Car lover and student, Amitav Haldipur writes about a great interest of his, for all the motor enthusiasts out there.
Shantanu Kallianpurkar, 33, is a graphic designer from Hubli who made it to the top 12 in the National Finals of the Nissan GTA this year, out of a field of 6000. This is his account of the journey.
Motor Racing was my passion much before I learnt to drive a car. But the costs involved meant that dream never had the chance to materialize. When Nissan announced the GT Academy in 2008, I could finally see myself making the transition from gamer to racing driver. But sadly, India was never included till earlier this year.
The qualifying rounds for the Academy were split into “Live Events” and “Online Events”. The 14 fastest drivers from each would make it to the National Finals. The qualifying rounds began with the Live events, held at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. Participants were given the opportunity to try their hands, at driving a 530bhp Nissan GT–R NISMO GT3 N24 Schulze Motorsport around the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit
The online qualifying format was very different, consisting of 4 rounds. The initial 3 were mock rounds, designed to let you get a hang of the game and also compare your laptimes with gamers around the world. The online qualifying round lasted 14 days. It took them 4 days to announce the final rankings. I was glad to learn that I was among the top 14 qualifiers for the National Finals.
The National Final was held at Fairmont Hotel, Jaipur from the 28th to the 30th of June. After a day of orientation, the 29th saw us hitting the simulator pods, for a series of elimination rounds. We took three tests—each involved driving a Nissan R35 race car around the Silverstone International circuit according to increasingly tougher rules– and ten people were eliminated at this stage. I made it to the final 18, but there was no time to celebrate as the next round was set to start in a few minutes.
In Round 2, the car was retained but the track was switched from Silverstone to Monaco. Having to drive around a narrow city circuit meant that one had to be precise to the millimetre, making sure no part of the car touched the barriers. And if that wasn’t bad enough, we had to put in 10 consistent laps. I was one of the first ones to go and managed to set in some good lap times. But I had still had to wait and see how the other 17 would manage. After a few tense moments, I found that I had qualified.
The Media Round tests how comfortable contestants are around cameras. We were split into 3 groups of 4 each and quizzed about motorsports and the academy by a panel of journalists from various Auto Magazines. Once that was done, we were asked to return to our rooms and prepare for the driving and physical tests for the final day.
With the sim rounds behind us, we had to now prove ourselves in real-world conditions–with a Nissan Micra. Not exactly what we had in mind, but considering that we were supposed to drive around a tight course, laid across a small polo ground, it made sense. It consisted of a slalom, a long right hander, 2 roundabouts and a stopping area. Jonathan, a driving instructor from Silverstone, did a few laps and set a benchmark time of 39secs. We were then given 3 practice runs, after which we would get just one shot at posting our fastest time.
During the practice runs, three of us managed to clock a 38 sec lap–a proud moment for us, considering we were 1 sec quicker than the benchmark time. For the final lap, I decided to play it safe and avoid penalties for hitting the cones. I ended up posting a 39 sec run which was matched by only 3 other finalists.
This was followed by the Fitness Round, an arduous 4-stage test of core strength and endurance. When the top six names were called out, I understood that the top 12 was as far as I would get this year. But given that there were over 6,000 entries this year, the top 12 doesn’t seem like such a bad place to be. The top 6 will now be heading to UK in August, where they will have to fight it out with 6 winners from 4 other countries—one of them will go on to a sponsored racing career and become the next Nissan Nismo Athlete.
With 12 months to go before GT Academy 2015 begins, I’m pretty confident I’ll be much better prepared next time not only for the National Finals, but also for the International Finals, in UK.