Inaugural GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez proved the concept of converting a computer gamer into a real-life racing driver is possible last weekend when he finished second in class in the Sebring 12-hours.
Ordonez was the initial winner of the Gran Turismo virtual-to-real-racer competition, the 2011 version of which is currently running until April 17, and he will compete in all rounds of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup this year.
His inaugural race proved a big success, with the Spaniard and his French team-mates Franck Mailleux and Soheil Ayari setting the pace in their class and eventually finishing with a class second.
“This first adventure was extraordinary in every way," Ordonez said. "I learned of the way things happen, the team's work and contact with my teammates. The real is even better than the virtual!"
The race marked the latest step in a fascinating journey for Ordonez, who out-raced 25,000 people in the first GT Academy in 2008, secured his racing licence in record time and was racing alongside former F1 winner Johnny Herbert in a Nissan 350Z in the Dubai International 24 Hours race the following year.
His strong showing in Dubai saw him recruited to drive for Nissan in the 2009 European GT4 Cup, where he competed for two years before the manufacturer announced he would be part of their new inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and Le Mans 24 Hours
This year's version of the virtual-to-real-racer competition will be contested across 10 European countries over a six-week period, with virtual racers with a PlayStation 3 and GT5 game able to sign up on www.gran-turismo.com.
The fastest 20 gamers from the UK will progress to a second phase - a live final event - and two will then progress to the GT Academy Race Camp at Silverstone, where they will be put through their paces against winners from other nations in a range of physical, mental and driving challenges.
The overall winner will then be trained up to international race licence standard before competing in the prestigious Dubai International 24 Hour Race in a full race spec Nissan 370Z GT4.
Nissan International's Vice-President of Marketing, Vincent Wijnen, said: “We have already discovered two outstanding talents and it will be a very proud moment for us when Lucas lines up on the Le Mans grid this year. But I also can't wait to see who is going to be our next champion…”