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GT Academy 2013 European Race Camp - Day 5

As the countdown begins to the end of 2013 Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy European Race Camp, the British summer drew to an apparent close at Silverstone today. Torrential rain and cold temperatures greeted the 28 remaining competitors this morning on the day – of course – that they would face their toughest physical challenge so far; a military-style cross country, assault course.

Not only a test of their physical fitness, but also of their determination, mental strength and teamwork, this challenge has become a famous part of Race Camp. Today’s conditions made it especially tough for the early groups – spare a thought for Iberia, on track at 8.30! By late morning the rain had eased slightly in time for Benelux, but the cold persevered and the course remained very wet and slippery all day.

“That test came at a great time for us as we really need to see who from each territory is prepared to step up and show the true grit and mental strength required to win this competition,” said performance director Simon Fitchett. “It may not have a lot to do with racing cars, but when you are in a 24 hour race and having no sleep, you really need to stay strong both mentally and physically. This challenge showed us who could push themselves beyond the limits that their bodies should take and it was also a great test of teamwork as the guys were paired up and both had to finish.”

The rain and cold also added an extra layer of complexity to the practical element of the ‘ARDS’ race licence test. Each competitor had to display the ability to driver a number of faultless laps on track using the correct racing lines. The test was completed around the Stowe Circuit in a Nissan Juke Nismo in very wet conditions.

Making a welcome return to the GT Academy Race Camp was former Formula One driver Johnny Herbert, who flew in directly from the Italian Grand Prix. This is Johnny’s fifth GT Academy European Race Camp, but it may not be the easiest as he assumes the role of head judge and may be required to make some difficult decisions.

For now, however, it was the territory judges and mentors that had a hard decision to make. They had to split their four remaining competitors into two to proceed to day six and select two that would take part in a sudden-death ‘Dogfight Elimination’. Familiar to GT Academy fans, the ‘Dogfight’ – taking place in identical Nissan Juke Nismo cars - is similar to a cycling pursuit race with the drivers starting on opposite sides of the track with the objective of closing the gap on their adversary. For each territory group, the losing driver was automatically eliminated from the competition, reducing the field to three drivers for each territory and 21 in total.

With the weather having eased and the sun even making an appearance for a while during the late afternoon, the Dogfights were tense affairs. By the time the Italian group took to the track, however, the heavens opened again and the drivers had to wait in their cars until the rain eased.

DOG FIGHT RESULTS

Iberia Miguel Faisca beat Oscar Ruiz 2-0
UK Adam Suswillo beat Mark Ridout 2-0
CEE Erik Leštach beat Pawel Ledwon 2-0
Benelux Nicolas Beguin beat Bart Jansen 2-1
NNE Soren Hansen beat Jesper Pedersen 2-1
France Jérémy Bouteloup beat Joël Cincinnatus 2-0
Italy Ivan Brigada beat Egeo Garafolo 2-1

The pressure mounts as the European Race Camp moves closer to crowning seven ‘territory champions’. They will represent their territory on the final day in a bid to become European GT Academy Champion. Only one of the 42 Gran Turismo gamers that started Race Camp will continue their journey to become a real Nissan Nismo racing driver through the Driver Development Programme. At stake, a full-season racing the awesome 550ps Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3.

As a final note, 2011 GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough celebrated his 22nd birthday today in Race Camp. Tomorrow the UK mentor and Nismo Athlete leaves Race Camp to head to Hockenheim in Germany where he’ll take part in a two-day Formula 3 test with his team.

 

QUOTES OF THE DAY


Stefan Johannson, Nordics Judge
"You have to say, based on the performances in the race, the right candidate did win through. It wasn’t the one we expected, but it is a competition and he clearly coped with the pressure better. I think the Nordic team has a couple of candidates who could definitely challenge for the overall victory. We’re a strong team and we’re certainly in the hunt."

Soren Hansen (Denmark)
"I feel great. I thought that my Danish team mate was certainly an extremely strong candidate. He’s really good at controlling the car, but this is a high pressure situation where you can’t afford to make mistakes and he unfortunately did. Racing felt so right, having a car to chase was really cool and I really want to do more of it. I hope I can go all the way and win it so I have the chance to race more. But it’ll be very difficult. The competition is extremely strong. But I’ll do my best."

Wolfgang Reip, Benelux mentor
"It was an amazing elimination race. It was extremely close. Each driver won easily in one of the heats, but the deciding race was extremely close. But I think the right man would always win. In a way this challenge was natural selection and it was nice that we didn’t have to take the decision."

Nicolas Beguin (Belgium)
"I’m very happy to win the elimination race. It was a very important challenge; I couldn’t afford to lose so I’m so relieved to win. I think I’ve learnt that mental strength is the key. I stayed calm in the car and made sure I didn’t make a mistake. I think that strength will be a huge factor in the rest of the competition. But of course, you have to push a lot!"

Neil Williams (UK)
"The main thing with the assault course is that it’s mentally draining. It’s physically tough too, but there are certain parts that really get you mentally, like when you have to wade through water or go through the tazer section, that was draining for me. I’d already been training hard for it though, doing a lot of circuit training, so that challenge suited me quite well and I didn’t feel too bad at the end of it. Race Camp has been a bit up and down for me. I think the judges can see I’m improving as time goes on, so I’m fairly happy with my performance so far, but at the same time I know that I can also get a bit more out, especially in the driving section. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to prove that."

Johnny Herbert, Former F1 driver and GT Academy Europe head judge
"I’m very pleased to be head judge of this year’s GT Academy competition, but it’s not just my opinion that will count. I will sit down with each country judge and mentor to see which competitor has what it takes to be our next GT Academy champion. The strength of character of each competitor is an important part for me, whilst we look at not just how they can develop as an individual, but how they would be working as part of a professional motor sport team. They need to be competitive, put in bucket loads of hard work, but being able to be a team player is one of the most important attributes to have.

"GT Academy has already discovered a successful ingredient by using the Gran Turismo game to identify a pool of new racing talent. This week is about unearthing which of these competitors can now take their skills from the virtual world and show us they have the potential and passion to make the grade as a professional racing driving with Nissan. GT Academy has continued to evolve over the last five years, and this year has seen these gamers arrive to Race Camp more prepared than ever before. As a result I think there will be several of them fighting for top spot at the end, so this is going to make my job even tougher.

"Jann Mardenborough is a perfect reflection of the success of GT Academy. I have been mightily impressed with what Jann has achieved in two years since winning the competition. For someone with Jann’s experience doing so well is very rare to see. The European F3 championship is a hell of a tough challenge during your first season. Jann’s challenge is even tougher, as this is also his first year in single seaters, full stop.

"Whilst he has had a very successful first year in GT racing and he has now got an amazing result at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours under his belt, he is competing against F3 against drivers that have grown up with seasons of karting and single-seater experience behind them. That has not only impressed me, but has also got experienced figureheads in motor sport talking about what Jann and GT Academy is achieving. Basically, the world of motor sport is recognising that GT Academy is helping bring talented young new blood into the sport. The success of Jann and other GT Academy winners is also inspiring a new legion of gaming and motor sport fans by giving them an unbelievable route to becoming a professional racing driver."