Current Formula 1 world champions Red Bull Racing have signed Jann Mardenborough (who learnt how to race on a PlayStation) and he will be racing in GP3 this year. The young Welshman won the right to enter the team’s “intensive driver development programme” by beating over 90,000 other competitors in an online Gran Turismo competition. The competition, run by Nissan and Sony, saw the field of players reduced to a final group of 12 who then attended a week-long race camp at Silverstone. Mardenborough, who is a self-professed lover of console gaming, was massively impressive at this camp and has begun the challenging climb to a Formula 1 driver’s seat.
The Briton first experienced virtual racing when he was just eight years old as he played the original Gran Turismo game at a friend’s house and was immediately hooked. Thereafter, he continued to play numerous racing games throughout his childhood and teenage years, entering the online Gran Turismo 5 competition whilst on a gap year from university.
His rise through the racing ranks is particularly remarkable as, prior to 2011, he had no serious real-life racing experience to his name. Rather, almost all of his experience was obtained via gaming and playing virtual racing simulators.
For now, Mardenborough’s links with Red Bull will mainly involve simulator work as the world champions are keen to harness the knowledge of a driver whose background is in the virtual world (as opposed to drivers from a more traditional karting background). A large amount of his work will be aimed at refining their racing simulators and testing out new virtual racing possibilities.
However, Mardenborough is determined to keep climbing through the ranks and to challenge for a spot in Formula 1. Almost all current Formula 1 drivers have extensive karting experience, but Red Bull Racing’s clear interest in what Nissan and PlayStation in particular are doing in the genre of racing games is encouraging for the young Brit.
You can find out more about the Nissan GT Academy program here.