Though the GT Academy was held again this year in various parts of the world, it may come as a surprise that this was the first time it was hosted also in Japan, where Gran Turismo was born. With a high level of attention from Japanese media, the Japan Finals of “GT Academy by Nissan x PlayStation® 2015” was covered by top Japanese media including NHK, as well as automotive, racing, and game media. This event was held across two days on Saturday July 11 and Sunday July 12. Day 1 was held at the “GRANDRIVE” Nissan Motors test course, where the competitors were tested for physical endurance, media exposure and real cars handling.
This is a top secret area of Nissan where normally no entry is allowed. The Nissan Note NISMO S prepared for the skill test was a hot hatch with a 3 pedal, H pattern shifter. Even in the 2008 European GT Academy, there were finalists that had trouble getting used to a manual transmission with a clutch, but Japan is a country where most cars are automatics. Many youths only acquire driver’s licenses limited to automatic transmissions.
As a result, the participants who owned 3 pedal manual transmission cars were at an advantage. Though racing cars in today’s motorsports often utilize paddle shifters, it’s important to know how to handle the pedals and shifters for a manual transmission to truly learn and understand the movements of a car.
But of course driving skills alone will not win you GT Academy. The next test to weed out the challengers were the physical test, nonetheless on a day that was as hot as hell itself. But the finalists were ready for the challenge, wiping away any concerns about Japanese gamers lacking physical stamina. Not only that, their show of determination to be the last man standing was a true demonstration of sportsmanship.
To live in the world of motorsports, you can’t avoid media attention. To become a top level racing driver, you must not only drive like one; you must act like one. The media test was judged by Yutaka Suzuki, the director of NISMO in the Super GT, and Masataka Yanagida (MOLA) who just won Round 3 of the Super GT in Thailand.
With the Day 1 test at “GRANDDRIVE” completed, the next stage was set at the “Nicofarre” (Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo). This used to be the location of the famous Velfarre club in Roppongi.
A time trial was held using the Nissan 370Z on the Gran Turismo original track, the “Cape Ring – Inside” course. This selection was probably a surprise for the Japanese finalists.
Before the battles of the second day, the interim results of Day 1 were announced. Kochibe, known as one of the fastest ranked player in Japan, and Yoshida, who is a finalist from the Red Bull 5G racing division from last year, were unpleasantly surprised to find themselves ranked closer to the bottom than the top. Though marking a high ranking laptime in the Gran Turismo 6 time trial, they did not make it into the top 6 in the overall results. But though Kochibe fell from glory his expression was that of acknowledgement. He commented ” I didn’t prepare enough this year! The results were bad but I really had fun. If there’s another chance, I’m definitely up for the challenge again!”.
Day 1 results were added to the time trial results on the Cape Ring -Inside and the top 4 players were confirmed for the Silverstone boot camp at this point.
JAPAN FINALS (Round 1) – 4 WINNERS
Lee Jongwoo (Live Event qualifier / Fuji TV “Spring Fes 2015” Ranking no. 1)
Yu Takahashi (Live Event qualifier / Nissan Global Headquarters ranking no. 1)
Takuya Takahashi (Live Event qualifier / Fuji Speedway ranking no. 1)
Incredibly, 3 out of the 4 players were winners of the Live Events hosted in Japan (Fuji TV, Fuji Speedway, Nissan Global Headquarters). Their ability to win under pressure really came through.
For the last 2 slots, a Fuji Speedway match was held using the GT-R GT500 Base Model ’08: Kojiro Iwasaki and Yuya Nozaki gained their tickets to the holy ground of GT Academy, the Silverstone boot camp!
The 6 finalists of the Japan Finals will go to the Race Camp held from August 14-20 at the Silverstone circuit in UK, together with 24 other representatives from India, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia. A single winner will be chosen in the end, and that winner will be participating in the Dubai 24 Hours race held in 2016. Before the GT Academy, there has never been a program that turns someone into a professional racing drivers in such a short time span.
And a race that proves it all was held over the weekend: Wolfgang Reip from Belgium, who became champion in the 2012 European GT Academy, participated in the legendary Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours race with the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN. Nicknamed Wolfie, he’s already taken the overall win at the Bathurst 12 Hours race this year, and is now one of the hottest drivers graduating from the GT Academy. In the Blancpain Endurance series, he’s already taken the overall win in the Paul Richard 1000km, and he is ranked top in the Pro Cup class.
・Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Car #23
Car #23 takes its momentum of victory from the Paul Richard 1000km to Spa, with drivers Masakazu Chiyo, Alex Buncombe and GT Academy and local Wolfie going for a win in his home country.
2012 European GT Academy Champion
・Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Car #22
In car #22 are younger generation GT Academy drivers, going for a victory in the Pro-Am class together with Olivier Pla.
2014 International GT Academy Champion
2014 European GT Academy Champion
2013 German GT Academy Champion
Stay tuned to the racing activities of four GT Academy drivers! It might not be too long before a GT Academy finalist from Japan becomes a professional race driver.
The 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps can be viewed in the Blancpain official live stream.
Race day July 25, 4:30PM local time
Blancpain Endurance Series Official Site