Dubai - Since its inception in 2008, the Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy competition has attracted over two million entries, making it unquestionably the world's most accessible driver scholarship. The phenomenal success of the virtual-to-reality programme takes centre stage at the Dubai 24 Hours race (10-12 January), with the latest 2012 Champions from Europe, USA, Germany and Russia lining-up in two Nissan 370Z Nismo GT4 race cars. Certifying the innovation and growth of GT Academy's global footprint, the first-ever Middle East instalment of GT Academy will also host its regional finals at the Dubai Autodrome, acting as the perfect precursor to the international endurance race.
The latest Gran Turismo®5 PlayStation®3 experts turned real Nissan racing drivers, Wolfgang Reip (2012 European winner from Belgium), Mark Shulzhitskiy (2012 Russian winner), Peter Pyzera (2012 German winner) and Steve Doherty (2012 US winner) have spent the last four months completing a highly advanced Driver Development programme in order to prepare them for the rigours of a demanding 24-hour endurance race.
European and Russian GT Academy winners, Reip and Shulzhitskiy, will be in the first Nissan 370Z together with their more experienced team-mates, inaugural winner of GT Academy Spaniard Lucas Ordoñez and G-Drive by Signatech Nissan LMP2 Russian driver Roman Rusinov. Pyzera and Doherty, German and US GT Academy Champions respectively, will be sharing the wheel of the second 370Z, alongside Germany's 'Queen of the Nürburgring' Sabine Schmitz, and Nissan's British driver Alex Buncombe.
The 26-year-old Belgian, Wolfgang Reip, said: "I never imagined I could win GT Academy. When it was announced that I had won it was the craziest feeling of my life.
"For motivation and inspiration you only have to think about what the previous GT Academy winners have achieved. To be given the opportunity to race alongside Lucas, who was runner-up in the LMP2 class at the Le Mans 24 Hours, is more than a dream for me."
"Dubai was where it all really started for me," explains Spaniard Lucas Ordoñez. "The prize for winning GT Academy was to compete in the Dubai 24 Hours and it proved the most important race of my life. Dubai gave me the platform to go on to race with Nissan competing at world-famous circuits, driving world-famous cars such as the Nissan DeltaWing.
"The latest winners have put in an enormous amount of hard work to get themselves ready for Dubai. I know exactly how they will be feeling when they first jump in the car, so I hope my experience can help guide both GT Academy entries to a good result."
The Nissan PlayStation GT Academy Dubai 24 Hours teams can be followed on various platforms including: www.facebook.com/GTAcademy | http://eu.gran-turismo.com | www.twitter.com/GTAcademy. The race will receive extensive live coverage on Motors TV and various other channels, including the 24Hr Series YouTube channel and commentary on radiolemans.com.