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Gran Turismo 5  (Source: Sony)

Lucas Ordonez didn't have the money to race professionally. However, his obsessive play of the realistic racing sim Gran Turismo on Playstation consoles earned him the right to compete in real world racing. Now he has his first victory under his belt and is one of Europe's hottest new racers.  (Source: PC Authority)
Driver is competing -- and winning -- races he once played in video games

Lucas Ordoñez always loved cars and dreamed of being a professional race driver when he grew up.  In 2008, though, he had abandoned that dream as he lacked the finances necessary to become a professional racer.  The 22-year-old instead indulged in his passion by playing Gran Turismo and other racing games, when he wasn't working on his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

His life dramatically changed when Sony held a European PlayStation competition looking for the best "virtual driver" in Europe according to PC Authority.  Ordoñez, who lives in Spain, bested almost 25,000 of his fellow auto enthusiasts and won, gaining the chance to represent his nation at the Playstation GT academy, a special camp designed to help the hardcore console racing gaming geeks transition their skills into real world racing.

At the camp, Ordoñez proved a natural at racing in real world cars.  He found his "experience to be consistent in the laps and to know the perfect line in the tracks" had helped him to be able to recognize real-world braking points.  However, much work remained.  In the latter half of 2008, Ordoñez continued to work on his MBA and in the meantime hired a personal trainer to whip him into the shape necessary to handle the G-forces which professional racers experience.

On the weekends he competed in smaller European races in order to obtain his international race drivers 'C' license, which requires a certain amount of track time at national certified tracks.  Most of these races were RJN Motorsport Team events held in the UK.

It wasn't long before Ordoñez received his license.  And he didn't start small -- he took off to compete in the famous GTA Dubai International 24 Hour race in 2009.  Racing in a Nissan 350Z, he completed 451 laps and 2431km in 24 hr.  That impressive performance earned him a 9th place finish, and put him in a tie with English former F1 Gun, Johnny Herbert.

Then came an even greater accomplishment.  Ordoñez won the European GTA Cup for RJN Motorsport, a very high profile event.  Ordoñez now appears poised to enjoy a very successful and financially rewarding racing career, all thanks to his gaming experience.

Encouraged by the success, this year Sony is planning an even bigger 2010 GT Academy.  Gamers will compete in five stages.  The first two stages will give gamers a chance to compete in the unreleased Gran Turismo 5, which is due out in March 2010 (a prologue version is currently available).  The next stage will put those who prevail in the camp with real world race cars.  Couch potato gamers beware -- a fourth stage will pit the two best real-world drivers against each other mental, but also athletic tests, to show their mettle. 

Much like Ordoñez, one lucky winner will get the chance to drive a Nissan 370Z prepared by RJN Motorsport in May 2010's European GT4 Cup.



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RE: See kids
By jonmcc33 on 12/4/2009 11:19:39 AM , Rating: 5
Unfortunately games like Race Driver GRID have taught me one thing: That I would destroy everything on the track if I were to race in real life. I am too aggressive and my cars usually finish the race missing most of the body. I tend to plow through vehicles as opposed to going around them. I am notorious for using police PIT maneuvers to take out people in front of me as well.

Thankfully real life to me is all about getting from point A to point B without trying to scratch something I actually paid for. That and the thought of paying fines and getting points on my driver's license generally discourage any desire to race.


RE: See kids
By MrBlastman on 12/4/2009 11:33:43 AM , Rating: 3
You should try racing for real in a sanctioned event or a sanctioned location. In fact, you don't even have to have prior experience to take part in an SCCA-sanctioned novice event. Autocross is a great entry point, it costs very little (usually 30 - 40 bucks an event), and is relatively "safe" when it comes to racing--they even sponsor novice clinics where you get to learn from people that have more experience.

While you might find you aren't any good at all in a game, you will learn after _actually_ racing that the experience is quite different. This story suprises me in some ways that the young man was able to transition so smoothly to the real thing. I can tell you from experience that it is quite a bit different racing a real car versus using a controller. Now, I haven't partook in a true GT event but I've done my share of SCCA Auto-X events plus raced on some real tracks to know there is a difference.

Though, thinking about it more, I can potentially see some benefit in honing concentration, small twitch reflexes and the ability to focus on the line through the course as a great preparation tool. It is suprising how many people are shocked at all the things they need to focus on while going around a course/track at speed for the first few times--many of them are overwhelmed at the stimuli and input processing that is needed. Many people have a hard time just staying on course.

So really, you _can_ try it out in a legal setting. Why not give it a shot? If anything, it will make you a far better driver when you aren't on the course.


