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GT Academy 2015 European Race Camp - Day 7

While ex-F1 driver Max Chilton, and his fellow GT Academy mentors, enjoyed the trappings associated with their successful racing careers at the stunning Qasr Al Sarab resort in the legendary Rub'Al Khali desert, the competitors could only dream of what might be if they win GT Academy. Only a few kilometres away, their surroundings could not have been more different. Each territory group slept in their own basic, and very hot, tent under the stars in the incredible desert.

After broken nights of sleep for many of the competitors, the mentors and Rob Barff arrived in camp fresh and relaxed from their night of luxury for a practice session for the day’s elimination challenge, a dune buggy time trial. By the afternoon, temperatures in the desert were over 40 degrees as the competitors, in full race suits and helmets, tackled the tricky course up the side of a dune in 1000cc buggies.

With a couple of mechanical failures caused by the big jumps, Benelux mentor, and two-time Dakar winner in a buggy, Tim Coronel, leapt into action to fix one of the injured buggies and keep the action on course.

The challenge helped the mentors to decide which two competitors will head into tomorrow’s final day at Yas Marina Circuit where they will be back on track for extensive driver training, monitored by their mentors, and under the expert scrutiny of F1 design legend Adrian Newey. Two will become one for a final race and the crowning of the 2015 GT Academy European Champion, whose dream of a glamorous career of international motor sport will become a reality.

After a long drive back from the desert to the Yas Viceroy hotel, there was no let-up for the remaining 14 competitors. They were taken up to the popular Rush nightclub and back to the gaming roots that have brought them to Abu Dhabi to pursue their racing dreams. A Gran Turismo race, complete with driver change, saw all seven territories competing for extremely high-stakes – pole position for tomorrow’s race.

Another first for GT Academy sees two brothers compete against each other for the chance to become the German champion tomorrow. “Our ultimate goal was always to get this far as a team,” explained younger brother Thomas (22). “Now one of us will be in the final, which is very cool. But of course everyone wants to be the one, so I’m looking forward to pushing hard now.”

“It’s really exciting,” added 27-year-old Georg. “At least one Kiefer guy, will be in the final race. Our mother’s heart will be beating now!”

If the competitors had not yet realised what a life-changing opportunity lies before them, it was highlighted by 2011 winner Jann Mardenborough today. News came through to Race Camp that the British NISMO Athlete had followed up fifth place in race one at the GP3 Russian Grand Prix at Sochi with an excellent third place in race two.

Max Chilton (UK mentor): “The desert was amazing. I’ve never been anywhere like it before and we learnt a lot. I was happy with the outcome of the race, and it gives the guys some more great experience to draw on as a racing driver. The two I have left have actually progressed really well during Race Camp. I’ve been using that word ‘progression’ a lot over this week, and so I’m pretty confident they’ll both be quick on track on the final day tomorrow. I think they’ve both got it in them to do a good job.”