Gran Turismo gamer-to-racer takes a step towards Formula 1

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Jann Mardenborough might not be a household name – not even in his home country, England – but that’s all set to change.

Mardenborough is one of Nissan’s Gran Turismo Academy (GT Academy) athletes – gamers who’ve proved their mettle in the PlayStation driving simulator – and won the contest in 2011. Since then he’s raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s most prestigious endurance race, where he scored a podium finish in his class, in 2013.

Now, Red Bull – yes, the energy drink company that’s making huge waves in Formula 1 and other motor sports – has snapped up Mardenborough to race for Arden, the GP3 team that’s run by Red Bull Racing’s boss, Christian Horner. This is a big deal, since GP3 is one of the starter series that paves the way for racers to make their way to Formula 1.

Mardenborough will do work for the F1 champions by lending his gaming expertise to the race outfit’s simulator programme. With a background in chucking around digital cars, and a proven ability to take the fight to the real track, this could help improve simulators – which could ultimately help improve future games, too.

Arden is the first of the GT Academy graduates to go this far towards F1 – an obvious dream for him – but that’s not to say the others have faded into obscurity. Lucas Ordóñez, the first ever GT Academy winner, is actively involved in Nissan’s global motorsport activities, and will race the ZEOD electric car at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. South Africa also hosted a round of the GT Academy, and local boy Ashley Oldfield went on to win the contest. He raced in January’s Dubai 24 Hours, and hopes to one day race at Le Mans.

[Image – Nissan Europe]

Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.