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Nissan GT Academy takes virtual to reality

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The race to win the top six slots to the UK is on. Since its launch on March 25, the Nissan GT Academy Philippine Edition has seen over 15,000 virtual racers from Metro Manila, Bacolod, Cebu, Davao, and Cagayan De Oro, out-race each other in over 30,000 trials held over the course of over 20 Live Events during its three-month run. Out of that field emerged the country’s first top 20 contestants battled it out in the National Finals last July 14 to 15, at the CCP parking lot and the SM Mall of Asia Atrium.

After three grueling months, the super six that will represent the country in Silverstone, United Kingdom are Jose Policarpio, Terrence Aldrich Lallave, Raphael Miru Lesaguis, Luis Raphael Cachero, Joel Agojo, and Daryl Brady.

All six will go head-to-head against each other and other Asian representatives, including Thailand, India, Japan and Indonesia, both on and off the real-world track, this time, using real-world race cars. “The final Top Six candidates who successfully hurdle all these challenges can look forward to flying to the Silverstone Race Circuit in UK in August, and compete in the GT Academy Asia leg.” SJ Huh, Nissan Philippines, Inc. (NPI) General Manager for Marketing, said.

Last July 14, the twenty finalists took part in physical challenges that tested their fitness level, as they were made to hurdle tests such as the sergeant jump, planking, push ups, and the bleep test. A driving challenge, with Mr. George Ramirez as the instructor, followed.

The following day all twenty finalists started afresh at the simulator pods, they underwent ten pod time attack challenges of three rounds each. Their pod performance were rated for the best lap time, consistency, and super pole times. Afterwards, the finalists faced a panel interview by select members of the media as part of the personality challenge. After all the results were tabulated, the top six finishers were announced, then presented to the public and members of media in attendance.

Serving as their coach, mentor, and guest judge was Filipino-Swiss Lotus F1 Junior Team Race Car Driver Marlon Stockinger. “While I am happy to share my knowledge and experience in racing, nothing beats the contestant’s determination and drive to succeed in this demanding sport,” Stockinger said.

For his part, NPI President and Managing Director Antonio Zara said, “We’re happy to be giving aspiring racers and gamers the opportunity to turn their dreams into reality. By democratizing motorsports in the country, we help fast-track the dreams of more potential Filipino racers to reach the international racing arena.”

One of the fortunate to be chosen in the Top Six was Filipino-Kiwi, Luis Cachero. Luis Cachero moved to New Zealand when he was ten years old. According to the 25 year old Marketing undergraduate, this was a dream come true. “Lagi ako naglalaro noon sa console ko. Yung pod challenge ay parang real life simulation. Mula sa car hanggang sa track,  parang real-life yung situation,” he said.

Moreover, he expressed his extreme desire since the expense of flying back-and-forth between the Philippines to New Zealand had taken a toll on his personal savings. “It’s very expensive to fly here and go back home. Fortunate ako sa schedule na vacation namin from school yung tryouts but nakakapagod din,” the 25 year old confessed. However, the thrill of representing the country and the chance to be a professional race car driver was an opportunity that only came once-in-a-lifetime.

The six Nissan GT Academy representatives for the Philippines will fly to the United Kingdom next month. Their journey will be documented and aired on ABS-CBN Sports on December.

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