The U.S. crowned its second GT Academy champion in 2012 after one of the most competitive race camps ever seen. From more than 400,000 gamers who participated in the online trials of the U.S. version of GT Academy, Steve Doherty made it all the way to the end, taking the coveted Red Helmet and a chance to become a professional racecar driver.
Doherty always loved cars, as he raced compact front-wheel-drive cars near his hometown of Plainfield, Illinois in what he calls “the most affordable form of racing around. All you needed was a car, some basic safety equipment and a few bucks to enter.” The tracks were small ovals, but Doherty developed a taste for road courses after playing Gran Turismo. Doherty worked odd jobs, then completed an automotive school and worked as a mechanic until a few years ago. He says: “I have never stopped working on cars. I'm always working on my own cars or helping friends out with theirs.”
Doherty has been an ardent fan of all types of motorsports, looking up to such drivers as Dale Earnhardt Sr. (NASCAR), Walter Röhrl (rally) and Hans Stuck (road racing). When GT Academy announced its first U.S. competition in 2011, Doherty was there, but missed reaching the finals by 0.60 seconds. This motivated Doherty to try even harder, training almost every day for a full year. His hard work paid off.
Doherty and three other regional winners trained over a three-month period from November 2012 for the demanding 24 Hours of Dubai endurance race, where they shared two Nissan 370Z GT4 racecars. The first weekend in November saw Doherty and his GT Academy teammates successfully complete a trouble-free run in the four-hour ‘Night Race’ and in the process secure the all-important international race licence. But Doherty experienced a setback in the Driver Development Program when he broke two ribs driving a go-kart. He endured the pain and stayed on track, despite not being able to participate fully in some of the physical fitness programs.
Doherty hopes to someday compete in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He often drove by the historic track while visiting relatives, and he would like nothing better than to compete there with his family and friends cheering him on.