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
2012 GT Academy Winner: Wolfgang Reip
What were you doing before GT Academy?
I was studying management at a University in Brussels. I was enjoying it, but I was always dreaming about racing, so I was playing Gran Turismo quite a lot.
How did you hear about it?
I’d known about GT Academy since Lucas [Ordóñez] won in 2008. But at the time it sounded so impossible to achieve that I never tried. And then in 2012 I had no other options, so I thought, “Why not, you never know.” I entered the online competition, which was quite difficult, but at the end I finished 16th in the world overall, out of 800,000 people in total, which isn’t bad.
So I had my ticket for the national final in Belgium, with 15 other finalists. I won that and went to race camp at Silverstone. There, of course, we had seven days of very difficult challenges. Everything was hard there, because the pressure was extremely high, we had a lot of different challenges and fitness tests, a lot of driving. You had to push 110 per cent all the time, and that was difficult. Of course, the more you go through the week, the bigger the pressure, because you know the target is closer and closer. But I finally did it.
Were you a massive gamer?
I’ve been playing since I was a child, so quite a lot! I played the first Gran Turismo when I was young, and then I played PC driving sims too, but now I have less time at home, so if I play anymore my girlfriend won’t be very happy.
What was your reaction when you won?
Intense. There were a lot of different emotions. I
cried a bit, yes. It was the most incredible day of my life. I’d been dreaming
about this since I was a child. I did quite a lot of karting as a kid and my dream was to become
a racing driver, but unfortunately at 12 I had to stop, because my father
couldn’t afford it anymore. So winning the GT Academy
was a big day, a big moment.
What was the hardest thing about going from games to racing?
I would say the pressure of the reality. In games, the only pressure you have is to get a good result. In reality, there is the risk, the money, plus the adrenaline of driving itself is quite difficult at the beginning. This year we did a few national races in England, and after racing in Dubai, we did two races in GT4 and got put straight into the Blancpain series – it was a big step.
What were the reactions from other drivers?
Some were quite friendly, but I remember some of the first races – I could hear some people talking about us and joking. But not all, because some other drivers were extremely friendly and told us to ask them lots of questions if we needed it. I guess it’s normal; it’s a very special way to enter racing. It didn’t bother me at all, to be honest. When you see the pace we had, people can think what they want. At the end, the results are there.
What has been your racing highlight?
In terms of results, the 24 Hours of Spa, where we
finished seventh overall and third in class. That was my biggest achievement,
although I have to say, every time I drive I enjoy different things. When I have
a good battle on track, I love that.
What’s the most most difficult racer you’ve driven?
The Radical SR8 I drove at Snetterton. It was a private test, and there was an LMP2 car running alongside me. It scared me because there was proper English weather: wet. And in sixth gear doing 240km/h, you get quite a lot of aquaplaning. There was a river on the track. Plus, you don’t feel extremely safe because your head is exposed, and my shoulders were nearly above the cockpit. No aids, no traction control. Though near the end of the session, I was faster than the LMP2 car.
What’s your ultimate racing ambition?
I am realistic – I’m not very young anymore. I’m not old, but I’m not a young man. I just turned 27, so everything about single-seaters I can forget. That’s fine. My biggest target is to drive as long as possible and to win as many races as possible. The target is to grow and achieve as much as possible. The category? I would prefer sprint and endurance racing, as both are completely different, but I like both. In sprint, like DTM or Super GT, for example; it’s really exciting, but on the other side it’s nice, too.
Who is your racing hero?
Not original sadly, but I’d have to say Ayrton Senna. I’ve been following him since I was a child. I began to watch Formula One when I was four with my father, and it sounds really stupid, but I liked his yellow helmet. When you are a child these things matter. I saw his crash live when I was seven, and I didn’t see his yellow helmet anymore, found out about his crash and I learned a little bit more from books about him and his racing. I’ve met his nephew Bruno a few times, too.
Which classic car would you like to own?
My first car was like a classic – a Peugeot 106. But a proper classic car? Good question. Well, I think, only for fun, an AC Cobra, maybe? Just for fun, mind.