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Nissan GTAcademy 2015 - Connecting Virtual to Real

Snapshot: The GT Academy is a unique collaboration between the Sony PlayStation and Nissan Motors where a video game unearths the real-world racing talent.

We recently got a chance to witness the gaming extravaganza (or the racing event per se) organized by Nissan Motors at the famous MMRT track in Chennai. As we were covering the event, Guillaume Sicard, President, Nissan India Operations said that the company believes in innovation, not only through products, but through an overall approach towards living. And we couldn't have been more sure about it- giving a platform like a race track to the people who are doing good in Video Games- if that's not an innovative approach, what else can be? And since Nissan is doing such good work, we found it obligatory to share our experience with you!

What's it all about?

The GT Academy is a unique collaboration between the Sony PlayStation and Nissan Motors where the video game named Gran Turismo 6 is utilized to unearth the real-world racing talent. Being a global event, participants from across the globe get their hands on the game and try to post the best timings, in order to be at the regional finals.

Europe - France, Italy, UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic, International group - Australia, Mexico, North Africa, Turkey and United States and Asia- India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Japan, all select gamers/racers from their respective countries and send it to international race camp.

Previous gamers who went on to become the winners at the GT Academy are now representing Nissan at various international races. After gruesome fitness tests and under the watchful mentors, the winners acquire an international race license and gets a chance to potentially join the Nissan’s elite Nismo Athletes to compete at the top level.

The History

The Nissan GTAcademy started seven years ago globally, while it came to India only in 2014 and is in its second year now. Gamers from up to 24 countries competes in a championship and in the 2015 season, almost 10000 entries were recorded. Abhinay Bikkani, the finalist in the 2014 championship from India is currently racing in Canada in the Nissan Micra Cup and currently stands at the fifth position overall. 

On the global level, Jann Mardenborough from the UK who won in 2011is going to race in the World Endurance Championship for Nissan in the LM P1 category. He will also race at the GP3, the basis of the Formula One, with the championship-winning Carlin team. Lucas Ordoñez from Spain, a winner in 2008, will race at the Le Mans 24 Hours in the Nisan GT-R LM NISMO LMP1 entry.

The Format

Nissan GTAcademy is in its second year in India and the live qualifying rounds took place in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Simultaneously the live qualifying through the online game was happening throughout the India. Overall 20 finalists were picked from across the  country - 11 from the live event and 9 from the online game. These 20 finalists were flown over to the famous MMRT in Chennai and were given Nissan Micra to drive. Points were counted on the driving performance as well as fitness level.

Overall 6 finalists out of the 20 contestants are selected who will be taken to the Silverstone track in the England, six weeks from now. These finalists, along with finalists from various nations will sweat it out to be among the top driver and will represent Nissan on the global level in the various races from Canada to Dubai.  

What's on the Stake

After such intense level of qualification rounds, one has to be rewarded aptly. Apart from the obvious reward of visiting the world famous Silverstone circuit in the UK, which also hosts the British GP and getting mentored by Karun Chandhok, the winner coming out through the driver development program will compete for Nissan at the Dubai 24-Hours endurance race. That's a huge achievement considering the sponsorship problems racers have to face. According to Karun Chandhok, he himself has to give a lot of presentations to various companies to generate sponsorship, which, for these contestants will not be an issue.

The Participants

Like said above, participants from across India tried their hands to win the 2015 championship, but only 6 could make it. An interesting trivia were presented by Arun Malhotra, MD, Nissan India - The most number of participants came from Delhi, most number of finalist came from Chennai, and the fastest lap was recorded by a Bengaluru lad. Here are the top 6 finalists who will be going to the Silverstone to train and compete against participants from Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines in the GT Academy Asia Championship.

Abhishek Dwarknath

Anush Chakravarthi

Akshay Gupta

Dhruv Dayal

Jaideep Chahal

Shantanu Kallianpukar

The Manufacturer - Nissan

Nissan Motors India is a 100% subsidiary of the Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. Japan. Nissan entered India in 2005 and offers a wide array of products from hatchback to sedan to MPV and SUV. They, along with their global alliance partner Renault, have established a R&D centre in Chennai and they are rapidly increasing their foothold in the country. 

Celebrating the success of GT Academy in India, Guillaume Sicard, President – Nissan India Operations said, “I am very excited to see the growing enthusiasm in the country towards motorsports. In just a month’s time, over 10000 participants competed in GT Academy 2015 with hopes of making it to the top spot.”

“We set out with a target to democratize motorsports in India and are proud to give an experience to the finalists today at the racetrack. Our six winners are now ready for an international exposure at Silverstone and we will be happy if we can make a difference to their lives by fulfilling their aspirations”, he added. 

The Mentor

Karun Chandhok can easily be called the Indian God of Speed and why shouldn't he be? After all, he is the only Indian to race in the Formula 1, Formula E and Le Mans altogether. With over 15 years of motorsports experience, he is the right person to mentor and guide the budding racers in the country. 

Karun said, “I have always vouched for driver development programs that help budding racers. GT Academy is a wonderful initiative to enter motorsports, especially if you do not have the necessary backing. My next task is to bring the six winners today to a level where they can compete with other challengers at an international level.”

Verdict

As much as it's a unique concept, it brings the gamer out of you and nourishes the talent to race among the well known faces of the world. So the next time you decide to take up any game, select the GranTurismo. Start practicing as the 2016 will be there waiting for you. Who know you can be the next Karun Chandhok?

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