Top 16 Gran Turismo Racers Zoom Into Final Round, Keep Dream of Becoming a Professional Race Car Driver Alive

The top 32 of nearly 400,000 Gran Turismo®5 online racers met in this weekend in San Diego to determine the 16 contestants that will compete for top honors in the GT Academy North America TV show and forge the start of an on-track racing career.

Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC (SCEA) and Polyphony Digital Inc., in collaboration with Nissan North America, announced the final 16 contestants moving on to the last round of GT Academy, to compete for the opportunity to race professionally. The finalists emerged from the National Finals Event held at Jolt ‘N Joes Restaurant in downtown San Diego July 13-14.

The 16 top virtual racers will fly to the world-renowned Silverstone racing circuit in the UK to participate in a week-long boot camp in August that will be televised and aired on Spike TV’s GT Academy television series later this year.

GT Academy North America finalists will be judged and eliminated by an expert panel of racing professionals, based on each competitor’s skills, performance and overall aptitude for the requirements to become a professional racer. The top driver selected will train under the guidance of professional racing drivers and compete in selected races for a Nissan racing team.

The winner of last year’s competition, Bryan Heitkotter, has found success at the track, with a podium finish in Dubai 24 hours, two front row qualifying spots and two top ten finishes in the Continental Tire Challenge Series this year in a race prepared Nissan 370Z.

“Nissan is delighted to again partner with Sony to bring GT Academy to the American market,” said Vinay Shahani, Director of Marketing Communications at Nissan Americas. “Last year’s competition made for great television and produced a worthy winner who has done well racing Nissan vehicles. We look forward to showcasing our vehicles’ spirited driving experience and performance capabilities while making one determined gamer’s racing dreams come true.”

With features to suit newcomers, automotive enthusiasts and seasoned fans, Gran Turismo 5, available exclusively for the PlayStation®3 (PS3™) system,treats players to an ultra-realistic driving experience with unparalleled visuals and lifelike graphics that are difficult to distinguish from a live race. Gran Turismo 5 features aphysics engine geared to provide the most realistic and responsive driving feel, as well as real-time vehicle damage and wear, with adaptive and accurate car deformation based on point of impact and velocity.

“With more than seven times the amount of registrants from last year, we are blown away by the sheer amount of talented drivers that entered this year’s competition,” said Guy Longworth, Senior Vice President, PlayStation Brand Marketing, SCEA. “Bryan Heitkotter’s success as the first GT Academy winner proves that training on Gran Turismo truly does translate to the track. Once again we’re excited to get the final 16 drivers behind the wheel at the Silverstone circuit and make the top racer’s dream of becoming a professional race car driver a reality.”

GT Academy U.S. will air on Spike TV this fall at a time and date to be announced. Follow GT Academy on Facebook at http://us.gran-turismo.com/us/academy/2012/