Virtua Racers: from bedroom to track
Five years ago, Lucas Ordóñez was playing console games. This year he came third at Le Mans. Welcome to GT Academy...
Posted: 15 Nov 2013
2008 GT Academy Winner Lucas Ordóñez
What were you doing before you entered the GT Academy?
I was just a normal student, studying for a business MBA in Madrid. I was halfway through my studies when I saw the advertisements for GT Academy, and so I entered. I was 23 years old.
How many hours of games a week did you play?
My family background is rooted in motorsport: my dad and my brother were both racing drivers, and my ultimate goal was always to follow in their footsteps, to become a racing driver. So to be honest, I was not a big gamer. I had the PlayStation 3 and Gran Turismo, but I played with my friends only occasionally, sometimes online. The hard work started when I heard about the competition in a magazine. I found Gran Turismo as my way into racing. Then I started playing two to three hours a day.
Can you explain the process, step by step?
The first challenge was playing online on the PlayStation. To get into the national finals in Spain, I had to get one of the 20 fastest lap times in the country. Then came the national final, racing against these 20 fastest guys, and I got into the top three to get a prize to go to Silverstone. That was unbelievable. I then spent one week at the Silverstone ‘race camp’, against 22 contestants from Europe, and that’s when you leave the PlayStation behind and start on real racing cars – things like single seaters – and undergo heavy fitness training.
What was the hardest thing about going from gaming to racing?
The fitness test. It was extremely difficult. I couldn’t even speak during the test – I was in that much pain. We really suffered during it, but that’s how it works.
What was your reaction when you won?
It was the last opportunity in my life I had to become a racing driver, so I really couldn’t believe it. The prize on offer was huge if you think about it, a dream come true. I fought really hard to become a racing driver.
When you first walked into a paddock as a fully fledged racer, what were the reactions from your fellow drivers?
At the Dubai 24 Hours race, I overheard some
people say something like: “What the hell is a PlayStation gamer doing racing here in Dubai in a proper racing car?” but that was the beginning. Some people were sceptical
at first, but GT Academy sets fastest laps, wins races, wins championships. I
like the way they’ve changed their mind and their
idea of how to become a racing driver.
What’s been your racing highlight?
The podiums I scored at Le Mans, no? I finished on the podium – second in class – in my first year at Le Mans [and third in class in 2013]. That was a really special, emotional occasion. Winning the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup championship in my first year as well, then winning this year’s GT3 championship.
What’s been your favourite track?
It’s the Nordschleife, but I can’t really call it a ‘track’ because it’s 25km long and is completely different to the others. So I’ll say Suzuka in Japan, as it’s amazing. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to race in Super GT there, too. Many people say Spa – I like Spa – but Suzuka is a challenging, technical circuit. Plus, it’s the most famous track in Gran Turismo.
Do you miss your gaming days?
Not really. Real racing is much cooler. Gaming is where it all started for me, but a proper racing car in real life? It’s hard to describe how great this is.
What advice would you give to hopefuls?
Follow your dreams and work really, really hard. You have to be committed and take the gaming process very seriously, like a job. You have to show you want to be a professional driver.
What’s the most terrifying racing car you’ve driven?
Terrifying? I don’t really get scared during racing. Maybe I did a bit at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, because it is a very dangerous racetrack, with a completely different level of cars and drivers. If you’re scared by the car, better you stay at home and play on Gran Turismo, no? But the coolest I’ve driven was the DeltaWing. It was really fast through the corners and had a ridiculous top speed. That and the LMP2 car I drove at Le Mans.
What’s your ultimate ambition in your racing career?
My ultimate goal is to compete and win in the top LMP1 class at Le Mans. I’d love to do the Dakar with my brother one day too; I love the adventure, it would be cool to do.
Who is your racing hero?
I have to say Ayrton Senna, no? I used to have a picture of him racing in Imola that I got on my birthday when I was a kid, and I’ve followed him since. He was such a talented person.
Which classic car would you like to own?
I love classic cars, and I love the old 1970 Porsche 911. Though I’d also like to own a Datsun 240Z. I could go on for ages…