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Nürburgring 24 Hour Race 2012 (1/2)

Part 1: The Road to the Race

The Team GT Academy GT-R on the Nissan Tochigi Factory Production Line. The body color is Aurora Flare Blue Perl.
The shakedown test at the Sugo Circuit began on April 10, and went on for 3 days, but this is only the beginning.
Mid April. The first GT Academy winner, Lucas Ordonez (right) meets with Kazunori Yamauchi on the Nürburgring. A team starts to take shape.
Winter still lingers at the Nürburgring in April, and the tests start under bad weather. Pictured is the pit lane on the north course, used by automobile manufacturers during testing.
Lucas in the car, positioning the seats.

The 2012 Nürburgring 24 hour race for Kazunori Yamauchi, started with a proposal.

"Would you like to race the 24 hours, with a GT Academy Graduate?"

The proposal came from Nissan Motor Company Europe, who hosts the "GT Academy" together with Gran Turismo. From "GT Academy", the racing driver training project that utilizes Gran Turismo, four racing drivers have already come from its ranks, who are now successful in a variety of racing categories. To have a graduate race together with Yamauchi; This would be a new step for both Gran Turismo and the "GT Academy". Kazunori Yamauchi's race started when he accepted this offer.

Adjusting for race schedules and endurance race experience, the graduate that was selected was the first European winner, Lucas Ordonez. He is now a distinguished driver, having become the 2010 FIA GT GT4 Class Champion and having achieved 2nd place in the LMP Class in the 2011 LeMans 24 Hour Race.
Kazunori had said before, that Lucas, was perfect both as a race driver and as a person. Lucas and Kazunori together with Tobias Schulze and Yasukichi Yamamoto who raced with Kazunori Last year, the "Team GT Academy" was underway.

Meanwhile, the development of this year's car was performed by the Nissan Motor Company's GT-R development team led by Mr. Kazutoshi Mizuno. This was to be a challenge in a car that was intentionally unmodified, close in specifications to the commercially sold Club Track Edition.
Team GT Academy's GT-R came off of the production line on February 2, 2012. The completed car was immediately taken to a workshop in the Kanagawa prefecture, where unnecessary parts were stripped and required reinforcements and safety equipment were added.

April 10, at the Sugo Circuit of the Miyagi Prefecture, the GT-R-turned racing car was driven on a race track for the first time. Kazunori Yamauchi and Yasukichi Yamamoto joined in on this shakedown event, and worked to grasp the base characteristics of the car and wash out its problems during following 3 days.

But at this point the car was still just a newly hatched fledgling. The GT-R was then air shipped to Nürburgring and given to the hands of Team GT Academy. Mid April, Yamauchi Kazunori and the software engineers of Gran Turismo headed to Germany to begin the setup of the car that would run the 24 hour race.

To set up a car, a test drive is first performed to collect driver evaluations and vehicle data. The data gained is analyzed, the suspension and aerodynamic settings are changed based on this data, then it is back to the test drive. This cycle is repeated as much as possible. Discussions were held between engineers and suppliers every day, and in early May they even took the car 400km away to Stuttgart, to perform a rig test in order to find the optimum damper characteristics and spring ratios.

Meanwhile, mechanics is not the only thing important in a race. Race simulation is just as important in a race like this. Correlative patterns of engine RPM and fuel economy, fuel economy and number of laps, tire grip and lap time, refueling amount and time loss are all test calculated to create scenarios according to conditions and strategy.

In this setup and simulation process, a version of Gran Turismo brought in specially for the development played an important role and greatly improved the efficiency of the testing. And in return, the process for finding optimal settings for a real racing car created tremendous amounts of data, bringing newfound wisdom to Gran Turismo engineers.

May 14, race week, Team GT Academy performed the last driving test, and fixed the car's settings and specs. Stickers were applied to the car, completing the formal racecar attire. 6 months from the initiation of the team, and as the result of true passion and hard work by a large variety of supporters, Team GT Academy faced the final race day.

* Related images include images through to the end of the race.

Nürburgring 24 Hour Race 2012 (2/2)