Think you have what it takes to be a real professional racer? If so, you'll want to enter in this year's GT Academy. The tournament challenges Gran Turismo 5 players to take on a series of online time trial events. Over the course of five weeks, players will compete to record the fastest lap times, and the top 128 players per region (four regions total) will move on to the second round, one step closer to the grand prize: an opportunity to join a real racing team and compete in a real race.

Registration begins next week, December 6th. But even if you're not a racing expert, you should consider registering just to score some digital swag. Each week, players that compete will get a free digital download, regardless of your ranking. So don't be ashamed to drive like a grandma on the virtual course. No one's going to judge you, we promise.

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FOSTER CITY, Calif., Nov. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC (SCEA) and Polyphony Digital Inc., in collaboration with Nissan North America, announced today the opportunity of a lifetime for gaming and racing enthusiasts -- the debut of the GT Academy in the U.S. Starting December 20th, fans can compete in Gran Turismo® 5 exclusively on the PlayStation®3 (PS3(TM)) for a chance to make dreams of becoming a race driver with a professional team a reality. Registration for the GT Academy competition begins on December 6th, and fans who think they have what it takes can find more information about the program at: http://us.gran-turismo.com/.



GT Academy will challenge gamers and racing fans alike across the U.S. to compete in a series of online time trials in pre-selected Nissan vehicles in Gran Turismo 5. All participants will earn free digital content just for playing, as well as have an opportunity to win prizes for winning regional time trials. The top 32 virtual racers in the country will be invited to compete in the live national finals event in March 2011 to become one of 16 GT Academy finalists. The 16 finalists will compete against each other in a series of challenges, including behind the wheel of real Nissan race cars, for a chance to become a professional race car driver as the GT Academy winner for the U.S. The winner will have the opportunity to train with elite race car drivers at international tracks and race as part of a professional team.



Available only on PS3 on November 24, 2010, Gran Turismo 5 features realistic driving physics and graphics that set new standards in the Gran Turismo franchise. Gran Turismo 5 will deliver the most realistic and comprehensive racing experience available, including more than 1,000 licensed cars, a Course Maker, and a robust online racing community. Additionally, Gran Turismo 5 integrates stereoscopic 3D technology, bringing a new layer of realism to racing fans.



"With the upcoming launch of Gran Turismo 5, it's a very exciting time to team with Nissan to announce GT Academy," said Scott A. Steinberg, VP of Product Marketing, SCEA. "With the realistic racing experience that only Gran Turismo 5 provides, GT Academy will identify someone who truly has the skills to become a pro race car driver, providing the chance of a lifetime to win the ultimate prize."



"This is a great opportunity for Nissan to bring GT Academy to the U.S. and support the launch of Gran Turismo 5" said Jon Brancheau, Vice President Marketing, Nissan. "Gran Turismo 5 provides an amazingly realistic racing experience and we're taking that to the next level by putting 16 finalists behind the wheel of a Nissan race car with the chance to become a race driver with a professional team. Nissan vehicles are known for innovation and performance, so this is a perfect way to demonstrate and deliver on that promise."



The competitors' road to victory will be documented in a multi-episode reality show airing exclusively on SPEED channel and the PlayStation®Network in 2011. The reality show series will start filming in March 2011 from the GT Academy finals through training as a pro race driver.



The overall competition will run as follows:



Phase One

Racing enthusiasts will put their racing and gaming skills to the test as they compete in various regional online ladders playing Gran Turismo 5 on PlayStation®Network. Finalists will then participate in a live head-to-head competition.



Phase Two

16 lucky finalists emerge from the live event and go behind the wheel of real cars, including the Nissan 370Z and GT-R, at a comprehensive GT Academy 'boot camp'. The 'boot camp' will be featured as part of a multi-episode reality show to air on SPEED.



Phase Three

The 2011 U.S. Winner will train to become a professional driver in preparation for competing as part of a professional team at a major race event.



For full terms and conditions and more information about GT Academy please visit: http://us.gran-turismo.com/us/

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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