France’s Gaëtan Paletou Crowned GT Academy 2014 European Race Camp Champion
Earlier this month, the NISMO PlayStation GT Academy 2014 European Race Camp ended with the victory of Gaëtan Paletou, a 22-year old gamer from Barzun in France.
For those who are unfamiliar with GT Academy, it’s a collaboration between PlayStation and Nissan that invites the Gran Turismo video game franchise’s best players to try their hand at the real deal. The GT Acadamy has separate competitions for Germany, North America, an International group, and Europe, in which 41 representatives from 12 countries were divided into seven territory groups for this year’s class.
Those who attended Race Camp had eight straight days of racing instruction from former drivers and took to the track in Nissan models that included the GT-R, the 370Z NISMO, and 370Z race cars. Each group bonded with their territory judge, who acted as a mentor, but eventually had to make the tough choice of deciding which one of them would advance to the finals (so, a lot like Woody Harrelson’s character in The Hunger Games, we imagine). Finalists also received a lesson in celebratory Champagne-spraying from 1991 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Johnny Herbert, even though Herbert himself showed terrible form in his own attempt.
On the final day of GT Academy, an eight-lap race was held for the five remaining finalists, who drove 370Z race cars on Silverstone’s international circuit. A confusing final lap led to heated debate amongst the judges, but eventually a decision was rendered and Herbert announced Gaëtan Paletou as the champion.
“It’s incredible,” said an overwhelmed Gaëtan. “I was so happy that I won the race, but I didn’t know that I would win GT Academy. It is very special for me and my friends who have supported me. This has been a very good experience – a long, hard week and very tight competition so I am so happy to win. Now I have to keep pushing to the next step.”
Gaëtan now has the opportunity to become one of Nissan’s NISMO athletes, as previous champions like Lucas Ordoñez (who now races in Japanese Super GT) and Jann Mardenborough (a racer-winner this year in the GP3 Formula 1 feeder series) have done.
Kazunori Yamauchi, who created the Gran Turismo video game and founded the competition with Nissan back in 2008, delighted the competitors earlier in the week with a surprise visit. “I have been very impressed by this year’s European Race Camp and the standard already achieved by the Gran Turismo gamers,” said Yamauchi. “It feels like we now hand over our gamer into the safe hands of Nissan, who will continue his development as a real racing driver. This is a unique and special partnership, and I am very proud of what we have achieved together. It was great to meet so many Gran Turismo fans at Race Camp. I send all of them my congratulations, and I know that they can all draw on the experience of GT Academy to achieve their goals in life. Special congratulations go to Gaëtan for his impressive victory.”