordan Tresson.
This year to road to international motor racing fame takes another step as Lucas will contest the seven Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in a Signatech Nissan LMP2 car. The series consists of seven races starting with the Sebring 12 Hour in Florida on March 19, and including the 1,000km of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, the Le Mans 24 Hours in France, Petit Le Mans (Road Atlanta, USA) and finishes in China.
Now we warned you this was a real live fairy story, and from a marketing viewpoint, the Nissan-PlayStation GT Academy competition has proven to be a stroke of marketing genius, establishing a clear link between the skills of a racing driver and a video gaming platform, not to mention an automotive brand.
In 2010, the competition was entered by 1.2 million gamers from across Europe, a new GT Academy North America is now running and the third European competition will start tomorrow (March 4), with a six-week virtual time trial on the new Gran Turismo 5 game.