Just three years ago, Lucas Ordonez was a student studying for his MBA. Today, thanks to his love of the Gran Turismo video game franchise, Ordonez is a professional racing driver who recently signed with Signatech to race the 2011 Intercontinental LeMans Cup series. On June 11 and June 12, Ordonez will put his years of video gaming (and three years of in-car racing) to the test when he competes in the legendary 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race. Video gaming, it appears, can be good for you after all.
Ordonez won the inaugural GT Academy contest in 2008, which was open to residents of the EU only. After months of in game competition, he was chosen to represent his native Spain at a five day training camp held at the Silverstone Circuit; when the last checkered flag dropped, Ordonez proved to be the most capable of turning virtual lap times into real lap times. His next step was a four month driver training program, necessary to qualify him from a professional racing license; to his credit, Ordonez secured his competition license in record time. From there, it was off to Dubai in January of 2009 to train with Johnny Herbert and the GT Academy team in an endurance racing prepped 350Z.
That may have been the end of Ordonez’s career, but the Spaniard showed a true ability behind the wheel. Driving with Alex Buncombe, the pair took second place in the 2009 European GT4 Cup. In 2010, Ordonez helped Nissan develop the GT4 Cup 370Z, and took a respectable fourth place in the series. Ordonez could have finished higher, but he missed a round of competition to race a LeMans Prototype car in a 1000km race at Silverstone. When the seat opened up at Signatech, Ordonez seemed like a natural fit.
GT Academy has been expanded to North America, and the competition has begun to find the best driver on this continent. The second GT academy for the EU is already in process and a third installment kicked off this week. There’s no guarantee that the next winners will prove as fast (or as lucky) as Lucas Ordonez, but he’s proof that video gaming can help strengthen an innate ability. The next Ayrton Senna could very well be turning hot laps on a Playstation in his mom’s living room at this very moment.