Matthew Simmons from Australia Crowned 2015 GT Academy International Champion
Matthew Simmons from Australia made his motorsport dreams come true at Silverstone after being named the 2015 Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy International champion.
The 26-year-old fought off competition from 29 other elite Gran Turismo® gamers from around the world to seal his success, winning a place on the Nissan Driver Development Programme and a race seat in the 2016 Dubai 24 Hours.
The decision came after an epic week-long Race Camp, with Simmons chosen as the winner for his consistent pace throughout and willingness to learn and develop his driving.
Race Camp came to an end with a thrilling eight-lap race around Silverstone’s National Circuit in Nissan 370Z NISMO race cars. Simmons, starting from pole position, initially lost the lead to Ryan Lynch of the USA but quickly reclaimed the position. After Lynch fell away, Hüseyin Dagli of Turkey became the main challenger for the lead and the pair swapped positions down the Wellington Straight for three consecutive laps with some brilliant wheel-to-wheel racing. Unfortunately as he was fending off Dagli on lap five, his car encountered a mechanical problem and lost power, allowing the Turkish driver to pass as well as Mexican finalist Juan Carlos Carmona-Chavez. However the judges took into account Simmons setting the fastest lap when the car was healthy as well as his early race pace, which showed application of his consistent performances across all challenges throughout the week in a high-pressure race environment.
Simmons commented: “I genuinely can’t believe it; I’m on top of the world. Unfortunately a mechanical problem took the race out of my hands but that’s motorsport and you can’t hide that, and I think in the early stages of the race I really showed the potential of what I can do. The wait on the podium was killing me but when Rob said my name I had to do a double take, I can’t believe he said it and I’m now a racing driver! My journey has been massive in the last 18 months to here, I’ve had so many people supporting my dream and they’ve given me so much confidence and made me believe I could achieve what I’ve wanted for so long – to become a racing car driver. The GT Academy programme is amazing, you can really tell the driver development programme trains you to become an athlete and they teach you all the aspects, so by the time you reach that pinnacle and you’re at Dubai 24 Hours, you’re ready to take on the world.”
Simmons earned his place at Race Camp from the hundreds of thousands of Gran Turismo gamers that entered the competition across the world. Having won through the Australia National Final, he arrived at Silverstone as one of six to represent Australia, alongside 29 International competitors overall, representing seven countries split into five territory groups. Each group formed a close bond with their territory judge, who acted as a mentor, but then had to make the difficult decisions when it came to eliminations from the competition.
The on-track action got underway in the United Kingdom last Friday, with six finalists from Australia, USA, Mexico, North Africa and Turkey comprising a 30-strong line-up. Throughout their week at International Race Camp, a series of both racing and physical challenges whittled them down to a final ten this morning that were still in contention of being GT Academy International champion. Each judge then had to decide between their two best drivers for who would take the wheel of the 370Z NISMO race cars for an eight-lap race of Silverstone’s national circuit.
The challenges came thick and fast throughout their week at Race Camp, with gamers being thrown into the action straight away on their first day where they got behind the wheel of single seaters, Caterham racers, Nissan GT-Rs and JPLM cars at Bedford Autodrome. Throughout the week, various surprise challenges were thrown at them including the ‘GT Ninja’ assault course, an innovative army-style Gymkhana driving race, dune buggy racing, monster trucks and a Nissan Micra stock car race which decided the starting grid for today’s final race.
Rob Barff, 2015 Nissan PlayStation GT Academy International Head Judge said: “Matthew has been strong and consistent all week, he’s shown he’s a great team player and we welcome him to the GT Academy family. We’ve been very honest; his car had a problem and in motor racing that happens. It’s something we could have easily shied away from but we haven’t and it’s the right and fair result. The next time I see him it’ll be around the paddocks of the UK and then the Dubai 24 Hours.”
Darren Cox, Nissan Head of Motorsport: “We’re delighted to congratulate Matthew on being crowned the 2015 GT Academy International winner, and becoming the first Australian victor. The judges have been incredibly impressed with his ability at Race Camp and we’re looking forward to developing him into a fully-fledged NISMO athlete. Even in its eighth year, we’re still finding ways to freshen up GT Academy and the enthusiasm of new markets who have signed up to it is fantastic. They can see first-hand the success the programme has had in new markets with Thanaroj Thanasitnitiket (Thailand) and Abhinay Bikkani (India) really taking the Nissan Micra Cup by storm in Canada and we see no reason why that can’t continue.”
Simmons’ opportunity of a lifetime will begin right away, where he will receive world-class racing tuition and physical training from Nissan to prepare him for his endurance race debut in Dubai next January.