Time was that if you suggested someone who was good on a racing simulator could transfer their virtual skills into an actual, real-life racing car, you would have been laughed out of the room. But then the Nissan GT Academy came along.

It starts with an on-line competition in Gran Turismo, that most legendary of driving games. The fastest few go to an intensive ‘race camp’ where their fitness and skills are put to the test in real racing cars, on a real circuit. The winner then goes into an even more intensive training programme, with the aim of turning them into a race-winning professional driver.

It really works. The Academy has turned up several drivers – notably Lucas Ordonez, Jann Mardenborough and Wolfgang Reip – who have turned out to be real talents. Had it not existed, they may never have had the chance to even sit in a racing car, much less drive one. They alone prove the whole GT Academy concept works and is a viable path to a career as a pro racer.

But they are just three of the 19 lucky so-and-so’s who have won the competition and been given the golden ticket. What have the rest been up to? Click through the gallery below to find out.

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By Only Motors

Images via Nissaan; Gran-turismo.com/academy