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GT Academy

GT Academy 2012 Race Camp - Day 6

GT Academy 2012 Announces Territory Champions

Thursday, 23 August, 2012: The Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy 2012 European Race Camp has unearthed its territory champions. The six qualified from 830,000 Gran Turismo® gamers from across Europe who entered the competition; they then beat the fastest 32 in live National Finals; and finally took their place among 36 competitors split into six territory groups at the famous Race Camp. The winners are:

All six now go onto the final two days at Race Camp. The World Endurance Championship (WEC) has moved into Silverstone for the weekend and will feature two previous GT Academy winners in action in Nissan-powered LMP2 cars. Joining their ranks, the most recent crop of PlayStation gamers to enter the Academy will be afforded an incredible opportunity when they line up in six identical Nissan 370Z ‘Group N’ cars to qualify tomorrow and race on Saturday as part of the WEC programme – a major international event.

The focus of today at Race Camp was the opportunity to give the famous line-up of mentor/judges the opportunity to spend time with their competitors to help them make their decision. With 370Zs on the National Circuit the mentors rode with their competitors – and vice versa – for some in-depth driver coaching. At the end of the session it was down to the mentors and driving instructors to deliberate and decide on their champion.

The news was broken to the competitors in their groups over the course of the evening, making for an unusually quiet Race Camp during the afternoon as the mentors made their decisions.

For René Arnoux and Franck Mailleux (FRA); Vitantonio Liuzzi and Gonçalo Gomes (ITA); Johnny Herbert and Rob Barff (UK/Ireland); Dani Clos and Lucas Ordoñez (SPA); Tim Coronel and Bas Leinders (BENELUX); and Sébastien Buemi and René Szczepek (CH/AUT/POL), it was the hardest day of the competition so far.

“It was a very difficult decision because the three drivers are so competitive,” explained Red Bull Racing’s Sébastien Buemi (Swiss, Austria, Poland mentor). “We did lots of analysis and I spent lots of time in the car with them to truly understand them as drivers; understand if they were taking everything in and knew how the car would behave. All three drivers were very, very good. They had the right attitude, so I left the door open, really making my decision at the last turn of the wheel. Christoph and Krystian are great drivers and there is certainly a future for them, but Rolf really stood out today. He got better after the Dogfight and proved he wanted it.”

Since arriving at Silverstone, the 36 GT Academy contestants have been put through their paces by their high-profile mentors and top instructors in a variety of very different challenges in Nissan 370Zs and GT-Rs. In addition to car control, circuit tests and instruction, traffic challenges and dogfights, they have undertaken a karting challenge, driven a 370Z on a rally course, tackled single-seaters and, of course, undergone some tough physical training. They have also met Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi and Nissan Europe’s Darren Cox, who worked together to create the competition that first took place in 2008. The next two days could seem fairly quiet for the six left in the competition by comparison, but their intensive training has led them to be ready for the ultimate challenge. The stakes are high and the stage is big as they head towards Saturday’s race.

“It is a new phase now, and they are away from their comfort zones of being with their friends in their county groups,” commented Johnny Herbert. “Now they are on their own against each other and it will be tough. There is a lot of pressure in this race – balancing speed, consistency and the desire to win. I think we’ll see a lot of their true character as the pressure builds towards the race.”


Winners’ comments:

Sébastien Bertrand (FRA)
“This morning we did timed tests on the national circuit at Silverstone with the judges really noting our technique as well as checking us against the clock. It was good to get lots of kilometres on track. This afternoon it was elimination time with only one place in the final. It was a beautiful surprise for me to go through.”

Andrea Cosaro (ITA)
“Today was a funny day. In the morning we drove the Nissan 370Zs on the National Circuit. I drove very well, much better than the other Italians. Then there was a wait in the afternoon before we found out who won. The wait was worth it. It was amazing, I am so happy!”

Des Foley (IRE), UK/Ireland group
“It’s surreal. It feels like a dream. I just didn’t know how it had gone. I am just so tired now but tomorrow I’ll be driving around the full Silverstone Grand Prix circuit and racing on Saturday. I’m going to make the most of it and give it my all.”

Hugo Gonçalves (POR), Iberia group
“I feel a sense of accomplishment, like I have achieved something. Team Iberia are the best. We are all so close, we laugh on the bus and are good friends, so they are happy for me. The competition is not over, in many ways it has just begun. I Haven’t won it yet, but as I I’ve said throughout, I am here to win and today I’ve made a step in that direction.”

Wolfgang Reip (BEL), Benelux group
“I feel really happy, a great relief. I was a bit surprised because Enrico and Frank were very quick and good all round. This morning was the turning point as I adapted to the car and the ‘new’ track. I set good times this morning and this allowed me to progress. The Netherlands drivers were so good, so to beat them I have a new confidence. I will win the final race.”

Rolf Ueltschi (SUI), Swiss, Austria, Poland group
“In the early morning I knew I needed to do a fantastic job and I did. I was very, very proud of my performance. People might think there was a change overnight, as I was in the eliminator yesterday. But nothing has changed. I was just very focused on the early morning driving session. It was quite special to have Sebastien Buemi in the passenger seat. Sitting next to a Formula One driver, I knew I had to perform, and I did.”

Mentors’ comments:

René Arnoux (FRA)
“It’s the first time for me being here. It’s been a difficult decision for me to make. We started with 160,000 PlayStation gamers in France that these guys have beaten to get here and you have to make a decision between two young drivers who were very closely matched as only one person can go on to race for the chance to get to Dubai. When you want to go into racing it’s difficult. I understand the pressure because it is life changing.

“Today it was 3 -1 between those of us judging this selection. One guy was quicker than the rest. Steven was very good through the last few days, but Sebastien showed more progress and was the best prospect for France.”

Vitantonio Luizzi (ITA)
“It has been another good day for the Italian team. All the drivers put in a really strong performance so it made it a really difficult decision. Gonzo (Gonçalo Gomes) and myself recognized that all three competitors were really capable of representing Italy in the final. So we thought long and hard about who was going through. Andrea Fasulo and Darian Rojnic were really quick, but the most complete by a little amount was Andrea Cosaro. He was more consistent than the others. We had a good selection of drivers and I am looking forward to the race.”

Dani Clos (SPA) Iberia mentor
“For Lucas and myself it has been a hard decision. It’s been tough, as the guys have been so quick. It was great to meet them all and spend the last couple of days with them. They all have good potential, but Hugo got the win. He was better in many tests so he deserves to win. They have skills. They showed it from the beginning and they learn well. We are proud that Hugo gets this chance to represent Iberia.”

Tim Coronel (NED) Benelux mentor
“Today was really, really nice. This morning we were on the National circuit. I was in the passenger seat seeing how they did. At first, they struggled with the lines. I jumped in, showed them the correct lines and they got on the pace right away. I tried to give the other guys as much of an opportunity to show me they were up to the challenge. But Wolfgang showed better consistency than the Dutch guys. He did a really good lap time. We have a possible winner in Wolf. He was there all week and is a talent! Go Benelux.”