The traditional route to a career in motorsport used to go something like this: karting, junior car racing, bigger car racing and then Formula 1, sports cars or some other paid racing driver series.

Either that, or have very rich parents.

Now though, with rapid progress in the world of simulation gaming, there’s another, arguably more affordable way in. Racing simulators.

Darlington-born 24-year-old Jann Mardenborough is the poster boy for this route. Winner of the 2011 GT Academy, he beat 90,000 fellow computer gamers to earn himself a professional racing seat with Nissan.

Five years on from his win, Mardenborough has progressed from being a wide-eyed hopeful to an ultra-cool professional driver, now competing in and currently leading the Super GT championship in Japan.

“The culture is very different, but I really like it,” he tells me when I ask what he thinks of his new home. “The car culture out there is mad. It’s just like it looks in films.”

I’m about to experience Mardenborough’s talent first hand from the passenger seat of a brand new Nissan GT-R, which lines up in the supercar category of the Goodwood Festival of Speed. We quickly get onto the subject of sims.

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“Gaming is really good at teaching you the dynamics of racing,” he tells me. “But don’t take too much notice of the lap times. You should be faster in a sim than real life purely because there’s no fear.”

Mardenborough still games now when he’s not in his racing car, partly for practice but also because he loves it. “Nothing compares to 'bum in seat time', though,” he says.