Here’s a question: can you turn a gamer into a racer?
The answer is an unequivocal yes if the results of the Nissan GT Academy are anything to go by. Started back in 2008, the Academy invited gamers playing special versions of popular racing game Gran Turismo to get online and get racing, with the best invited to turn their virtual skills into real ones at the GT Academy Boot Camp.
Champions of the Academy get the offer of a lifetime, the chance to work as a pro driver for the Nissan race team. It’s led to big success, too, with two former GT Academy winners driving in Le Mans next month.
It’s a perfect example of turning skills learnt through the virtual world into real world talent – but can anyone do it?
To celebrate the launch of Gran Turismo 6, and a new season of the Nissan GT Race Academy at Silverstone, I was invited to pit my best virtual lap time of the International Circuit against a real-world equivalent.
In the game I managed a fairly respectable 1:32 lap time. On my best attempt I was beginning to learn each corner of the circuit, ready to anticipate braking zones and where to accelerate. Could I replicate that knowledge on the track?
This is the first time Silverstone has been represented in the Gran Turismo series, and I was going to tackle the famous International Circuit.
As I neared the first corner in my allocated Audi TT RS I followed the line I’d taken on the virtual track, and was surprised at just how realistic the game felt to the real car. It’s the subtle things you notice, like body roll and the way weight shifts when you brake and accelerate. Of course, there are some things the game will never be able to do – as racing drivers will tell you, a decent portion of track driving is felt through your rear end – but this is definitely up there.
The lap continued and I began to get cocky. I knew where the corners were and when I should be braking, so we made rapid progress around the course. We even overtook a slowcoach in an R8 on one of the straights. I felt invincible.
At the end of it all I asked my instructor how I did on a scale of one to ten, with one meaning he wanted to throw me from the car and ten meaning he’d be placing me in F1 as soon as possible. He gave me a four. Damn.
So yes, it is possible to learn, at least in part, a racetrack from the comfort of your living room. For me though, that’s where I’d best be staying.