The GT Academy winner produced a flawless drive amidst trying circumstances in the TOYO Tires 24h of Dubai endurance race.
British racing legend Johnny Herbert described the TOYO Tires 24h of Dubai endurance race as "a weekend of disappointments and great achievements" for the Nissan PlayStation racing team, in which he drove alongside GT Academy winner Lucas Ordóñez. "Lucas did brilliantly, producing a mistake-free drive under big pressure. He has achieved everything we had hoped from him and proved that it is possible to make the transition from virtual racing to the real thing."
As Lucas's confidence grew and his lap times improved, it was difficult to believe that just four months ago, the only racing cars he was driving were in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue on PlayStation 3. Many people at the event were surprised at how comfortable he has made the transition from virtual to reality, but not Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi.
"It is a dream come true for me to see my game develop a real racing driver," he said. "I have been hoping for it to happen for ten years."
"Lucas's performance has been excellent, but I would expect that from a driver trained using Gran Turismo. I haven't had much time to watch him drive but he is very calm and never seems to worry. I always believed that someone good at GT could drive as fast as a professional; in fact, I think that they could even go faster."
Lucas, who had the honour of guiding the Nissan 350Z GT4 racing car over the finish line, beamed as his teammates and family crowded around him. However, earlier that weekend, the team had more than its fair share of setbacks. Firstly, they had to make the difficult decision of withdrawing the second GT Academy winner, Lars Schlömer, from the race for safety reasons. He missed crucial practise sessions due to illness and it was decided that he had not enough experience, particularly of driving at night, to take on a gruelling endurance event.
In a statement to the assembled media, Darren Cox, Interactive Marketing Manager of Nissan Europe said: "The Nissan PlayStation team have assessed the situation prior to Dubai and have made the decision that Lars is not quite ready to join the team on the track for the final race."
Then, when the race was underway, a series of mechanical faults saw the car spending too long in the pits, undermining the fantastic driving of Lucas, Johnny Herbert, Rob Barff and Alex Buncombe. The first setback occurred when a piece of debris jumped up from the track and damaged the power steering system, causing fluid to leak onto the exhaust, resulting in a dense plume of smoke.
Then, Lucas got behind the wheel for the first of his four 90 minute sessions of driving. He got off to a flying start but was hampered by a puncture on lap 36. Every time the Nissan PlayStation team caught up with their rivals, another freak incident would condemn them to the pits. As night fell, they were involved in a collision with another car, damaging the rear suspension and costing five laps.
The second 12 hours went far more smoothly and as the searing Persian Gulf heat dropped, so did lap times as the drivers settled into a rhythm. Gradually, they climbed the leaderboard but the distance between them and the eventual winners was too great, so the Nissan PlayStation team had to settle for 45th place overall and ninth in their class.