British GT Championship says Sony-Nissan GT Academy drivers are too fast to be amateurs

Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 GT Academy

It’s hard to imagine a racecar driver being too fast, but that’s exactly the problem graduates of Nissan and Sony’s GT Academy are having. Graduates of the program, which puts Gran Turismo players in actual racecars, were deemed too fast for the British GT Championship.

According to GT Planet, GT Academy graduates will not be allowed to compete in the 2013 British GT Championship. Why? Because their skills have leapfrogged the series’ class rules.

Last year, GT Academy alum Jann Mardenborough, teamed with professional racer Alex Buncombe, was, to say the least, competitive in British GT’s Pro Am class. Driving a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3, the duo nearly won the class outright.

That’s what rankled British GT officials. The Pro Am class is meant for “gentleman drivers” (in other words, amateurs) who aren’t supposed to be faster than the professional racers in the other classes.

Mardenborough isn’t a professional driver, but he was keeping up with the pros. His GT-R was saddled with a time penalty at every race to keep it from overtaking the supposedly faster cars.

That disparity between the GT Academy drivers’ pro-level skills and amateur status is what led the British GT Championship to deny four new applicants from the program entrance into the 2013 series.

In a statement released to GT Planet, series manager Benjamin Franassovici said:

“[GT Academy] has shown itself to be a great way to source raw talent and turn that into real racing talent as we saw in British GT last year with Jann Mardenborough. However Nissan’s ability to find such amazing raw talent means that we cannot accept their full season entry for British GT in 2013. Their new recruits have very little racing experience so they have to be on the lowest performance grade. Their talent, going on Jann’s speed last year, doesn’t reflect this lack of experience so it is not fair to put them up against our Pro/Gentleman grid, the basis of British GT3.

GT Academy Nissan GT-RWhile GT Academy graduates will not be racing in the 2013 British GT Championship, Nissan does have some races lined up for them. The 2013 schedule for new and returning GT Academy drivers will be announced at Nismo (Nissan’s performance division) headquarters in Yokohama, Japan on February 26. An unofficial invitational appearance in British GT might still be in the cards.

Mardenborough’s rule-breaking performance sits in stark contrast to conventional wisdom regarding racing games like Gran Turismo. While the game’s realistic graphics and physics have led developer Polyphony Digital to dub it a “racing simulator,” it hasn’t always been easy to translate virtual driving skills to the track.

Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson famously tried to reproduce a virtual lap of Laguna Seca in real life, using both real and pixelated Honda NSXs. The Orangutan wasn’t able to match the time he set with the PlayStation, though.

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