Day 6 | Cottesmore & Northampton
It was crunch time for the remaining competitors of Nissan PlayStation® GT Academy International Race Camp finalists as they awoke for an action-filled day six. By the end of the day, four competitors from each territory would become three as the crowning of the 2016 champion closes in on Wednesday.
For the eliminations, the gamers returned to the Leicestershire village of Cottesmore, where the two competitors from each territory that lost their beach race at Pendine Sands on Saturday would go head-to-head at Gymkhana. While the course was identical to Friday’s eliminations, this time they wouldn’t be racing Nissan Juke RS NISMO cars; instead they would be driving the Model Year 2017 Nissan GT-R.
With the remaining drivers the quickest left in the competition, the races were predictably tight as they pushed the supercar to its limits around the tight and twisty course. With so much at stake, mistakes crept in as Thailand competitor Phureepat Poonperm pushed a bit too hard and hit the barriers on the final corner when he was leading the race. While it was a tough way to exit the competition, the margins are fine and preservation of the car you’re driving is essential in any discipline of motorsport.
It was an emotional time for both the eliminated competitors and also the mentors, especially with the finishing line of Race Camp in sight. However it was an essential process to find out who could handle these high-pressure situations and whittle the field down further as the search for the next NISMO athlete nears its conclusion.
After the eliminations, the remaining three competitors from each territory headed to Northampton International Raceway where they would take on the ever-popular stock car challenge. This was the first time that all the territories would share a track at the same time and a great yardstick for how they measure up against each other in terms of performance.
The stock cars in question were stripped out second generation Nissan Micras, with the evening’s format being three separate practice sessions where each of the drivers could get used to the cars, followed by a 24 minute race with two compulsory driver changes. Practice would also determine the grid, and it was Australia’s Brad Packham who set the fastest lap in all three sessions to put Australia on pole ahead of Indonesia.
The race was full of incident with overtakes, close contact and some very unfortunate reliability issues. Australia elected for Michael Pryor to start the race and he made a great start to help build a commanding lead of nearly half a lap. Meanwhile further down the order, Thailand surged through the field from fifth in qualifying and there was contact between North Africa & Indonesia which sent the latter to the foot of the standings.
However there was to be a dramatic twist of fate at the front as the leading Australian car suddenly lost drive due to a fuel module failure. They were able to limp back to the pits and get the car going again, but not before they’d lost laps on all of the opposition and dropped to last place. This left it to Mexico and North Africa, who had made some swift and well-timed driver changes, to battle it out for the win with the Mexicans prevailing by just over five seconds. The race had huge significance too, with the finishing order determining the grid for Wednesday’s crucial final race.
Stock car result:
2 North Africa
Rob Barff, 2016 Nissan PlayStation GT Academy International Head Judge: “The eliminators this morning threw up some unexpected results, as we saw a few competitors crack under pressure that we didn’t expect to. It’s been a long day but a good day, and at stock cars even though the cars don’t have a lot of power, we see the guys racing door-to-door and for the first time, territory versus territory. This is the first time we’ve mixed them up on track together and it’s fantastic to see their competitive nature come up. I think Australia & Mexico have shown their pace tonight and North Africa have shown their tenacity, not necessarily the quickest team but there were strong showings from all three drivers to get them close to a win. A few teams have had some mechanical maladies but it will make the final race fascinating that’s for sure.”
Lorenzo Amieva, Mexico competitor: “It feels awesome to win! Our main objective was to finish the race and all three of us kept pushing and pushing. It’s tough for Australia to have a mechanical issue but all we could do was concentrate on our own race and keep putting the laps in. Despite the cars having not much power, it was really fun and with it being such a short lap, it was important to keep concentration and try and find those marginal bits of time where you can.”
Sandy Stuvik, Thailand mentor: “It’s a hard way for him (Phureepat Poonperm) to leave the competition and if it was a small bump it would have been okay, but he’s hit it hard and you can’t afford to do that in a car like a GT-R. It’s especially tough as he was leading the race and he knows he’s quick but his own mistake has cost him and he’s brought it on himself. With an unexpected incident like that, me and the team don’t know what he was capable of and if the race had turned out differently over the full distance, but it’s in the past now and we have to focus on the remaining challenges as we close in on the final race on Wednesday.”