If you have a passion for cars, chances are good that you’ve wanted to race them at a professional level. I know I did, so I spent a year club racing in the SCCA to learn that I was neither fast enough to get rich nor rich enough to get fast. Sure, I could safely pilot a race car around a track, but I just couldn’t do it at 99.9% for lap after lap. If you’ve raced, you know how thin the margin is between “not enough” and “a little too much”.
The path to a career in racing has typically been to attend a school, get fast and consistent, then pay to compete in a semi-pro series. It will take you years to get to the top, and will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Somewhere along the line, you’ll need to get lucky: for every Ayrton Senna or Dale Earnhardt, there are thousands of racers with equal talent, who’ve just never been discovered. It’s a soul crushing experience to spend every last dime you have on your passion, and end up with nothing to show for it.
Now Sony Computer Entertainment, Polyphony Digital and Nissan North America are giving you another shot at the big time, and this won’t cost your life savings. If you’re good at Gran Turismo 5, and I mean REALLY good, you’ll be able to compete in an online spec series within Gran Turismo 5. Just like real racing, it’s a regional ladder series: prove yourself on the slow cars, and you move up to the next level. Eventually, 16 semi-finalists will be chosen from the live online competition to train in real cars like the Nissan 370Z and the Nissan GT-R, at a driver’s “boot camp” called GT Academy.
Here’s where it starts to get cool. The GT Academy sessions will be filmed for Speed TV, and eventually one driver will be chosen as the winner. That driver gets additional training, and seat time driving for a professional team at an unnamed but “major” race event. My guess would be the American LeMans Series or Rolex Sports Car Series, both of which run classes for stock bodied, race prepped sports cars. What happens then is entirely up to the GT Academy winner, but he or she will get their shot at the big time.
If you’re interested, and if you’ve got the skills to win, head on over to the GT Academy website. Gran Turismo 5 goes on sale November 24th (really, they mean it this time), and registration for the GT Academy opens on December 5.
Thanks to my buddy Malcolm at Automotive Addicts for the tip!