Now in its fifth year, Nissan and Sony’s 2015 GT Academy race program has been decided. This year 26 year old Australian, Matthew Simmons, has been crowned the winner.
Simmons joined a group of 30 racers from around the world at Silverstone in the UK for a week long Race Camp. That initial field of 30, whittled down to just ten competitors for the final day of competition.
A final eight-lap race in specially prepared 370Z Nismo racecars, around the Silverstone circuit, was used to decide the GT Acadmey winner, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for Brisbane-based Simmons.
After starting in pole position, Simmons exchanged the lead with Ryan Lynch of the USA, then Hu?seyin Dagli of Turkey. During lap five Simmons’ car encountered a mechanical failure that saw him finish in third place.
Following the race, judges deliberated over the Academy ranking. After an hour Matthew Simmons was announced as the International Race Camp winner.
“Matt has done this all by himself, he’s been the most consistent and the fastest from the word go” Australian team judge, Rick Kelly, said.
“When he came into the pit lane he was extremely devestated, you could see he thought his dreams had slipped away but I’m just thankful that everyone saw Matt was the best guy for the job.”
Although the initial places may have been allocated via attendees' Gran Turismo lap times, Race Camp put them through a wide range of physical challenges.
The last week was spent in single-seat racers, Caterham racers, and Nissan GT-Rs through to dune buggy racing, monster trucks, and a Micra stock car race used as qualifying for the final race.
“The wait on the podium was killing me but when Rob said my name I had to do a double take, I can’t believe he said it and I’m now a racing driver!” Simmons said, after the race. “I genuinely can’t believe it; I’m on top of the world.”
“Unfortunately a mechanical problem took the race out of my hands but that’s motorsport and you can’t hide that, and I think in the early stages of the race I really showed the potential of what I can do.”
Simmons’ race training will begin almost immediately with professional racing tuition and physical training from Nissan to prepare him for January’s Dubai 24 Hour race.