The motorsport world’s eyes will this week be focussed on Silverstone for the Nissan Playstation GT Academy International finals, with Brisbane based driver Keishi Ayukai looking to make the transition from Slideways Go Karting to the world stage.
Ayukai is amongst six Australian finalists who have gradated from the recent Australian Finals, which were held at Warner Brother’s Movie World on the Gold Coast.
Drivers were given a series of tasks, including a test of their Gran Tourismo Sport gaming skills, motorkhana style driving challenges, fitness tests, as well as a segment focussing on media interview abilities.
The next step for Ayukai kicks off tomorrow with race camp, where one lucky driver will earn the opportunity to take part in the intensive Nissan Driver Development Program, which in turn leads to international racing as an elite Nismo driver.
In 2015, the International finals were won by another Brisbane based driver, Matt Simmons, who has spent this season behind the wheel of an awesome Nissan GT-R GT3 in the Blancpain Endurance Series, which visited circuits such as Monza, Silverstone, Paul Ricard, Spa and the Nurburgring.
Simmons will round out his year in New Zealand, where he will team up with Nissan Supercars ace Michael Caruso for a pair of 101 lap Australian GT races at Hampton Downs and Highlands Motorsport Park, aboard the GT-R that won the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour.
At race camp, the Australian team will be mentored by Japanese ace Katsumasa Chiyo, who was an integral part of the 12 Hour success.
“I’m just trying to make the most of every day, I’m training twice a day at the moment in the gym, and then it’s been all about getting as much track time as possible,” said Ayukai on his preparations.
“I’ve been organising as many track days as possible, and I’m coming down here (Slideways Go Karting World) to do some karting, which has been a big part of it as well.
“I’m just trying to make myself as versatile as I can before I get over there, which is probably the biggest key, because you just never know what they are going to throw at you.”
“It’s a tough track, it’s still hard work, but like any racing, it’s about getting out there and getting comfortable in the kart and being consistent as possible, and pushing every lap and get as much speed as you can,” said Ayukai.
For the most recent round of the Enduro Series, Ayukai teamed up with Simmons and Speedcafe.com journalist Stefan Bartholomaeus.
Seeing Simmons’ season unfold as a Nissan factory driver is inspiring Ayukai to leave nothing on the table in preparation for his UK assault.
“It’s huge motivation, there is nothing like GT Academy out there, and I guess it is probably the biggest stepping stone from the bottom to the top that there is in worldwide motorsport,” said Ayukai.
“We get one shot at this, it’s kind of about having all of the eggs in one basket, and do whatever you can.”
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