This year's European competition will run across 10 countries with the online gaming phase starting on 4 March and continuing until 17 April. Leaderboards for each participating territory will highlight the fastest 20 racers who will proceed to a live territory final. Only two from each final will make it to the intensive six-day driver training `Race Camp' to be run at the world-famous Silverstone circuit. The winner of Race Camp will continue to be trained in high-performance Nissan race cars and compete in a series of national-level races in order to qualify for an international race licence and an entry into the Dubai race.
Since the first GT Academy in 2008, the innovative competition has established itself as a real and credible route into top-level motor sport for Gran Turismo gamers. Lucas OrdoÃƒÂ±ez, the Spanish winner of the first instalment in 2008, went on to finish second in the 2009 European GT4 Cup and fourth in 2010. Frenchman Jordan Tresson, the winner of last year's GT Academy competition, finished equal fourth with OrdoÃƒÂ±ez in the GT4 series. Both racers are expected to announce new programmes for 2011 soon.
"In Gran Turismo 5 we continue to bring the worlds of real and virtual racing closer together and the GT Academy programme, in partnership with our friends at Nissan, perfectly illustrates this ambition," explained Kazunori Yamauchi, the creator of the Gran Turismo games and president of Polyphony Digital. "It is also a great showcase for the fact that GT5 will continue to offer players more than just the game they have bought. It fully utilises the online functionality of GT5 and highlights the community elements. I think that we shall see a lot of friends challenging each other to take part in GT Academy and seeing how good they are against others. I am sure that most people with an interest in motor sport have dreamt about having a go for real. The competition has already made that dream a reality for the previous two winners, so it is well worth entering - even if it is only your friends you want to beat!"
When the virtual racing stage of the game ends, the emphasis will shift to Nissan's stunning sports cars with the 370Z and GT-R playing starring roles at the Silverstone Race Camp. "It has been a great pleasure for us to see so many of our cars recreated in stunning detail on the new GT5 game," said Nissan International's Vice-President of Marketing, Vincent Wijnen. "But GT Academy is even more special as we watch the incredible progression of somebody racing our cars in the game to enjoying great success racing them at full speed on international race circuits. GT Academy has become a great `grass roots' mainstay of our international race programme and we enjoy the partnership with PlayStation very much."
GT Academy in 2010 enjoyed enormous success with 1.2 million gamers taking part. The competition found a very high-profile fan in judge, and former Formula One team boss, Eddie Jordan, who commented at the Silverstone event: "This has been extraordinary, I have been absolutely blown away. I could not believe that these gamers, with no experience of racing cars, could do this. They really are great drivers, all of them, and they can be rightly proud of what they have achieved. I know that they have all had an amazing experience that will stay with them forever."
Residents from 10 European countries, combined into six territory groups, are eligible to take part in GT Academy 2011. They include: 1. Germany and Austria; 2. France and Switzerland; 3. UK and Ireland; 4. Spain and Portugal; 5. Italy; and 6. the Netherlands.