The GT Academy: an awesom competition that takes top notch Gran Turismo players and attempts to mould them into world class racing drivers. In real life.
This year, for the first time ever, an Australian won. He will now receive some intense high level race training, which will prepare him for a potential professional racing career with Nissan.
Matthew Simmons, is a 26 year old contractor from Queensland. He was among 29 elite Gran Turismo players selected for this year's GT Academy. After a stellar week of consistent driving, Simmons started in pole position for the final race. He was winning until vehicle failures caused him to lose power and two places in the rankings. Despite this, the GT Academy judges decided he showed the most promise as professional driver and decided to make him the overall winner.
“I genuinely can’t believe it," said Simmons. "I’m on top of the world. Unfortunately a mechanical problem took the race out of my hands but that’s motorsport and you can’t hide that, and I think in the early stages of the race I really showed the potential of what I can do. The wait on the podium was killing me but when Rob said my name I had to do a double take, I can’t believe he said it and I’m now a racing driver!
Simmons will take part in the Dubai 2016 24 Hour race after his training.
"My journey has been massive in the last 18 months to here, I’ve had so many people supporting my dream and they’ve given me so much confidence and made me believe I could achieve what I’ve wanted for so long – to become a racing car driver. The GT Academy programme is amazing, you can really tell the driver development programme trains you to become an athlete and they teach you all the aspects, so by the time you reach that pinnacle and you’re at Dubai 24 Hours, you’re ready to take on the world.”
Judges praised Simmons' consistency throughout the competition.
"Matthew has been strong and consistent all week," said head judge Rob Barff. "He’s shown he’s a great team player and we welcome him to the GT Academy family. We’ve been very honest; his car had a problem and in motor racing that happens. It’s something we could have easily shied away from but we haven’t and it’s the right and fair result. The next time I see him it’ll be around the paddocks of the UK and then the Dubai 24 Hours."
The GT Academy has helped create some actual world class drivers. Earlier this year two graduates helped Nissan take the Bathurst 12 Hour Championship.
“It’s a bit of a hidden program we need to do more with, as you can see the quality of drivers it’s producing,” said Richard Emery, CEO of Nissan Australia back then.
“I think we probably underestimate what it’s like for a guy who two years ago didn’t have a racing license and is now racing in the dark at Mount Panorama.”
It'll be interesting to see if Matthew Simmons has what it takes to follow in those footsteps.