In 2012, GT Academy went to Russia in search of a promising race driver. From more than 30,000 online gamers vying for the Red Helmet, Mark Shulzhitskiy was crowned the country’s first Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy champion at Silverstone in 2012.
Unlike many others in this competition, Shulzhitskiy didn’t have much experience playing Gran Turismo. His first exposure to the game came in 2011 when he bought a PlayStation®3 just to play Gran Turismo 5. Even then, he could only play a few hours a week since his full time job and learning the Japanese language kept him busy. When he heard about GT Academy Russia, he decided to enter without any expectations of winning; however, when the dust cleared he was among the final 14 heading to Silverstone Circuit in Great Britain.
While most kids in his hometown of Vladivostok play hockey, Shulzhitskiy was behind a steering wheel. He raced go-karts competitively from the age of 8 to 16, winning multiple city championships; but because there were no race programs in the area, Shulzhitskiy satisfied his race cravings driving his Mazda MX-5 at track events. He says he inherited the love for motorsports from his father and has been watching Formula 1 since he was 5 years old. Back then, his favorite driver was Ayrton Senna; nowadays, he roots for Jenson Button.
Shulzhitskiy and three other regional winners trained over a three-month period from November 2012 for the demanding 24 Hours of Dubai endurance race where they shared two Nissan 370Z GT4 racecars. The first weekend of November saw Shulzhitskiy and his GT Academy teammates return to Donington where they successfully completed a trouble-free run in the four-hour ‘Night Race’ and in the process secured the all-important international race license.
Shulzhitskiy’s goal in racing is to become a successful world-class driver. Naturally, Formula 1 would be the ultimate goal, but he insists that the series doesn’t matter, as long it’s a top-tier international series. He’s happy to see motorsports in Russia growing in popularity every year, and he predicts that soon there will be more tracks and perhaps an international race held within its borders. If that ever happens, you can be sure he will be on the grid.