Australian Matthew Simmons has picked up the championship crown in the 2015 Nissan PlayStation GT Academy International, putting his virtual skills in Gran Tourismo 6 to the test behind the wheel of a real Nissan racing car.
The annual GT Academy gives would-be racers a chance to make the jump from gaming to driving. Competitors initially begin by posting high-scores from the PS3 game Gran Turismo, with the best in-game drivers moving on to compete in real-life motorsport challenges.
The, but the sixth series saw it expand with GT Academy Asia and . It's the International division that houses Australia, along with the United States, Mexico, Turkey and North Africa.
Simmons' road to the championship began by qualifying during the Australian rounds and joining 5 other Aussies at the Silverstone Racing Track in the UK. There he competed as part of a 30-strong group, comprising the best drivers from 7 different countries in the territory groups.
Over a week of racing challenges, Simmons competed well enough to get through to the final round: an 8-lap race around the iconic Silverstone in a Nissan 370Z... where he suffered a mechanical failure on lap 5.
However, his skill was impressive enough that the GT Academy International judges handed him the championship crown with head judge Rob Barff saying "We've been very honest; his car had a problem and in motor racing that happens. It's something we could have easily shied away from but we haven't and it's the right and fair result."
Simmons now begins immediate training with the Nissan Driver Development Programme and gets a race seat in the 2016 Dubai 24 Hours in January.
The 26-year-old Simmon praise the GT Academy and expressed excitement for the next stage of his nascent driving career. "My journey has been massive in the last 18 months to here, I've had so many people supporting my dream and they've given me so much confidence and made me believe I could achieve what I've wanted for so long -- to become a racing car driver."