Gaming Gets Real with GT Academy

GT Academy can take you from the virtual world onto the real-world racing tracks.

Ever spent hours in front of the video game screen wishing you could physically jump into that fictional scene and make it your new reality? Actually, it’s possible – and not just within the confines of a Hollywood film, E3 Spark Plugs says.

Back in 2008, the makers of Gran Turismo decided to take the best from their top-rated video game’s virtual world and give them a real-world experience like no other. Game director Kazunori Yamauchi has long talked up his notion of bridging the gap between racing simulations and real motorsport. So, his company, Polyphony Digital, teamed up with Sony and Nissan to create GT Academy – a serious racing gamer’s dream come true.

GT Academy is a game within game that “takes people who are good at video games and, in a matter of months, turns them into professional drivers,” the Gran Turismo website says.

It starts with a scheduled series of time trial events in the game. Top qualifiers are invited to National Finals in each participating country. And top winners from the various participating countries fly off to Silverstone in England, where they take park in a racing bootcamp while cameras follow the entire experience for a Spike TV reality show. By the season finale, one winner slips behind the wheel of a real Nissan racecar. And that’s when the real nerve-wracking begins, says 2011 GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough.

“For me, this is the only thing that I have ever wanted to do, so fear never came across my mind until after I had won the competition,” he said. Luckily, it turns out that the game is amazingly effective at readying a guy for a real-world track experience.

“For me, the biggest similarities between virtual and reality is the way that you control the balance of the car. Braking, throttle, and steering input. The way the car pitches forwards on the brakes and yaws in the corners,” Mardenborough says. “The game is quite similar to real life in that sense. In GT6 you can really feel the car moving around underneath you, and if you put too much yaw or pitch into the car, it will react as it would in real life with a bit of a snap. It was crazy to jump from the virtual world into a sports car for the first time. I didn’t feel like there was much difference in terms of the way the car feels and how you deliver your inputs.”

Think you’ve got the goods – and the nerve – to make that crazy jump from virtual reality to actual reality? Find out more here. And if you’re already burning up the tracks competitively, make sure your racing machine is armed with a set of E3 high performance spark plugs.