Q&A With GT Academy 2009 Winner Lucas Ordonez

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With the launch of the new GT Academy on December 17, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to grab last year’s winner for a bit of a Q and A. Lucas Ordonez was a 23-year-old MBA student in Madrid when he heard about GT Academy in May, 2008. As a motor sport fanatic, Lucas went out and bought himself a copy of GT5 Prologue and set to work. His dedication paid dividends when he won through to Spain’s national finals and then into the GT Academy itself at Silverstone. As a result, he’ll be mentoring next year’s winner at the GT Academy 2010.

Lucas Ordonez - GT Academy 2009

Not only was Lucas kind enough to answer the questions below, but he’ll also be available in the comments to respond to any other queries you have.

How did you first get involved with GT Academy?

I was with some friends and we were looking through a motor sport magazine and I saw an advert from PlayStation and Nissan for GT Academy. I have always been a big motor sport fan and had a little bit of racing experience. I thought if I can train myself to be quick on Gran Turismo then I might have a chance.
“I already had a PS3TM, but I went straight out to buy a steering wheel and pedals for it as I thought that this would help. I was really determined and I put in lots of hours of practice and developing my skills on the Gran Turismo game. I ended up being the second fastest in Spain and racing in the national finals and I won my place at Silverstone. There I was, driving the Nissan GT-R and the 350 Z at Silverstone…amazing!

Lucas Ordonez - GT Academy 2009

How did you find the GT Academy at Silverstone?

I was very surprised by how tough it was from the fitness angle and by the level of the other competitors. It was really hard work. But the driving was amazing. Driving the 350 Z in a three-way ‘dog fight’ was incredible.

Did you think you would win?

After the first couple of days I was down around sixth position and at that time I really thought it was going to be tough. But when we got to do more driving, especially in the last two days, I just really worked hard and my confidence grew. I had some good luck but I also think I handled the pressure well , and I won.

How did it feel when they announced that you were the winner?

When they said that Lars and I had won it was an amazing feeling. I couldn’t believe it. But then, almost immediately, Bob Neville [owner of the RJN Motorsports Team] was talking to me about strategy, the car and the races we were going to do. Then I had to do lots of media interviews and then Nissan were talking to me about my contract. So after two minutes, I suddenly already felt like a real, professional racing driver!

How was the switch from the 350 Z road car to the full race car?

Our first drive of the GT4 car was at Cadwell Park in the North of England. It is a great track, very narrow but a real up and down circuit and we learned a lot about racing and overtaking there.

Lucas Ordonez - GT Academy 2009

There is a massive difference in terms of driving between the 350 Z GT4 and the road car – particularly in the gearbox and the suspension set up. The GT4 needs to be ‘driven’ a lot more. The gearbox is very stiff and one little mistake with your revs can cause a disaster with the engine. The road car is far more forgiving and you have room for errors, but in the GT4 car you have to concentrate 100% for every second as one mistake and it can be all over.

You eventually secured your race licence and headed to Dubai for the 24 Hour race. How was that experience?

I worked so hard in the run up to Dubai, particularly on my fitness. I was absolutely determined to show everyone that I was capable of carrying on racing even after Dubai. I was so focussed on the race. All my friends were asking me what the city was like, but I honestly don’t know as everything was concentrated on driving.

Doing 250km/h at night on the long straight in the GT4 car was truly amazing. I was really surprised and happy with my lap times because I wasn’t so far away from Johnny Herbert and I think I showed everyone that I was professional.

What happened next?

Well that was the prize. I had raced in Dubai. But I did ask Nissan if I could carry on racing somehow. It was a tough three-month wait, but then I got the call and it was a great surprise that I would be racing in the European GT4 Cup with Alex Buncombe.

When we won our first race in the fifth round at Zolder it was an incredible feeling. I was just thinking about everything that had happened in the last year – from playing the PlayStation to this, and I started crying! The team and Alex were all so happy. It was the best feeling of my life.

How has your life changed? Did you finish your studies?

I did pass my MBA in January. It was hard work but I had to study at the same time as preparing for Dubai but I am very pleased that I did it.

The biggest change in my life has been going from being a student going to university every day to now going to lots of other countries and travelling a lot. I have done many interviews with the media which is very different. At the same time, I still need to stay focussed on my racing and so I train very hard in the gym and I am also busy looking for personal sponsors. This is the real life of the racing driver!

