I’m Jann Mardenborough, 20 years old, and winner of the 2011 Nissan PlayStation GT Academy.
This time last year I had just taken a gap year from university and was working in a department store in Wales as a Christmas Temp not really confident of my future career ahead of me. Around comes January and whilst playing Gran Turismo 5, I spotted something in the seasonal events section called ‘GT Academy‘. I thought I would give the time trial a quick go purely to gauge how fast I was and compare myself to the rest of the gamers out there.
After the first week of the GT Academy Time Trial, I was in the top 50 in the UK. I continued pounding in lap after lap around the Eifel track in a Nissan 370Z. I must have done more than 900 laps in total. I was so determined to make it to the UK national finals at Brands Hatch, my hours of playing the game really paid off as I was soon in the top 20 gaining me a spot at Brands Hatch.
After winning the UK final. I trained hard at home; I did lots of running and gym work to prepare myself for the International finals. I knew it was going to be tough, just from watching the previous year’s Academy online. It was a huge opportunity for me and I needed to be in the best state possible so I could look at myself in the mirror knowing I had given it my all.
The international final started in Le Mans where Lucas Ordonez, the first winner of GT Academy race was competing in the LMP2 class! Lucas spoke to us before the race, and I was in awe of him (haha). He was my hero in a sense because he has gone from virtual to reality and proved it could be done.
The final continued at Silverstone, Driving Nissan GT-Rs and 370Zs at 130+MPH on a track is such an adrenaline buzz. Each country had mentors. For the UK, it was Johnny Herbert. I met him in an odd way. I was sitting down in the pits talking to a competitor, when somebody picked up my leg and started massaging my foot! It was so surreal! He helped me a huge amount in my progress at the finals. After an intense five days of physical, mental and driving tests. I was on the top step of the podium and Eddie Irvine announced that I was the winner of GT Academy.” Wow, how did I do that?” I said to myself.
Since July I’ve been racing up and down the country gaining signatures on my race licence to make me eligible to race in the Dubai 24Hr race January 13th. Living away from home In Northampton isn’t bad at all when you’re at Silverstone five times a week, doing training and test sessions. I mean to put it in perspective in June 2010 I was doing my A Levels and now I am a professional racing driver.
At present, I’m back home in Cardiff where I’m training hard for Dubai. Who would have known when I played Gran Turismo for the first time, it would be the stepping-stone to where I am now. The new DLC packs for Gran Turismo 5 are awesome, so I’ll be racing online with the new cars. If you see me online in a 2012 Nissan GT-R Black edition R35, say hi!
I am so grateful to Nissan, PlayStation, GT Academy and GT5 for this fantastic opportunity, allowing me to fulfil my childhood dreams and also the GT5 community who have been hugely supportive.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.