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That gentlemen blubbing his eyes out on the top step of the podium in the picture above is a winner. His name is Wolfgang Reip. He is from Belgium. And he’s the new Nissan GT Academy winner.

Wondering what a ‘Nissan GT Academy’ is? Shame on you. It is of course, that rather innovative programme first set up by Sony PlayStation and Nissan a few years ago to take handy gamers kicking and screaming from their cavernous, Wotsit-infested bedrooms, and turn them into proper racing drivers. Proper.

So far, we’ve had Lucas Ordonez (who scored a class podium finish at Le Mans last year) and of course, the UK’s Jann Mardenborough (who scored a podium finish at the Dubai 24hrs and was pretty quick at Spa - just watch this video). It’s long since stopped being just a marketing ploy. These boys can race

Wolfgang - or ‘Wolf’ - competed against more than 830,000 entrants, whittled down to just six competitors who ended up at Silverstone last weekend, racing the Grand Prix circuit in identical Nissan 370Zs. Old ‘Wolf’ led from pole position to flag, and impressed the judges with his overall performance throughout the tournament to take the 2012 GT Academy crown.

Says Wolf: “This is the most amazing day of my life. It is incredible, just incredible. I cried on the podium because there was so much emotion.” There was also quite a bit of rain, too. “It was a very difficult track because of the conditions. Corner after corner it got wetter in some parts and drier in others.”

His only threat came from Italian Andrea Cosaro - 2nd placed in the tournament - who started from the back of the grid and eventually scythed through the field to make an attempt on Reip going into Copse. “I knew I could re-pass him on the exit so he wasn’t a threat,” said Wolf.

Benelux mentor Bas Leinders said of the 2012 GT Academy: “In the race there were two guys who did a great job. Both have real potential. But the logical choice was the guy who qualified on pole and won the race. I put my reputation on the line arguing his case.”

Next stop - the 2013 Dubai 24hrs. Wolf will now begin his Driver Development Programme, kickstarting his racing career. Good luck…

From gamer to racer: TG chats with Jann Mardenborough

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