Lucas Ordonez - GT Academy 2009

What next?

I am going to help out at Silverstone for the GT Academy and then I hope to be racing with Alex again in the European GT4 Cup. We have an unfinished job to complete, but this time in the new 370 Z.

What would you say to someone who is looking to compete in GT Academy?

The whole thing is tough. But for me racing cars was my dream, so it was great. Anyone taking part has to be prepared for a real 360 degree change to their life. You have to have total dedication and be prepared to make sacrifices. Lars, who won with me, was a great guy and he was a good driver, but I just don’t think he was focussed enough and he ended up not being ready to race.

On the other hand, driving on Gran Turismo is great fun. So I would recommend that everybody gives it a go even if it is just to see how quick you are compared to other people. You never know!

What tips can you offer to people just setting out on the online time trial stage of GT Academy 2010?

Driving is the same as most other sports. You have to keep practising. I think I played pretty much every day on the online stage of the game. People just kept getting faster so I was always watching the leader board to see what I had to beat.

Another tip would be to start working on fitness as soon as possible. If you make it to Silverstone it is really important.

You have to be confident in yourself that you can give it a go and that it is what you want to do, but you still have to work very hard. The instructors at Silverstone are watching you all the time.

Finally, I would say just get on to the GT Academy time trial and play, see how it goes and good luck! It is definitely worth the hard work. But if you don’t make it, at least you will have fun trying!

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  • Hey Lucas, if you’re there. Well done. Sounds like an incredible year. Did you drive on any tracks you knew from GT 5 Prologue? Did it make a difference?

    • Hi RoozaW, Yes this was a dream year for me. Thank’s to PlayStation and Nissan I become a Professional driver in less than a year.I didn’t drive on any track from GT5 Prologue. My favourite is Suzuka and my dream will be race one day there with Nissan and Playstation.

  • Really good read, I’m even more pumped to have ago this year!

    • Of course TEC-WeaponX you must have ago and try to be one of the fastest virtual drivers of your country. The time trial will be really good fun so come on! connect to your PS3 and show how fast you are from 17th December

  • Have you played a finished version of GT5?

    • No liamlangan I didn’t. I’m really looking forward to play full GT5. But now with GT ACADEMY time trial you will have a nice opportunity to test how will be GT5.

  • Lucas tell Sony to fix your name. I can lend them the correct letter “ñ/Ñ”

    Available to copy/paste as many times as needed ;)

  • Hi Lucas, have you recently played Gran Turismo with a normal PS3 pad? How was it? Is the steering wheel a must to get a good lap time?

    • Ciao MarcoCivic, Yes I played Gran Turismo with normal PS3 pad but I recommend a Steering wheel. It’s easier to drive and to have a better time lap. When I bought the Steering wheel last year for GT ACADEMY 08 my times improved quickly.

  • Hi lucas,
    What are your future prospects ?
    How are the offers from the racing-teams ?

    • My future is not confirmed yet but I will be at Silverstone GT ACADEMY FINALS as the first winner and working with Nissan and Playstation to choose the best of you and the GT ACADEMY winners. about Racing I’m optimistic but nothing signed.

  • Congratulations first of all, I was taking part in the first year too, but I personaly believe I was doomed from the beginning xD

    Do you think you would have had the same success if you had been using a plain DualShock 3 controller? (as I did).

    This is what I was using and I couldn’t even touch the top 100 times

    What steering wheel controller were you using? Presume Logitech?

    Congrats again!

    • Hi Dr-Mog, with DualShock 3 controller you can be fast but as I said before with the steering wheel is easier because you have better feeling with the car in terms of handling. Mate have a go with the Dualshock and enjoy the time trial because will be stunning!

  • Do you know If Peggle is coming out today?

  • Wow Lucas, your history is awesome! I only want to congratulate and salute you, because I’m Spanish too (from Barcelona).

    I will be playing and replaying the Trial Lap of GT5 demo to see if I can become a racer too. hehe

    • Hola NaViTo! Thanks mate!This is an amazing story and a dream for PLAYSTATION and RACING fans!Come on you can be the next one!Invite your friends to play and to have good fun with the Time Trial!Saludos!

  • Hey Lucas!
    Must admit, this does sound like a dream come true!
    I recently bought a logitech g25 wheel pretty cheaply, and I assume that’s the same one you use?
    Any tips for using it? i.e. settings etc.?

    Good luck in the future, take care!

