Who says esports don’t translate to the real world?
Red Bull just signed PlayStation Gran Turismo 5 champion Jann Mardenborough to an "intensive driver development programme.” The Welshman will race in GP3, a minor league Formula One race, with Arden International in 2014.
The 22-year-old gamer won Nissan’s “GT Academy” in 2011 by beating over 90,000 other gamers. After winning, Mardenborough was able to trade in his PlayStation racing for the chance to train as a real driver.
After advancing to the final 12 in the GT Academy, Mardenborough began working his way through the motorsport ranks. His first taste of the real thing was a race camp at Le Mans 24 Hours, the world’s oldest endurance car race. The Academy competitors held their own endurance race on the Kart track.
Mardenborough then went on to Silverstone race track, where they were put through “military-style training,” which caused three of the 12 competitors to drop out. Finally, various driving and fitness tests led to a GT4 Nissan 370z race on the Silverstone National Circuit. Mardenborough won by eight seconds.
After his win, Mardenborough came close to winning two real world racing titles: The British GT racing championship and the LMP2 at Le Mans last year. He’s since competed at the FIA European Formula 3 and British Formula 3 Championships. The ultimate goal is to compete in Formula One, the highest level of single-seater auto racing in the world.
Mardenborough, who has been playing racing games for 14 years, first tried the original Gran Turismo at 8-years-old.
The young racer’s success makes a convincing case that esports can produce transferable skills.
Red Bull Racing’s driver development manager Andy Damerum said he is interested to see how a driver who began his career in video games can compete in real racing.
And if virtual racing produced a real world talent in Mardenborough, why can’t it work with others? According to Damerum, there are more gamers in the racing pipeline.
"The traditional route to F1 of karting and single-seaters is a tried and tested success,” Damreum said, “but Nissan and PlayStation have gone down a very different road and started to find some very talented drivers who have been doing all their practicing on a games console.”