Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Racing around London with the World's First Virtual-to-Reality le Mans Driver

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Racing around London with the World's First Virtual-to-Reality le Mans Driver

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

LUCAS ORDONEZ is getting used to driving around the streets of London on a busy weekday evening. It turns out he's pretty good at it. And the Spaniard is learning our lingo. "Onecare!" he shouts, gleefully, as a black cab darts across him in Piccadilly Circus and he is forced to slam on the brakes of his Nissan GT-R. "That's the spirit," I say, settling down into the passenger seat and directing him through the madness.

Ordonez, 26, is unique. In 2008 he won a competition on the PlayStation 3 racing game Gran Turismo. The prize was an opportunity to become a real-life Nissan racing driver. He excelled. This weekend, three years on, Ordonez will compete in his first Le Mans 24-hour race.

As far as I can work out, that makes him the only sportsman in the world who has graduated from being a videogame champion to doing the thing for real. Or as he puts it: "I'm the first virtualto-reality racing driver."

Le Mans, as Ordonez is learning rather quickly, is one of the most physically demanding sporting events in the world.

You need stamina, intense concentration, and real doggedness to cope with motor racing's equivalent of the Ironman triathlon.

To get a taste for the thing, I joined him for 24 hours behind the wheel, as we drove a loop of hundreds of miles around England.

We simulated the Le Mans experience as best we could, driving a souped-up Nissan in two-hour shifts in a small team: sleeping, eating, driving. [Repeat.] We took in everywhere from Silverstone, to the streets of the West End, to a rather misty Stonehenge at sunrise.

By the end of it we were shattered. And apparently this had been easy-peasy. For the most part we'd stuck to the speed limits. I had a new admiration for anyone who could do 24 hours behind the wheel at 200mph.

The experience, I say to Ordonez, must be surreal. One minute you're sitting in your bedroom, quite literally twiddling your thumbs. The next, you're in racing's most prestigious event below Formula One.

"Sure," he laughs. "My life has completely changed. I was an MBA student, doing my Masters in Madrid. …

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