RE: See kids
By Omega215D on 12/4/2009 11:45:26 AM , Rating: 3
You should see my rented rally car after running both stages. half a bumper gone, huge dent on left side panel (always that side) and damaged skid plates. Of course taking part in racing is pretty expensive as you have to have a car for it (it seems like some pros are just given cars though), crew to maintain it, and you have to pay entry fees and in my case with Rally racing a Rally License that lasts for a year ($100 for regional, 200 for National).

I heard that the last GT Academy was for non-US players. I would love to have some more race experience because at this point getting sponsored is difficult and renting a car isn't economical.

P.S. the US sucks for embracing Nascar more than other racing types... ovals FTL.


RE: See kids
By MrBlastman on 12/4/2009 12:09:32 PM , Rating: 3
I agree, asscar is like watching paint dry. I've got the car for Rally (Subaru WRX), and I've done some light gravel runs, but, as you mention--it costs _quite_ a bit of money. Perhaps some day when I've saved up more in the bank and the cash flow is a little stronger I'll be able to dedicate it to that part of the sport.

For now, SCCA Auto-x and light track events give me the rush I need. If only I could afford to replace my tires more frequently. >:)


RE: See kids
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 12/4/2009 12:29:10 PM , Rating: 3
Well, you can't say the US sucks for embracing Nascar. I never embraced nascar. I know very few people who are into nascar. I think it has replaced church for hillbillies in the south mostly. Church with beer!

I like the euro rallies, and Isle of Mann when I can get them in HD. Those are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more exciting than nascar (woo- lookit me turn left some more.) I also like Le Mans and other road courses. I would love to see a Nurbrgring event. I wouldn't drive on it though, mostly cause the other drivers are looney tunes! Watch the YouTubes.

Please note: there is only one Nascar - type event in GT that I recall. That was way boring.


RE: See kids
By Nfarce on 12/4/2009 3:37:33 PM , Rating: 5
Heh. NASCAR, hillbillys and a South reference. That's ironic. NASCAR has grown in the Northeast, Midwest, and West the most. In fact, there are more tracks planned to be built in other areas of the nation and there are tracks in the South on the potential chopping block.

But, I find it extremely boring, especially now that the cars are so even with BS rules & regulations they are more like the IROC races which were all the exact same cars. I prefer GT and F1 any day. That Laguna Seca race ending a month or so ago was awesome at the finish: Porsche 996 & C6 Corvette duke it out to the end, with the finale being the C6 in the wall trying to pass the Porsche. Gotta love it!


RE: See kids
By Reclaimer77 on 12/5/2009 12:28:59 PM , Rating: 3
Nascar is an amazing product in my opinion. I don't watch it, but I used to once in a while when Dale Earnheart was alive. That guy was something else to watch, holy crap lol.

People say ovals are boring, but the Indy 500 is an oval and I think it's probably the most famous and most watched race around. It's certainly historic I would think.

I know I'm going to get flamed, but how is Formula 1 more exciting ? If you pay to attend a race, you get to see ONE turn or mini straight, you have no view of the real race. Passes rarely happen, and the big snooze factor is that the lead is rarely contended. The cars are designed in such a fashion that a high paid team like Ferrari takes the lead fairly early, and that's it. How many times have we seen Schumacher or that other guy win a race without even having to fight for the lead or fight to keep it ?

And there are SO many electronics in a Formula 1 car, that the performance of the driver is marginalized in my opinion. In Nascar the cars are tuned so that the driver is the biggest factor in the cars performance. Not paddle shifts or one of 1,000 techno gadgets, or how much money your team has.

Nascar you take your family to the track, have a view of the whole race or at least half of it. Fights for the lead happen often and are thrilling. People going three wide through a turn are also exciting to watch, and yes, we can't forget the wreck factor. I have been told you can't judge Nascar from watching it on TV and that going to the track and feeling and hearing the cars makes it a whole different experience.

As far as the stereotypes go, they are mean spirited I think. These are NOT rednecks building cars in garages and barns. The people building and maintaining these cars are some of the highest class of professionals in the world. Extremely well trained and very well paid.


RE: See kids
By Nfarce on 12/5/2009 6:01:14 PM , Rating: 2
RC77 - you & I in a disagreement? Say it ain't so!!

Anyway, I grew up watching NASCAR starting with the Awesome Bill From Dawsonville days. I've been to countless races in Atlanta (my home town), Daytona, Charlotte, and Talladega. Sure, watching the race in person, especially in the infield on top of an RV drinking a beer (and in our case playing the PS3 before the race) is a blast. Hell anything live from an air show to a boat race is fun to watch with beer and good friends.

But on TV, well, that's another matter. If you thought that last Talladega race was fun to watch, then I don't know what to say. And your comment about high paid teams and dominance in F1 can be countered with the last few years of NASCAR's Hendrick Motorsports. Another Jimmy Johnson year (yawn). I find F1 more interesting because the cars are incredibly fast and no track is even remotely the same.

