In 2011 Nissan showed the world that it is possible to take a gamer, put him through a driver development program, unleash him at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and see him stand on the podium after the grueling racing. The story of Lucas Ordonez, original Nissan GT Academy winner, and his journey from virtual to reality goes on but there is now a new intake of gamers snapping at his heels to take on the biggest race of them all.
In 2014 Nissan will field four gamers-turned-racers in the 24 Hours of Le Mans: two in the LMP2 class which Nissan is an engine supplier for, and two in the new ZEOD RC electrified race car competing as the Garage 56 entry. The ZEOD RC is a plug-in hybrid and is destined to be the first car to complete a lap in a sanctioned form of motorsport on electric power alone.
The first two gamers, Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitsky, will join factory Nissan driver Alex Brundle in the number 35 Ligier LMP2 fielded by OAK Racing. The remaining two, Lucas Ordonez and Wolfgang Reip, will join Nissan factory driver Satoshi Motoyama in the ZEOD RC.
"What started as a one-off project six years ago has become a real route into a top-flight motorsport career for these drivers," NISMO sales and marketing chief Darren Cox said in a statement. "GT Academy continues to grow and, as we spread the net wider into countries such as India, Australia, Mexico and Thailand, we are continuing to unearth real racing talent that would otherwise have stayed in the virtual world.”
The 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans will take place on the weekend starting June 14.