GT Academy 2010 went 'live' last week offering gamers the chance to become a real life racing driver.

The competition not only offers the opportunity to have a preview of the hotly anticipated Gran Turismo 5 game, but also the chance to win what is billed as the 'ultimate racing prize' - including an intensive driver training programme to qualify for an international race licence and a full race season in the European GT4 Cup driving a race-spec Nissan 370Z.

Anyone from a participating country who is over 18, holds a full driving licence and is eligible under the terms and conditions of the competition can enter the Time Trial stage of GT Academy 2010.

All you need is access to a PlayStation 3 connected to the internet. Download the Gran Turismo time trial from PlayStation Store via PlayStation Network and you are ready to go.

Lap times will be recorded on the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course driving the Gran Turismo versions of both a standard, road version of Nissan's stunning 370Z as well as a tuned version of the same car.

Combined lap times will give each player a place on their country leaderboard. Participants are able to post as many times as they like.

Mark Bowles, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's PlayStation3 Brand manager, is excited that the competition is underway.

"We imagine that the combination of a preview of the new GT5 game, the ease of entry and, of course, the spectacular ultimate prize will really boost the numbers taking part in GT Academy 2010," he explained.

"When we ran the competition in 2008 we had 25,000 gamers from across Europe taking part. This year we have more countries, including the welcome addition of Australia and New Zealand. It is very exciting and we can't wait to see what the final numbers are and who emerges at the end of the competition.

"As we say, with PlayStation 3 'the game is just the start', and this is a genuine chance for someone to make the grade and become a racing driver. So I would encourage people to get online and give it a go. You never know.

"The Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the two Nissan 370Z cars look stunning, so there is reason enough to sign-up just for that."

Bowles and Nissan Europe Interactive Marketing manager Darren Cox have worked closely together to bring the second instalment of GT Academy to life.

"The first part of GT Academy 2010 is all about the virtual, gaming world," Cox added. "And it is great to see the virtual 370Z look so good. Driving the real thing in a full championship is a huge incentive for people to have a go at GT Academy. It is an incredible prize.

"At Nissan we 'dare to be different' in our range of sports cars and in GT Academy we are daring people to follow their dream and give it a try!"

GT Academy 2010 is open to gamers from 17 different countries. The rules of entry stipulate that anyone who holds, or has held, a national or international race license will not qualify for GT Academy. This rule is aimed at maintaining the purity of the "virtual to real" concept.

The time-trial stage of GT Academy 2010 runs until 23:59 GMT 24 January, 2010. The fastest 20 Gran Turismo drivers from each territory will then face each other in live national finals events. A total of nineteen winners will emerge to attend the GT Academy at Silverstone - a 'boot camp' for racing drivers. Two winners will then be set up with accommodation at Silverstone itself while they are trained to international race licence stage during a two-month period. Only one, however, will have the chance to drive the Nissan 370Z GT4 for the RJN Motorsport Team.