Nismo has added two of its most successful videogamers-turned-racers to its LMP1 team for 2015, Lucas Ordonez and Jann Mardenborough.
Both winners of Nissan and Sony’s Gran Turismo Academy competition, each has already built a strong roster of racing success and each has proven themselves a natural choice for high-level competition.
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Ordonez became the GT Academy’s first victor in 2008, beating millions of other gamers on the Playstation and fending off the final dozen where it really counted in the Academy final at Silverstone.
He has since driven several times at Le Mans, achieving a class podium at his first attempt and since becoming Nissan’s official Super GT driver – first in the GT300 class and this year in GT500.
Mardenborough, 23, won GT Academy in 2011. Since then he has already competed twice at Le Mans in the LMP2 class, took a victory in last year’s GP3 series and this year moves up to LMP1 with the Michelin-shod front-wheel drive Nissan GT-R LM Nismo.
Ordonez’s GT500 commitments means he will only contest Le Mans in the car, but Mardenborough will race the full season – alongside drivers such as Marc Gené, Harry Tincknell, Olivier Pla and Michael Krumm.
Tsugio Matsuda, another experienced racer, will join Ordonez and another as-yet unannounced driver in Nismo’s third Le Mans entry.
While critics initially dismissed the benefits of videogames as driver training tools, the increasing realism of some titles and the success of several GT Academy graduates have finally proven their worth.
Last weekend, two other GT Academy graduates, Florian Strauss and Wolfgang Reip, joined professional racer Katsumasa Chiyo to win the Bathurst 12 Hours in a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3.