Nissan’s GT Academy, which lets players of the popular Gran Turismo video game franchise compete to become genuine professional racing drivers, is headed onto American airwaves this month. The Speed network will soon air a five-part reality show about it the process. Think of it as America’s Next Top Model…with turbochargers.
The show is the last of a three-part competition that brought 54,000 people to the digital racetracks of GT5 in an attempt to reach racing glory: a professional racing contract with Nissan. The original 54,000 users competed online, racing certain Nissan vehicles on a number of virtual raceways. From there, 32 were chosen to fly to Orlando, Florida, in March, where they competed head-to-head. The top 16 were then chosen to join the reality show contestant pool.
The TV competition was shot at the Silverstone Racing Complex in Silverstone, England, over the course of a week, where the 16 finalists competed in a number of physical and mental challenges, including numerous races and a boot camp-style workout. Predictably, the reality show’s judges are well-known race car drivers: Danny Sullivan, winner of the 1985 Indy 500; Tommy Kendall, the only American to finish Australia’s Bathurst 1000 race; and Liz Halliday, the most successful woman to race in the American Le Mans Series.
The winner of the U.S. GT Academy will be crowned at the end of a five-part mini-series that will air on Speed starting September 20 at 10 PM, although (spoiler alert) you may already know who won. That person will join the three winners of Nissan’s European GT Academy and form a four-person professional racing team, which will campaign at the 24 Hours of Dubai in January of next year.
Those will be tough shoes to fill: European GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez helped take his race team to a podium finish in the LMP2 class at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.