FIA Sanctioning Virtual Racing League, Nissan Training Gamers Into Real Drivers

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Three decades ago, video games could only offer the vaguest approximation of driving. Things are very different today. While a lot of modern software still forgoes realism for the sake a fun, simulators have grown in popularity and are becoming incredibly realistic. Real tracks are built to scale, weather effects have meaning, and automobiles behave in a faithful manner. Gamers can even swap their gamepads for honest-to-god cockpits.

Racing simulators have become so effective that Nissan’s PlayStation GT Academy program is now in its eighth year. The event pits thousands of gamers against each other in order to find some they can put behind the wheel of an actual race car. Players then receive additional simulator and on-road training before being allowed to compete in legitimate races.

While we could endlessly debate how well video game skills translate to actual racing, they do provide gamers with an opportunity to learn the tracks and sharpen reaction times. They’ve certainly proven competitive enough for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile to sanction virtual racing leagues.

Having partnered with Polyphony Digital, which produces the Grand Turismo video game franchise, the organization now has two eSport championships: The FIA-certified GT Nations Cup and GT Manufacturer Fan Cup. As with Nissan, the game will act as a gateway to facilitate driver transition from virtual to real-life racing.

This year, the automaker is holding a Global Cup (part of the FIA Manufacturers Series) that will allow gamers to compete for swag, coaching, and a trip to the NISMO Festival at the Fuji International Speedway in Japan. There will also be a European Sport Cup series that takes the top 12 Nissan drivers of the summer. They will then be eligible to qualify for the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in Barcelona in September.

“We proved with the Nissan GT Academy that some of the fastest drivers in the world might never have had the opportunity to compete on a race track if it weren’t for gaming,” explained Nissan’s global motorsport director, Michael Carcamo. “These guys have gone from the couch to the cockpit and broken the traditional model of how to become a successful racing driver.”

“The level of competition is incredibly fierce,” Carcamo added. “And we’re now seeing that online racing is not only an alternative to the real thing. To be recognized as an official FIA Manufacturers Series Champion through GT Sport is an incredible opportunity, and we’re looking forward to having some of the best gamers in the world represent Nissan.”

[Images: Nissan]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • ClutchCarGo ClutchCarGo on Jun 21, 2018

    An interesting effect of the dual meaning of the word "sanction". When I saw the title of the post I thought that FIA was looking to separate themselves from the world of virtual racing.

  • Erlebo Erlebo on Jun 21, 2018

    Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.

  • Lorenzo Nice going! They eliminated the "5" numbers on the speedometer so they could get it to read up to 180 mph. The speed limit is 65? You have to guess one quarter of the needle distance between 60 and 80. Virtually every state has 55, 65, and 75 mph speed limits, not to mention urban areas where 25, 35, and 45 mph limits are common. All that guesswork to display a maximum speed the driver will never reach.
  • Norman Stansfield Automation will make this irrelevant.
  • Lorenzo Motor sports is dead. It was killed by greed.
  • Ravenuer Sorry, I just don't like the new Corvettes. But then I'm an old guy, so get off my lawn!😆
  • Lorenzo Will self-driving cars EVER be ready for public acceptance? Not likely. Will they ever by accepted by states and insurance companies? No. There must be a driver who is legally and financially liable for whatever happens on a public thoroughfare. Auto consumers are not afraid of the technology, they're afraid of the financial and legal consequences of using the technology.
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