Nissan has chosen Spanish video game to race-car driver sensation Lucas Ordóñez to test and develop the ZEOD RC electric race car ahead of its Le Mans debut next year.
Ordóñez made his climb to fame by winning the inaugural Nissan GT Academy — a competition set up by Nissan and Sony to find the best racing driver from hundreds of thousands of Gran Turismo racing gamers across Europe.
The competition has since become a worldwide phenomenon and produced a host of other gamer-turned-racers, including Jordan Tresson, Jann Mardenborough, and American Bryan Heitkotter, all of whom have gone on to compete in various series around the world, some at the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race in France.
Le Mans is where the ZEOD RC will debut in 2014. Launched at this year’s event, the ZEOD is a development of the Deltawing seen at the 2012 event and put in strong performances in the Petit Le Mans and this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring.
Where the Deltawing used a 1.6-liter turbocharged Nissan gasoline engine, the ZEOD RC will use a part-electric drivetrain loosely based on that found in the Nissan Leaf, and more specifically the Leaf NISMO RC.
It’s unclear exactly how the drivetrain will work, but sources within Nissan revealed that the team would complete around six or seven laps of the La Sarthe circuit at Le Mans before doing an entirely electric racing lap, suggesting some form of range-extended drivetrain will be used.
For Ordóñez, testing the ZEOD RC is the latest development in a hectic year of racing, including the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours itself, as well as the rest of the FIA GT Series, the Blancpain Endurance Series and appearances in the World Challenge Series in the U.S., the Japanese SUPER GT championship, and a V8 Supercar test in Australia. His transition to full-fledged race car driver and his relative youth has made him ideal for developing the ZEOD, according to Nissan.
“The Nissan ZEOD RC is unlike any racecar previously developed and Lucas doesn’t have 10 or 15 years of pre-conceived ideas as to what a race car should or shouldn’t do,” said Nissan’s Director of Global Motorsports, Darren Cox.
“The fact that Lucas didn’t enter the sport the traditional way through karting and junior formulas actually makes him ideally suited for the development role for the Nissan ZEOD RC,” he added.
Ordóñez sees it as simply another step in his short but incredible career so far. “I’ve been proud of my pace competing against all of the other drivers but now it’s time to go one step higher in my career in developing the ZEOD RC.”
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