Jann MardenboroughNissan

From bedroom gamer to real-life racing driver – it sounds like a pipe dream, but it's not.

Nissan and PlayStation really do take gaming addicts and put them in their racing cars across the globe, but only the very best get the sought-after seats.

Called GT Academy, the competition sees anyone with a PlayStation and a copy of Gran Turismo 6 go head-to-head online and prove their racing skills.

Ahead of the UK finals, where competitors are put through a series of live tests, AOL Cars chatted to 2011 GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough who is currently racing in Formula 1 feeder series, GP3.

Just three years after winning the competition the young Brit is even helping Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner develop a new simulator. We'd put money on this 22-year-old going far... Here's what he had to say to those looking to follow in his footsteps.

What is the best piece of advice you could give someone who wants to go from being a gamer to a racer?

Enter the Nissan GT Academy! You've got to have a real determination about yourself and you've got to want to improve. Always look to improve yourself because motorsport moves very fast. Future racers need to really focus on their main goal. Think about where you want to be in a few years' time and train and work really hard for that.

Is it hard to focus on improving all the time?

I think that's all you can do as a racing driver. Every session you've got to get out of the car and think "where can I improve this?" Lots of self-belief and wanting to improve all the time is needed.

How many hours did you put into playing Gran Turismo to make it to the finals?

On the game, during qualifications, I think it was five to six hours a day for two weeks solid. You can play as much as you want. It's one car on one track which you can race on for six weeks and the top 20 from each EU country progress.

Did you ever worry it would be a waste of time?

Maybe, some days you won't go any quicker and you'd waste six hours of your life doing nothing so, achieving nothing, but the rewards when you do get it right are huge. I was on a gap year from university and had nothing better to do. My mates were travelling in Australia and I'm sat at home playing PlayStation on a really nice day!

Do you think using Gran Tursimo helps identify real racing talent?

Definitely, because I had no real experience racing, driving sports cars or anything like that. I'd never driven on a track, I'd never been sideways before in my life, never had any instruction – all I had was Gran Turismo 5.

How did you find it when you first went out on track for real?

Coming here to Silverstone for my first time at a track, when the car was going sideways I knew what to do even though it's never happened before. So the skills you learn on the game can be transferred. The way the car pitches in the corners, when you're scrubbing the tyres or if you've got oversteer, they're all accurately represented in the game.



Did you think you could win when you first entered GT Academy?

I didn't enter it thinking I could win; I entered it because I wanted to see how I compared against other people across Europe who were playing. It's a level playing field and everyone is in the same car and on the same track.

Was there any point you believed you could win?

The very last stage when I was qualifying for the last four races I qualified first and that was the only time I thought I had a chance of winning.

Did your parents complain when you were playing PlayStation all day?

Oh yeah, definitely! All through A Levels and especially GCSEs there was a set time where I could go on the PlayStation. I had to do all of my revision before I could go up to my room and play PlayStation, like any other parent with their son.

Can they believe how your life has changed?

They can't, but they absolutely love it! Both my mum and my dad are really ecstatic for me. My whole family loves it because it's totally new to them.

Author: Rebecca Chaplin