NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Continuing their Nissan GT Academy journey, three champions – Steve Doherty, Lucas Ordóñez and Bryan Heitkotter – will take on some of the most intense U.S.-based sports car racing this August.
America's 2012 GT Academy champion Doherty and 2008 European GT Academy champ Ordóñez will drive Nissan 370Z NISMOs at Pirelli World Challenge events at Mid-Ohio on August 3-4 and at Sonoma on August 23-24, while 2011 U.S. winner Heitkotter will join the Doran Racing team to pilot a 370Z NISMO at 250-mile/2.5 hour Continental Challenge events at Road America (WI) on August 10-11, and Kansas Speedway August 16-17.
Not long ago, transforming a video game racer into a professional race car driver sounded like wishful thinking. But after five years and eight racing careers launched, even initial skeptics would have to agree that the program has been an overwhelming success.
Each of the three drivers followed their own roads to reach Nissan GT Academy success, each with their unique experiences. For 28-year old Ordóñez, it's been a steady climb to the pinnacle of racing. With two podium finishes already at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, a class win at the Nürburgring 24 Hours and an impressive run in the Nissan DeltaWing at Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta, the 2012 Intercontinental LeMans Series LMP2-class "Rookie of the Year" has built an impressive racing CV.
"It is quite unbelievable all the opportunities I've had since winning GT Academy," said Ordóñez. "I've been able to race all over the world and driven many great racing cars. It's been five years as a professional now, so my focus is getting the best result for Nissan each time out, no matter what car I am driving."
Ordóñez will drive the SRF Racing Nissan 370Z NISMO at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma World Challenge.
Steve Doherty is the latest GT Academy champion from the U.S., besting the competition in late 2012. After placing ninth at the Dubai 24 Hour race in January, Steve has been racing this summer in the Blancpain Series GT3 class, piloting a Nissan GT-R. The Mid-Ohio World Challenge race will be Doherty's first professional race on home soil.
"I am so stoked to finally race in front of family and friends at Mid-Ohio, and it will be great to have Lucas there also," said Doherty. "This is just one of many steps to establishing a career, but I can't wait to get out there and race."
Doherty will drive the DWW Motorsports Nissan 370Z NISMO at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma in August.
In 2011, Bryan Heitkotter went from being unemployed in Fresno, California to racing in Europe in the span of just three months, courtesy of Nissan GT Academy. Once back in the U.S. the following spring, Heitkotter grabbed the attention of veteran road racers in the Grand Am Continental Challenge Series by grabbing the GS class pole position driving the Doran Racing 370Z NISMO at Mid-Ohio and taking the first ever sports car pole position at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in back-to-back races. He added another front row starting spot and was able to capture four top-ten finishes in 2012.
"Before GT Academy, I had a fair amount of Autocross experience, but almost no wheel-to-wheel racing experience," said the 31-year old Californian. "There is just a huge difference in being fast when you have the track to yourself and when you share it with 60 cars, so I feel like I'm learning and improving every time I buckle up my helmet. With Doran I have a great car to drive, so now it's my job to get them on the podium."
Heitkotter will reunite with Doran Racing at Road America and Kansas, driving the 370Z NISMO.
GT Academy U.S. Season 3 will air on Spike TV this fall at a time and date to be announced. Follow GT Academy on Facebook at http://us.gran-turismo.com/us/academy/2013/
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