Profile: Lucas Ordonez
In 2008, 23-year-old Spaniard Lucas Ordonez was a student and gaming fan. By 2009, he had graduated from playing Gran Turismo on his Sony Playstation 3 to become a real life racer, driving a Nissan 350Z in the Dubai International 24 Hour race alongside Formula 1 race winner Johnny Herbert, and then contesting a full season of the European GT4 Cup. He was given this incredible prize after being crowned as the first GT Academy champion.
The GT Academy is a joint venture between Nissan and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe to prove that the world of virtual racing can unearth a real life racing talent. Ordonez highlighted this fact by taking full advantage of his prize to help his team win a championship title in 2009.
"The original GT Academy exceed expectations," says Nissan International's vice president of marketing, Vincent Wijnen. "We did not expect to find a driver of Lucas's calibre and it was a real bonus for the programme that we were able to help him demonstrate his potential over a full season with the European GT4 Cup drive. We are even more excited about GT Academy 2010 and I would encourage anyone who has ever wondered if they might have what it takes to be a racing driver to give it a go."
Ordonez was plucked from 25,000 hopefuls after proving his talent through several stages of the competition. Not only did he finish the gruelling 24-hour race in Dubai, but he and British racing driver Alex Buncombe also won two races and took two second-place finishes in the European GT4 Cup - which races alongside the prestigious FIA GT Championship. The pair finished close runners-up in the drivers' championship and won the teams' title.
Darren Cox, Nissan European Interactive's marketing manager, says: "We ran the first GT Academy in 2008 and had 25,000 people from 12 different countries taking part. Essentially, GT Academy was an experiment conceived between Nissan Europe and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. We set ourselves the challenge to see if we could unearth a real racing driver from the virtual world of computer games. In the end, I think we proved our point.
"To emerge at the end with a guy like Lucas as the winner was a real vindication for us. He showed such promise that we were able to secure him a season-long drive in a 370Z in the European GT4 Cup and he came a very close second and won the team's championship. I think that was proof enough. He proved to be a great competitor in the car and has just got better and better. He is also a great guy and has become an ambassador for both brands and will be working with us throughout the GT Academy 2010 programme.
"The whole process was so good that we sat down with PlayStation and decided we would do it all over again!"