Meet the 25-year-old Belgian student crowned GT Academy 2012 champion.
Belgian motor sport fan and Gran Turismo 5 expert Wolfgang Reip is the winner of GT Academy 2012, outpacing and ultimately becoming the pick of more than 800,000 fellow entrants from across Europe.
The 25-year-old student completed his journey from gamer to racer at the demanding Race Camp, held at the UK's famous Silverstone Circuit. The finale to the competition, the fourth in the partnership between Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and Nissan International SA, took place as part of the FIA World Endurance Championship round being staged at the track.
Fittingly, former GT Academy winners Lucas Ordoñez and Jordan Tresson were racing in that event in Nissan-powered Le Mans Prototype 2 cars. Following in their tyre tracks, Wolfgang – or "Wolf", as he became known at Race Camp – impressed the judges throughout the seven-day programme. He finally clinched overall victory by seeing off his five closest rivals in the last event, a race involving six high-powered Nissan 370Z cars.
Starting from pole position on the legendary Grand Prix circuit, Wolfgang managed to hold off his closest competitor, second-placed Andrea Cosaro, to take the chequered flag.
Tough deliberation among the judges followed, which took in all of the data from the driver training schedule as well as consideration of each driver's future potential. In the end, it was the Belgian who claimed the top step of the Silverstone podium.
"This is the most amazing day of my life," an emotional Wolfgang said. "It is incredible, just incredible. I cried on the podium because there was so much emotion. It has been such a long week. There were so many different challenges and so much to learn and experience. To come out at the end of it as the winner, out of so many people who took part in GT Academy is just unbelievable.
"I was confident in the race. I really wanted to win it. It was quite amazing. It was a very difficult track because of the rainy conditions. There were constant changes, corner after corner the track got wetter in some parts and drier in others. I had the race under control. Andrea tried to pass me going into Copse, but I knew I could re-pass him on the exit of the corner so it wasn't a threat."
"Race Camp has been really good," Bas Leinders, the Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg mentor, said. "I am extremely impressed by the organisation and all that the competitors have done. In the end, this was a very tough decision. In the race there were two guys who did a great job. The Italian, Andrea, started from the back of the grid but got a good start and was quickly up to second and challenging. For Wolf, it was hard to start from pole in the wet, but he was able to pull away until the last lap. Both have real potential and everyone felt they both deserve the chance to be racing.
"However, we had to make a decision, and the logical choice was the guy who had qualified on pole and won the race. I feel really strongly about this guy. He is top notch and can really do it. In the deliberation I put my reputation on the line arguing his case."
Wolfgang will now embark upon the final leg of his race training in the intensive Driver Development Programme. He'll come out the other side a fully fledged racing driver, ready to take part in the gruelling Dubai 24H race in January 2013.
Follow his progress at facebook.com/GTAcademy, twitter.com/GTAcademy, youtube.com/GTAcademyEurope and flickr.com/GTAcademyEurope.
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