Miguel Faisca, a 24-year-old student from Lisbon, Portugal has been crowned the 2013 Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy European Champion. The super-fast Gran Turismo® gamer has proved over the past seven days at the GT Academy Race Camp at Silverstone to be equally quick in real-life Nissan Nismo sports cars. He will now undertake an intensive Driver Development Programme to ready him for a full season's racing in 2014 in a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 - the stunning GT Academy prize.
Over 765,000 people from across Europe entered this year's GT Academy competition on a special demo of the forthcoming Gran Turismo®6 game for PlayStation®3. For the fifth instalment of Race Camp, a record 42 gamers gathered at the UK's famous Silverstone Circuit to begin the process of turning them from virtual to real racers.
Guided by high profile judges and mentors, including former Formula One drivers Johnny Herbert, René Arnoux, Stefan Johansson and Vitantonio Liuzzi, the 42 were divided into seven territory groups. The fierce competition saw the field gradually reduced through a series of challenges that tested driving ability, fitness, attitude, psychological strength and potential.
For today's final day of Race Camp, only one competitor from each of the seven territory groups remained in contention. After repeating a ‘benchmark' test first completed on day one on Silverstone's National Circuit in a 370Z Nismo, the competitors took to the track for practice and qualifying sessions in 370Z race cars. Coming from no real racing experience one week ago, the seven competitors had all completed a basic ARDS race licence during their time at Race Camp as well as a number of challenges and coaching sessions to ready them to take to the track for a race off.
The rain started just as the two heats got under way. The top two finishers from each heat progressed to the final leaving Italian Minh Tuan Nguyen (23) and Jérémy Bouteloup (21) from France eliminated after heat one and Petr Doležal (26) from the Czech Republic after heat two. Lining up on the grid for a final race were Miguel, Romain Delva (21) from Belgium, Filip Larsson (19) Sweden and Adam Suswillo (21) from the UK. Romain started well and led the first of eight laps. However, on lap two he spun in the wet conditions allowing Miguel through. The Portuguese driver held on until the end despite a late charge by Adam Suswillo.
After a deliberation by the GT Academy judging panel, Miguel was announced as the Champion. He will return to Silverstone in October to begin his intensive training programme alongside the winners of the German, Russian and USA Race Camps.
"I'm very proud," said a delighted Miguel. "I didn't expect to win this morning. I don't think I was one of the favourites. But I was feeling good with the car and the track and I quite like the rain conditions. I didn't get a good start and I was second. Once I got into the lead it was very difficult to keep it, but I am so happy. This is the start. It is going to be very hard work, but I can't wait to get going. Thanks to Nissan and PlayStation for this opportunity. It is fantastic to be the first Portuguese winner."
"This is the fifth GT Academy and we have come a long way since 2008," said Darren Cox, Nissan's Director of Global Motorsport. "All of the PlayStation gamers have come here better prepared than ever before and the competition is fierce. It is good to see, however, that at its core, GT Academy remains true to its principles. It is growing, developing and gaining credibility each year. It was very satisfying to see how our winner from last year [Wolfgang Reip] was here doing an amazing job as a mentor, showing how much he has grown as both a driver and personality, while our first winner Lucas [Ordoñez] has now mentored our new winner."
"It's very rewarding for anyone involved with Gran Turismo - including the community of fans - to watch GT Academy grow," added Nick Caplin, Head of Communications from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. "It's great to see that the finalists were able to be so quick in real Nissan racing cars at the beginning of the week and to be then involved in fantastic races by the end. Having a GT6 demo at Race Camp featuring the Silverstone circuit has also been a welcome addition and probably made the transition even easier. Congratulations to Miguel, we look forward to watching his progress as he begins his racing career with Nissan."
The progress of the GT Academy European champion can be followed on various platforms including: www.facebook.com/GTAcademy; www.twitter.com/GTAcademy; www.youtube.com/gtacademyeurope; http://www.nismo.tv/; www.flickr.com/photos/gtacademyeurope.