Former Formula One team boss Eddie Jordan will be reunited with one of his protégés, Le Mans 24 Hour and three-time-F1-winner Johnny Herbert, at Silverstone from 26 February until 2 March. The pair will be joined by ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ Sabine Schmitz as judges and mentors for Nissan and PlayStation’s GT Academy competition. Completing the line-up of judges is experienced sports car driver Rob Barff, who will also lead the GT Academy driver training programme.
This all important international final stage of PlayStation and Nissan’s talent-spotting initiative will see contestants transferring their virtual racing skills to a real track in the search for the next motor sport star. The five-day ‘boot camp’ will teach and test the 19 finalists from across Europe, Australia and New Zealand in equal measure. Silverstone’s top-level race instructors will put the gamers through a gruelling schedule of fitness, mental and driving challenges. Participants will enjoy an incredible opportunity to drive an array of fantastic cars, including the Nissan GT-R and the new 370Z.
The Academy judges will be on hand to offer advice and support to the competitors, but are ultimately responsible for eliminating those drivers that do not make the grade throughout the competition. The stakes are high, with only two of the 19 being given the opportunity to embark on a two-month intensive training programme to qualify for an international race licence. Only one driver will then progress to race a Nissan 370Z in the full European GT4 Cup series that starts in May.
Irishman Eddie Jordan is known around the world for running a Formula One team that consistently ‘punched above its weight’. During a 24-year career as a team owner, in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 before the graduation to F1, Jordan became known for spotting and developing talent. He was influential in the early careers of World Champions Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill and, most notably, gave seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher his first break. He also won titles in F3 and F3000 with Johnny Herbert and Jean Alesi, both of whom went on to record F1 race wins. Jordan remains involved in Formula One as part of the BBC Television presenting team.
“When I left Ireland to set up my own team over 30-years ago, people never thought I would succeed,” explains Jordan. “With some talent, drive and an inner belief anything is possible and that is what I’ll be looking for from these guys. They are already champions on their PlayStations, so I know they have a lot of the right attributes to make it as drivers. Spotting that talent is the key, and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
Briton Johnny Herbert has a career that has spanned many international racing formulae. He won three Formula One races, including the 1995 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, in an F1 career that spanned 11 years. In sports car racing, he won the famous Le Mans 24 Hour Race in 1991 and the Le Mans Series in 2004.
Herbert, 45, took part in the first GT Academy in 2008 and then raced in the Dubai International 24 Hour race with the winner, Spain’s Lucas Ordoñez. “I have always been convinced that there are many, many people out there with the talent to be fantastic racing drivers,” explained Herbert. “However, not all of them have the opportunity to realise that potential. I think what Nissan and PlayStation have put together in GT Academy is a fantastic opportunity to take a talented gamer and convert that talent to the track. Last year was a fantastic achievement with Lucas. He has done an incredible job since winning the competition. I am very excited to be involved again and look forward to working with all of the winners at Silverstone.”
In her home country of Germany, Sabine Schmitz is well known as the first woman to win a major 24 hour race – the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, in 1996 and 1997. She also drives one of two “Ring Taxis” around the 20.8 kmNordschleifecircuit and estimates that she has driven more than 20,000 laps of the famous old Nürburgring track. Sabine is also well known following several appearances on the BBC’s popular motoring show Top Gear. In one episode she completed a lap of the Old Nürburgring driving the same car as presenter Jeremy Clarkson and beat his best lap time by nearly a minute!
“I am very proud to be a judge on this programme,” says Schmitz. “It is very exciting, although I am a little disappointed that no women made it through to the final! I am looking forward to seeing how these gamers will adapt. I see no reason why they shouldn’t turn into good drivers. The Nissan GT-R is a very fast car so it will be interesting to see how they handle it.”
To find out more about GT Academy, lots of news and views will be shared on a variety of platforms including:
For more information, please contact your local PlayStation or Nissan PR manager