    • Hi Aemskelley, a dream come true and for the next winners!You can be the next! Yes I use the G25. My tips is to have a good position with the steering and to be constant in terms of playing the time trial. Good luck and enjoy GT ACADEMY 2010!

  • Sounds good, i just bought a Wheelstand Pro for my Logitech G25 so ill be eager to atleast try to get some good laptimes :D

    Im happy for you Lucas! Keep on racin’!

  • I certainly will compete and hope to make it to Silverstone.
    But up there, tests are done with the steering wheel on the right side of the car…
    Was it hard for you to get used to shifting with your left hand?
    When I think about it, it looks so unnatural.

    Isn’t it hard or weird? Or doesn’t it magnify the chances of english competitors to get selected at Silverstone? Of course, as you have won last year, you proove it is possible.. But still…

    • zimmerd, you will be driving different sorts of cars and with right&left hand drive cars. At the beginning is tough drive a right hand car but you get the feeling quickly. About the drivers selection obviusly all will have the same chances! All depends in your performance during the finals.Good luck!

  • hey lucas this will sound funny but wasn’t it a big difference to drive a race car in place of a normal car btw did you crash? lol

    • mennik, yes you are right. There’s a big difference so that’s why Nissan Playstation team prepared me very well to be ready on my first GT4 Race car yest and then do a good drive in Dubai 24h.As well I worked really hard in the Gym to be fit and ready.Fortunately I never crashed.

  • So… what track will be in the time trial ?

  • Oh, and of course, all the best !

  • borrrinnngg… Can we have the heads up post please! ; )

  • Are you still there?

  • No info on CRASH BANDICOOT 2?

    Please, it’s a Sony published game and you promised to look into it in one of your replies

    Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot Warped and Crash Team Racing are all up on the store. Why not Crash 2, the best one IMO?

  • oops, wrong blog post

  • Hi Lucas still here ?

    I Can’t wait till 17 Dec.
    Going to drive 24/7 to come at top 20, i just must go to silverstone.
    How do you take the best corners in the game or in real life.
    Because thats the only thing where you can make the real different

    Hope to meet you on Silverstone

    • Hi, Yes I can’t wait until 17th to. You must be focused on the time trial and I’m sure you will be on the final! To take the corners is the same in Virtual and Real driving. Brake on the outside find the apex of the corner and throttle as quickly as possible to the outside of the corner.The trick is to be fast on the exit of the corners…not easy

  • Congratulations on everything that you have achieved Lucas and good luck for getting something signed so you can continue racing.I was only about 2s behind the leaders in the last GT Academy so perhaps there is hope for me yet – or maybe not. :-)

    So, with your experience driving the 350Z in the game and in real life, how do the two compare? How realistic is the handling in GT5P with the G25?

    • Hi Mark8539, thanks we are working in that signature…The Gran Turismo is Real racing simulator. Last year I had the opportunity to compare the same day the Real GT-R and the virtual one, It’s amazing see how similar is the handling. Of course you can try a car on Gran Turismo to know how is the real car.Amazing!

  • I downloaded the GT Academy videos through GT5 Prologue a couple of days ago and it’s well worth watching.

  • I’ve had a top 10 on GT Concept so I’ll try to get to the top on this even if I have to play it 24/7! It’d be great to drive a Nissan GT-R as I only got my drivers lisence this year!

  • Hi Lucas, Well done on your fantastic year!
    On your G25 wheel did you use the Paddles, Gear stick or Auto Transmission for the online trials?
    Also did you have a choice at the national finals for gear selection.
    Hope you get a race seat for next year.

  • Hola! Greetings from you country neighbour!
    Let me say; congratiolations Lucas, you are a real hero!

    Do you still find time to play in these days?
    Are you looking forward for GT Academy this year?

    You are a legend among all GT drivers, wish you the best!

  • Well done Lucas! As for me, I’m going to get a couple of mates together once the demo is out and we are going to have some fun and see how we do. I know I don’t have the skills to win but it should be entertaining giving it a shot.

  • Hi Lucas,

    It’s been great to follow your journey the last year. You’ve done a superb job there! I wish you get the contract signed soon and wish you and your partner in crime, Alex all the best for the upcoming season. :)

    Thanks for the great interview aswell, it’s very inspiring now that the new competition is starting.. So great to finally be able to test the new physics and also the new track of course.

    Cheers, Timo

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