For most people, video games are just a hobby, a way to do things they can’t do in real life. But with GT Academy, PlayStation, Gran Turismo, and Nissan have changed all that. Over 53,000 hopefuls competed in the GT Academy online time trials in Gran Turismo 5 this past December and January. Thirty-two of the best players in the country made it to the National Finals event in Orlando in March. And this past week, the 16 fastest and most promising racers were taken from virtual to reality when they took a trip over the Atlantic to compete at Silverstone Circuit in England. The stakes: a shot at becoming a professional race car driver.
Last week at Silverstone, the 16 finalists were put through their paces in a week’s worth of physical and mental endurance challenges, and of course, a host of driving challenges and short and endurance races behind the wheel of real race cars including Nissan 370Zs and GT-Rs. Closely watching over the finalists’ every braking point and turn of the wheel was an expert panel of racing industry veterans, judging skill, raw talent, potential, dedication, attitude and passion.
Although all 16 finalists were extremely talented, in the end there could be only one winner — one GT Academy champion. Yesterday, Bryan Heitkotter from California was crowned the first US winner of GT Academy. His raw talent, attitude, and the promise he showed the judges won him the podium in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Congratulations to Bryan Heitkotter, and his 15 competitors who gave it their all, on and off the track at Silverstone.
After a short trip home, Heitkotter will be headed back to England to start intensive training to learn everything he’ll need to know in order to perform at his potential during his debut, a grueling endurance race, as part of a racing team. And who knows, maybe he will follow in the footsteps of the 2008 European GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez, who has turned his win into a full-fledged racing career. Ordonez has helped earn his team many podium finishes since he debuted, including the win that secured their spot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race this coming weekend.
Again, Sony, PlayStation, Gran Turismo, and Nissan congratulates Bryan Heitkotter for his brilliant performance at Silverstone, and all 15 of the other finalists who gave it their absolute best and showed that playing video games isn’t always a waste of time. We look forward to seeing how Heitkotter progresses during his training and does in his debut race.
Be sure to check watch the full competition in the GT Academy reality show, debuting this September on the Speed Channel and PlayStation Network. And you can visit the GT Academy page on Facebook now to see updates, pictures and videos straight from the event last week, and keep up with the latest news on Bryan Heitkotter and the GT Academy program.