Twenty-six-year-old Queensland native Matthew Simmons has taken out the 2015 Nissan PlayStation GT Academy competition, becoming the first-ever Australian to win the gamer-sourced racing challenge.
Now in its seventh year, the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy is a development competition created by Nissan, PlayStation and the people behind the iconic driving simulator Gran Turismo, aimed at turning bedroom gamers into professional racing drivers.
Outperforming top gamers from Mexico, North Africa, Turkey and the United States, Simmons, a Brisbane-based Australia Post contractor, proved victorious in the GT Academy International race camp based at the UK’s Silverstone circuit.
Other camps comprise pools from Asia (India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Japan) and Europe (France, Italy, UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic).
Nissan Australia says Simmons is now on his way back home to pack his bags before moving to the UK to take part in an “intense” Nismo driver development program, where he'll attempt to qualify for his international race licence ahead of officially becoming a full-time professional Nissan racing driver – or ‘Nismo Athlete’.
His first competitive outing will be the 2016 Dubai 24 Hours (January 15-16), where he’ll steer a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 – an identical car to that which won the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour with the help of 2012 GT Academy Europe winner Wolfgang Reip and 2013 GT Academy Germany winner Florian Strauss.
Last year’s GT Academy event saw Australia get close to a major win, with Sydney-sider Joshua Muggleton falling just short of victory in the final race, losing out to Mexican Ricardo Sanchez – now racing in the European Blancpain Endurance Series.
Showing just how far GT Academy winners can go, the UK’s Jann Mardenborough (2011 European winner), Spain’s Lucas Ordonez (2008 and inaugural European winner) and Russia’s Mark Shulzhitskiy (2012 Russian winner) all competed in this year's 2015 Le Mans 24 Hour in the controversial front-wheel-drive Nissan GT-R LM Nismo LMP1 (pictured above).
PlayStation’s all-time biggest-selling title, Gran Turismo – attached to the tagline, ‘the real driving simulator’ – was released globally in 1998 after debuting in Japan in December 1997. So big is the game’s cult following, a film based on the GT franchise has also been previously reported as being under development.