Motorhead

Playstation motor racing genius earns chance to drive for Red Bull’s F1 team

Jann Mardenborough

Playing video games might be fun - but it'll never get you anywhere. Right?

Wrong. Just ask Jann Mardenborough.

The 22-year-old from Darlington has just earned a chance to drive for F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull team - and it all started because of his prowess at the Gran Turismo games on the Playstation.

Mardenborough was the 2011 winner of the GT Academy, a reality TV-style competition which attracted over 90,000 racing driver wannabes.

The early stages of the competition were played purely on the Playstation, but the best drivers were whittled down until a select few competed in real-world challenges. Mardenborough came through to win - and his prize was a chance to drive for Nissan in the Dubai 24 Hour endurance race.

He came third in the competition, and hasn't looked back in his career since: a year after his big break he won a race in the British GT Championship and came sixth in the season standings, then last year he was the best rookie in the Toyota Racing Series before earning a chance in both British and European Formula 3 last year.

His impressive performances have seen him step up once more for the 2014 season: he will now be racing in the GP3 series, one of the main feeder series for Formula 1.

And what is more, he has been signed to Red Bull's famous young driver development programme, which offers up-and-coming stars the chance to test Formula 1 cars. It's the route that Vettel himself took into F1 - and gives Mardenborough genuine hope of landing a spot in motor racing's premier series. He will have the chance to drive in testing for the most successful team in F1's recent history - and if he shines when given the chance, the sky will be the limit.

Despite having graduated from Playstation racing less than three years ago, Mardenborough sounds utterly confident about his chances.

"I feel ready for GP3," he said.

"I’ve prepared well and I have all the right people around me to help my development so I can fully focus on my racing.

"Formula 3 has taught me so many things, both in the car and out of the car, both mentally and physically. It was a great stage in my development and I’m sure the skills I've learnt there will help me in GP3 and beyond."

Red Bull's young driver development manager talked up his new signing, and suggested that there is now nothing strange about unearthing new talent via Playstation racing.

"We’re delighted to welcome Jann onto our programme. We have been tracking Nissan’s innovative approach to motorsport and in particular GT Academy that challenges the status quo of motorsport," said Andy Damerum.

"The traditional route to F1 of karting and single-seaters is a tried and tested success but Nissan and PlayStation have gone down a very different road and started to find some very talented drivers who have been doing all their practicing on a games console."