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GT Academy 2015 European Race Camp - Day 4

The ‘bridge to nowhere’ has become a famous landmark in Abu Dhabi. The impressive six-lane, 1.3km Hodariyat Bridge links the mainland to the undeveloped Hodariyat Island, with no road on the island side. The bridge was the scene for today’s elimination challenge at the GT Academy European Race Camp – Street Race, a head-to-head obstacle course driven in stunning Nissan GT-R cars.

Ahead of the challenge, the competitors enjoyed a touch of the glamour of Abu Dhabi and the prospect of what could become their future lifestyle. They were transported from Yas Marina to the bridge on a luxury yacht, complete with Jacuzzi. The competitors in GT Academy never know what is coming next, and rather than fully enjoying the trappings of success, there was much speculation and trepidation about what lay ahead. While bungee jumping and sky diving were talked about, it was, in fact, the treacherous Street Race in identical GT-Rs – one on each side of the bridge. The tricky obstacles on the course were made up of portable cabins, road barriers and oil drums typical of a building site.

Car control, speed and a cool head under pressure were tested in this challenge. Over-confident competitors were undone by the tricky course, as were those who were too nervous or cautious. The head-to-head format saw each mentor choose his or her pairings. Two heats saw the winning drivers safe and the losing pair facing each other for a sudden-death final. Four of the groups – Italy, France, UK and Germany completed their eliminations today while three will race tomorrow.

“Street Race did not throw up many surprises,” explained GT Academy head judge Rob Barff. “I think most of the guys we expected to ended up in the final races, other than Germany. Florian Becker was probably one of the strongest guys on paper, but in the end, perhaps, he couldn’t keep his nerve and made a mistake. That ability to handle pressure is so important to find in the winner, the guy who will go on to change his life. The Hodariyat Bridge is a truly stunning location for this challenge and I’m looking forward to watching the remaining three groups race tomorrow.”

While Florian was eliminated from team Germany, mentor, and TV personality, JP Kraemer opted to put the brothers Kiefer against each other in the heat.

“That was an amazing experience to drive the car in such a fun challenge, but tough to have to race against my brother, Georg,” explained Thomas Kiefer. “The tournament system raised the pressure, because if you lost you could be knocked out. In the end we both came through which was fantastic. I feel I’ve shown today that I can deal with the pressure. I lost my first round against my brother, so I had one last chance. The pressure was immense, but you have to believe in yourself and know you’re going to win.

“If we are the final two for Germany, it’ll be the case of the best driver wins. Whoever doesn’t win will, of course, support the other one and hope they go all the way. But there is still a long way to go and we’ll see what happens!”

Today’s Race Camp activity was not limited to the Street Race. The competitors were also back on track at Yas Marina Circuit to complete the final part of their ARDS licence, in line with the requirements of the ATC, the governing body of motor sport in the UAE. Each competitor is assessed on the track by a qualified instructor in order to pass the test and obtain the necessary basic racing licence required to race.