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GP Week : Issue 119
Imagine starting out playing basketball on the PlayStation and then playing in front of 50,000 people at Madison Square Garden. Impossible right? Yes, but motor racing, it appears, is different. Three years ago gamer Lucas Ordonez won the chance to race for real, and this weekend he’s racing a Nissan- powered LMP2 prototype. Game on. Have you always been naturally good at video games? Not particularly, I was just a normal student with a PlayStation 3. I’m a real racing fan. I’ve watched F1 and Le Mans for as long as I can remember, and also my dad and my brother raced. So I love motorsport. I found in the PlayStation a tool that allowed me to train for real racing. Before the GT Academy I felt I was good at racing games, but not good enough to become one of the best in Europe or to graduate to real racing from the PlayStation. Fortunately in 2008 the GT Academy was born, thanks to Nissan and PlayStation, and the opportunity to go from armchair racer to real racer came from that. There are no other sports, really, where you could go from being a virtual competitor to a real competitor. How did other drivers react when you showed up – the kid who races PlayStation? It was funny, the first race I did after winning the GT Academy was the Dubai 24 Hours and drivers were saying ‘What’s this, who is this PlayStation gamer? This is a joke!’ Dubai is a really tough track, it was 60 degrees, and the cars were extremely fast. But I was totally focused. Together with the team we did a really good job and at the end of the weekend those drivers came to me and said they were quite impressed with the GT Academy story and my performance. Now, just a couple of weeks before Le Mans, everyone is talking about this story. Very famous drivers who are racing at Le Mans, people like Allan McNish, know about my story and are really surprised and quite excited about this. This is totally new. I am the first bedroom-to-reality racing driver. Of course the big difference between virtual and reality is when you crash for real it hurts and it’s expensive. Was that a bit of a surprise the first time? Yeah [laughs] of course. It’s not as easy as it looks. After the European gaming final we had a very tough training program with physical tests, mental tests and driving tests. I was the winner, and after that had three months training in the UK. So there was preparation. Nonetheless, the first race was difficult because you have to learn how to feel the car, the understeer and oversteer, everything you sense in a real car which is hard to simulate in a computer game. It was strange for me because I had only done karting when I was VIRTUAL TO REALITY From PlayStation to Sarthe – that’s the unbelievable path taken by Lucas Ordonez, who explained it all to ADAM HAY-NICHOLLS 34