The GT Academy is a competition which selects the best gamer (in Gran Turismo) to be a real life professional racecar driver. The competition has selected several drivers over the past few years in Europe, and last year, an American version was held as well.

For 2012 the competition returns and is open in something like 16 different countries. In the US, you need to be in the top 32 to move on to the national finals. The exact format is a bit confusing. The contest started on May 1st and lasts 8 weeks. However, all of the early rounds are essentially just practice and do nothing to get you in the top 32. The top 32 are selected from just the final round, which isn't open until the final two weeks of the contest. The exact rules and registration haven't even been released yet. This means if you haven't started yet, you aren't missing out on anything and you can still get in and get some practice before the final round.

In terms of Gran Turismo I can't say I'm really that impressed with it. Clearly it's a just a somewhat realistic game and not a simulator. That's not to say the game is totally worthless as a training tool; it rewards being on exactly the right line, being smooth and precise and looking far ahead. But the vehicle dynamics are just not that realistic. Realistic weight transfer is not there. Stomp on the brakes and turn in at the same time no problem. Out of the corner, throttle doesn't want to squat the rear. Instead the rear just wants to slide out in power oversteer, but not like a realistic step out you would expect from a radial tire on pavement, rather more like a smooth drift as if you were on dirt.

I also don't feel the contest is set up in the best way to find the best drivers. If you've played Gran Turismo, each round is like a test for the racing licenses in the game. You get unlimited retries over the period of weeks. You can also ghost other's best times. So basically, if you have the time to do 100,000 retries over the last 2 weeks of the competition and can mimic the fastest ghost replay, you might be able to get in the top 32 in the country. I'm sure you'll have to position your car perfectly in every corner, i.e. half a car off here, 5 inches over the curb here, within an inch of the cone there etc. to get a top 32 lap. Somehow, that doesn't sound all that close to real racing. Some of the early rounds (hopefully not the final round that matters) even have A.I. cars to balk you that run the exact same path every time! Seriously?? Are we supposed to expect repeating the same exact passes thousands of times is supposed to teach us passing a real driver on a real track??

However, despite the frustrations, the opportunity presented here by Nissan and Sony Playstation is a huge one and worthwhile one. We are talking about a fair shot at a pro ride for just the cost of a playstation ($250) if you don't already have one (the GT Academy is a free download). Where else can you get this opportunity?? I only wish I wasn't working 50-60 hours a week and had more time to practice!