After a week of stiff competition both on and off the track, under the careful scrutiny of a panel of expert judges, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) and Polyphony Digital, in collaboration with Nissan, announced Brian Heitkotter of Fresno, CA was the inaugural winner of the GT Academy competition in the United States. Bryan emerged from a group of more than 53000 hopefuls during the online time trials in the Gran Turismo 5 video game as one of the fastest 32 players in the country.
At the National Finals event in Orlando, FL in March, he was the top qualifier as the competition was cut to the fastest 16. This past week, Brian again proved he has what it takes to go from virtual to reality at the GT Academy race camp at the Silverstone racing circuit in the UK as one of America's most promising racers. "GT Academy made my dream of becoming a racecar driver a reality, thanks to PlayStation and Nissan," said Bryan Heitkotter. "I can't believe all the hours training with the Gran Turismo 5 driving simulator have led me to this amazing opportunity."
Across the Atlantic at the Silverstone circuit, Bryan was able to beat 15 fellow finalists in a week-long race camp from May 30-June 5. The finalists faced a series of grueling challenges ranging from rigorous mental and physical tests, to driving tests behind the wheel of Nissan racecars to see how their gaming talent shifted into real driving skills.
A panel of racing industry veterans judged the participants on each their skills, performance and aptitude for the requirements of a professional racer. Key challenges during the camp included a triathlon, karts, timed laps in a Nissan 370Z, and other intense challenges.
"GT Academy has been an exciting journey for these finalists, and it was amazing to see the transformation over the past week as these competitors became serious drivers," said Scott A Steinberg from SCEA. "We look forward to working with Bryan to see how his hours spent on Gran Turismo 5 on PlayStation 3 continue to influence his skills behind the wheel of real racecars, competing alongside and against seasoned professionals."
"The intensity of the competition at GT Academy race camp was incredible and Bryan Heitkotter did an outstanding job to win this opportunity," said Jon Brancheau from Nissan. "It was great to see the competitors experience the Nissan GT-Rs and 370Zs on the track and learn the potential of these sports cars."
As the official GT Academy winner for the US, Bryan will train with a team of racecar drivers and coaches, and compete in numerous races in the coming months in preparation for an endurance race as part of a professional racing team early next year.
Bryan's road to victory will be documented in a multi-episode reality show airing on SpeedTV and the PlayStation Network (on the PlayStation 3) in September 2011. The series will show the journey from the GT Academy National Finals Event in Orlando to the Silverstone race camp competition.