BY LUCAS ORDONEZ
I didn’t really expect to win the first GT Academy. I joined online at home and tried my best to get a fast time in the Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, but it was not easy at all!
In the beginning, I was 10 seconds away from the top times. It wasn’t until I bought a steering wheel for the game that I started making progress in the times. The first day I was three seconds off, and then two seconds, and I had to work hard to get into the final in Spain.
I had no idea what I would be able to do at Silverstone once I got into the European finals. The competition was really hard with the top 22 guys there, so many of them were strong physically, mentally and on-track. I had to work really hard at the beginning of the week; I started around P8 or P9. But, once we got into the driving tests, that’s when I began to be on pace. That’s when I thought that I had a chance to win GT Academy.
It definitely was one of the best days of my life when they announced me as the first GT Academy winner.
The last ten years have been incredible, my life completely changed. My dream was to become a racing driver, and ten years ago GT Academy gave me that chance with Nissan worldwide. Going from just doing the Dubai 24 to a full GT4 European Cup and getting a podium so early in the season, runner-up in the championships in the first year, I couldn’t believe it; it was a dream.
Then, a few years later, to be in the Le Mans 24 Hours, pole position, finishing in second place, that was absolutely crazy for me. I remember crying tears of joy. Every new program with Nissan was just another dream come true.
More Le Mans programs, moving to Japan, winning the Blancpain ProAm cup in 2013, it just keeps getting better. It’s hard to describe how I feel right now thinking about the last ten years thanks to Nissan / NISMO and Gran Turismo.
Winning GT Academy completely changed my life. But, the biggest highlight of the last ten years was standing on the podium at Le Mans in 2011.
Racing with Kazunori Yamauchi, the Gran Turismo creator, and winning in class at the Nurburgring 24 also ranks high up there.
Another highlight was pole position at the Fuji 300km. That one was really special because of all of the people from Nissan and NISMO at the track. There were so many Nissan fans at the track with flags and posters, and that was an amazing feeling.
There have been so many highlights in my career – and being back racing in Europe with a full Nissan lineup this year – there continues to be so many more.
There aren’t enough words to describe how thankful I am to Nissan / NISMO and Gran Turismo PlayStation for the support over the last ten years. Without them, I would not be where I am now. I wouldn’t even be living my dream of working as a racing driver.
We succeed together and hopefully; we will have many more years on top. I’m thankful for all of the opportunities they’ve given, and continue to give, me.
All of the incredible opportunities and accomplishments aside, I’ve met so many great people – from all of the incredible, hard-working team mechanics; the great drivers I’ve been able to share a car or be teammates with; and all the icons of the sport I’ve met at events like Goodwood.
Even more important than that though, I’ve met people that have become my friends forever, and that’s been the best part.
Also to the Nissan staff, not just the ones on the race team, every single person at the track or in an office around the world. Every day we are working to make this happen.
These last ten years have been crazy for me, but they’ve also been crazy for esports in general. Even with Nissan and GT Academy, I never would have predicted that we would have the races streaming online and have so many esports fans.
And now, we have people fighting for a massive prize in a competition certified by the FIA with Nissan GT Sport Cup. It’s come so far in such a short amount of time. It’s incredible how fast it’s growing.
I feel really proud that GT Academy was such a big step in building this future for esports.