A life-long dream of becoming a fully-fledged racing driver came true for Jann Mardenborough in 2011 when the young man from Darlington beat the competition to be crowned winner of the Nissan and PlayStation GT Academy.
> The competition, arranged in conjunction with Nissan and PlayStation racing simulator Gran Turismo, saw gamers from across the globe virtually compete for a chance to race in a real car.
Jann's button-bashing skills proved sensational and he breezed his way to a national final at Silverstone where he impressed judges with his real-life racing skills as well as his virtual prowess.
The past two years have been hectic for the fledgling superstar, racing in the GT4 European Cup, the Dubai 24 Hour, British GT Championship and more recently, the Toyota Racing Series.
News broke this morning that Jann has now been offered a place on Christian Horner's Arden International GP3 team, a move that brings him one step further to a coveted place in Formula 1...
How have the last two and a half years been for you?
The last few years have been absolutely crazy and I've been to places that I've always dreamed of going and that I thought I'd never reach. I'm basically living out my childhood dream of being a racing driver. I'm still so thankful and grateful that Nissan and GT Academy have invested so much time and effort into me.
How much time did you dedicate to the Gran Turismo video game leading up to the GT Academy competition?
I played around an hour and a half most days before the Academy even started just because I liked the game and it was a bit of a hobby of mine. Gran Turismo allowed me to get behind the wheel of cars that I'd always dreamed of driving. When the Academy came about, I ramped the gaming time up to around five hours a day, every day for about two weeks solid. It was tough but I'm glad I stuck at it now.
All that time on the PlayStation must have helped when you stepped into a real racing car...
Yeah, the knowledge is definitely something that you keep in your sub-conscious. So when I jumped into a car for the first time, it felt really natural and familiar to me. I was moving around a lot more in the seat and the sense of speed was amazing but the controls felt familiar and I had some knowledge of how to balance a car's throttle and steering inputs.
One of your challenges during the GT Academy competition was to give a media interview, have your interview skills improved since then?
The first interview I did was very weird because I've never had a camera shoved in my face before, I just didn't know how to react. I've watched it back on YouTube and the interview is absolutely terrible. Since then, I've had media training and I'd say it was one of the hardest parts of my development during the first six months – it's so hard to remember all of the techniques. It was like being back at school, learning about how to present yourself, what to say, what to wear and how to regain control of a chat if it starts going wrong.
You've recently tasted success, how does it feel to get a podium place?
To win a race is just the best feeling in the world, it's fantastic. It didn't happen last year but I've had some success in New Zealand this year, which is great. Winning lets you know you've done the best job you could possibly do, it makes the whole thing worth it.
You are now entering the world of GP3, are you nervous about that?
I'm not nervous about it. Yeah, it will be different – the cars, the team and even the tyres are different but I've got the best team possible. Arden International has won the championship two years on the trot now so I have the best foundations possible.
Is your new boss Christian Horner as nice as he seems on telly?
Yes he is such a nice guy and it was great to finally meet him. It's very cool to finally meet people that you've watched do such a good job for years, it's a bit like meeting your idols.
Have you now got your mind set on cracking Formula 1?
That would be the ultimate goal but I'm not 100 per cent focussed on that right now because I have to do the best job I possibly can do in GP3. If one thing leads to another and I end up in Formula 1, that would be fantastic, it would be the ultimate for me. But I need to get podiums in GP3 first.