Nissan-Branded Venture Turns Gamers Into Drivers

As prizes go in the endless run of reality-competition shows, a new series on the Speed network has an enviable one for the winner of the checkered flag: a stint as a professional race car driver. Nissan is backing the branded-entertainment venture, which is linked with a Sony PlayStation video game.

The country's 16 top players in the "Gran Turismo 5" driving game will compete for the chance to join a Nissan team in a famed race. The show, "GT Academy USA," looks to discover whether driving expertise on the screen is translatable to the real deal on the track.

"Can a PlayStation 3 video game give you the skills to become a professional race car driver?" says the voiceover in a promotional video.

"A Race From Virtual to Reality" is a tag on the show's Facebook page.

The series has had three runs in Europe and the first of five episodes here debuts Sept. 20 on Speed, part of the Fox Sports group. The contestants compete in various challenges on a British track with three judges, including 1985 Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan.



The show features ample exposure for Nissan, with the contestants wearing racing suits with the brand, shots of race cars with the name and other appearances. A campaign for the show is from TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles.

The 16 contestants were chosen from a pool of 54,000 would-be Gran Turismo Andretti-types. The winner will join a Nissan-sponsored team with European "GT Academy" winners in the 24-hour race in Dubai.

(Spoiler alert: the winner can be found on a "GT Academy" micro-site.)

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