TOKYO, Japan (October 31, 2016) – The winner of the GT Academy International Race Camp was decided last week, and the man who stood on top of the podium was Mexico’s Johnny Guindi Hamui.
The contest, which lasted for eight intense days, featured a format that differed from previous race camps. This year, drivers representing territories from all around the world were assembled; they included hotfoots from Mexico, Indonesia, Australia, North Africa (Algeria/Morocco/Egypt), Thailand and the Philippines. Each finalist had to advance through qualifying rounds that took place at various venues in their respective territories, including Nissan dealerships, shopping malls and event halls. More than 135,000 people took part at the onset, testing their skills on a challenging new special Gran Turismo time-trial race. Only the top 20 advanced through to the regional finals. From there, only six were chosen to represent their territory.
The final 36 drivers traveled to Silverstone, one of racing’s hallowed race tracks, in an all-out contest to see who was the best of the best. On October 26, that person was 22-year-old Johnny Guindi Hamui.
Among the finalists were the first female driver in the GT Academy, Elysse Menorca from the Philippines, and contest’s oldest participant to date, 46-year old Kanokphan Wathanakitanan from Thailand.
Beginning on October 19, the race camp featured a range of test and challenges, each designed to evaluate and analyze the potential of each contestant—if he or she had what it took to be a professional racecar driver.
The winners of GT Academies in the past were almost always decided on the final day, and this year’s contest was no different. Unlike previous years, two drivers from each territory went at each other in this 16-lap race instead of one, so the drivers had to be more than just quick, they had to work as a team.
From pole position, Team Mexico led the rest of the pack into the first corner, but was reeled in by Team North Africa, who took the lead and steadily distanced itself from the competition. With its back against the wall, Team Mexico switched drivers early, replacing Enrique Manjarrez with Johnny Guindi Hamui, who quickly set the fastest lap of the race and closed the gap with Team North Africa.
By the time the North Africans pitted for their driver change, Hamui had completely caught up, and the two cars went into Turn 1 side-by-side. Hamui was the aggressor here, braking later than his opponent and putting his car into the lead. Once he was ahead, he didn’t look back until he took the checkered flag several laps later. After the race, the judges made their decision, and former GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough declared Johnny Guindi Hamui the overall champion.
Johnny Guindi Hamui:
“I can’t believe it. What I’ve just achieved is going to take a while to sink in. It’s been an unbelievable experience with some seriously tough competitors, and I’ve had the best time of my life. In the race, I was just so concentrated on doing a good job that my 11 laps in the car flew by. I was alone for five laps, and I was just looking for consistent lap times. And then on my sixth lap I saw the North Africa car coming out of the pits. I was in a great rhythm and overtook him on the outside. After that it was all about holding it together and luckily, I did that, I can’t describe the feeling when Jann read out my name as the winner!”
Hamui's career as a professional racing driver will start immediately, as he joins Nissan's RJN Motorsport team for a national event at Brands Hatch this weekend. He will then join the Nissan Driver Development Program to train for the 2017 Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai race.