With that said, I've just overall lost interest following the sport like I used to and prefer to watch other racing events on TV as mentioned. The days of driving 220mph on a straightaway at Daytona or Talladega are long gone and cars are too evenly matched now. And like I said from the get go, IROC racing was always boring.

Yes, we all know the roots of NASCAR was in Southern bootlegging and running white lightning down Georgia's Highway 9 to Atlanta from the distilleries in the Appalachians, and we all know it gained fame on the beach at Daytona Beach, but it is growing more and more into a yawner sport where competition is marginalized for so-called safety and spectatorship.


RE: See kids
By Reclaimer77 on 12/5/2009 8:52:09 PM , Rating: 2
hahah hey, disagreement makes the world go 'round m8 :)

Yes on TV both sports are different I would imagine. I think I made a comment about seeing Nascar live before making judgment, cause I'm told it's quite exciting in person.

But to me Formula 1 on TV is worst because everytime I watch a F1 race, there is no suspense or drama. The winner is usually established after the first 10 laps, where he pulls away from everyone else and there is no contest for first place. The tracks are too tight, so there are very few places for good passes, or any passing at all. Pit stops are also boring. Cars with the jacks build into them ? Give me a break, why would you take the skill out of pit stops like that ?

Also if Nascar is so boring or whatever, then how come it's dominating Kart or Indy Car ( or whatever they call themselves these days ) in the same country ? It's the same basic type of car as F1 with the same type road courses. And yet, nobody watches it. The sport has been in constant financial trouble for years.

Didn't F1 also make a bunch of safety changes and slowing down of the cars after a well known driver lost both his legs and several died in crashes though ? I remember them going to grooved tires and other things to slow the cars down. Am I wrong here ? Every sport makes such changes because drivers dying is something nobody wants to see, plus it costs the business end money.

I just don't see the need for people to sling cultural insults about the sport. I've never said F1 was for a bunch of wine sniffing stuck up homosexual europeans did I ? Nope.


RE: See kids
By tygrus on 12/6/2009 8:50:14 PM , Rating: 1
Nascar for beer drinkers only. F1 OK. Production car and Porsche/Carrera cup on F1 tracks are great.

Europeans: love the twisty coastal/mountain roads; racing tracks of variety of corners and straights with elegance; check the great F1 tracks.

Americans: yank-tanks go fast in a straight line but don't like going around corners; boring oval tracks which don't excite drivers or as many spectators. The cars are now better at the twisty bits but don't have the same pedigree of great European handling.


RE: See kids
By jonmcc33 on 12/4/2009 2:41:59 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
You should try racing for real in a sanctioned event or a sanctioned location. In fact, you don't even have to have prior experience to take part in an SCCA-sanctioned novice event.


Didn't you read what I said? I tend to total vehicles in racing games. Not because I cannot drive but because I am aggressive in my competitive edge. I don't just rub other vehicles, I ram them and PIT them.

quote:
If anything, it will make you a far better driver when you aren't on the course.


Who says I am not a good driver in real life? The only accident I ever caused in my life was 30 days after I initially got my driver's license. Since then, it has been a clean bill for 14 years. Other people have wrecked into me but that's not my fault.

I do have a lead foot though. I went 130mph in my 2006 Hyundai Sonata V6 on I-75 once.


RE: See kids
By MrBlastman on 12/4/2009 5:06:38 PM , Rating: 3
Oh I didn't mean to insinuate you're a bad driver, not at all. You'll find though that after racing for real that you will see a profound improvement in your driving abilities--this is a guarantee. Until you have a pushed a car to its limits repeatedly you will never be able to fully utilize your vehicle in everyday situations and more importantly, emergency situations. Just going fast in a straight line every once in a while doesn't count as pushing the limits. The limits I speak of are cornering in sharp turns, confined spaces, setting up from a turn to a series of esses etc.

Not to mention, it is a great way to have some fun every once in a while. :)


RE: See kids
By DominionSeraph on 12/4/2009 6:04:40 PM , Rating: 2
You didn't even hit the top speed of that Sonata, and you think you have a lead foot?

My little sister broke 140mph in her Prelude at 16.


RE: See kids
By raytseng on 12/4/2009 6:23:46 PM , Rating: 3
Uh,
If he's like a winner of Gran Turismo, he probably has expensive wheel pedal/controllers.

GT at least in campaign mode is also known to be more of a racing simulator rather than a more arcady racing game.

So I'm not surprised at all he transitioned smoothly. As mentioned in the article, the physical endurance is what I expected him to have the most problems with.


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