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
2013 GT Academy Winner: Miguel Faisca
What were you doing before GT Academy?
I was studying mechanical engineering in Portugal. In fact, I’ve still got five modules to finish. If I can still do one or two modules this year that will be good, but, honestly, GT Academy is now my priority.
How did you first hear about the competition?
I didn’t play that much. I even borrowed a PlayStation from my cousin, and I only played to qualify when I stopped studying for my exams. I first heard about it three years ago; I think a friend of mine told me. It was a long time ago.
Did you think you were going to win when you started out?
In Portugal there were two ways – the first was online and the other was a live event. Only seven people could qualify online for the national finals, but I couldn’t qualify doing that so I did the live event. In this, only three people could pass through to the national final. I got through, and in the national final there were 10 contestants, of which only two people could go to the Silverstone race camp. I was one of them.
At Silverstone, we were divided into groups, I was in the Iberian team: there were two guys from Portugal and four from Spain. In the race camp, I was expecting to have much more physical training – the training we had was difficult, but it wasn’t that much. We did Marine tests, crawling and running through mud and catching electrical shocks, things like that. It was pretty tough, but lots of fun.
What was your reaction when you won?
I wasn’t expecting it. The last day, although I won both the races, I knew it was tight, and even when I was on podium, I looked down at my instructor, and he looked at me and shook his head as if to say, “No, you didn’t win.” So I was very thrilled to win. There was almost no reaction, because I didn’t expect it.
What were the initial reactions from other drivers?
Some like us and talk to us, but some I think are a little bit jealous. They started the ‘hard way’ and we started the ‘easy way’; it all depends on the people, but our cars are very pretty so everyone looks at them! We’re in the limelight a lot, I suppose.
You’re the newest winner – have you raced competitively yet?
Not yet. We’re doing a driver development programme at the moment, so we’re just getting signatures for next, so that I can compete and try to win. We are participating in the races – we have cars much slower and much faster than ours – but we’re learning spatial awareness.
What track have you driven on so far?
Castle Combe, Silverstone, and Donington. I’ve only raced in the UK.
What’s been the hardest thing going from games to real racing?
The heat in the car was the most difficult thing I had to get used to when I started racing for real. Sometimes it gets up to 50 degrees in the car. I did lots of physical preparation and training to help with that, but I try to forget about it. When I’m in the car, I try only to focus on the racing.
What have you been driving so far?
I’ve only driven the 370Z Group N car so far, and the 350Z GT4 car.
What’s your favourite track?
Donington, so far anyway. I’ve actually been racing around Donington on a sim in the Nismo Lab, doing a bit of simulation training and a bit of reaction training.
Do you miss your gaming days?
Not really, I quite like being here.
What advice would you give to wannabe racing drivers?
Try as hard as you can and not give up. I always wanted to become a racing driver – sometimes the path didn’t lead me where I wanted to go – but my friends helped, convinced me not to give up. And look at me, I won the GT Academy. If you have a dream, don’t give up.
What are you plans for next season?
I’m not quite sure, but it’s our plan to race a full championship in GT3 in the Nissan GT-R.
What’s your ultimate racing ambition?
I would love to try rallying, but to be happy I don’t have to be in rallying. What I ultimately wanted was to become a racing driver, and make a living out of it. I’ve only ever rallied in my grandmother’s car – it’s an old Ford Fiesta. And when I say “rally”, I don’t mean I raced. I just had some fun in Portugal when my grandmother wasn’t looking.
Who is your racing hero?
Travis Pastrana. He’s very persistent, he doesn’t give up on his dream and although he has physical limitations, when he has an objective in his head – say the finish line – he will work as hard as he can.