From Playstation to Silverstone - we talk to Jordan Tresson
French engineering student Jordan Tresson has achieved what most Gran Turismo gamers can only ever dream of. Yesterday he won a season's sponsored drive in the European GT4 Cup and can now officially call himself a professional racing driver.
After months of intensive training and heated competition, the 21-year old from northern France pushed himself and his driving talents to the limit to win Nissan and PlayStation's GT Academy, claiming its money-can't-buy first prize: a season racing the Nissan 370Z GT4 with the full support of RJN Motorsport.Just a few months ago, Tresson was a fourth-year engineering student at the prestigious ESTACA University in France. His only experience of motorsport was a bit of karting and regularly playing Gran Turismo in his halls of residence, where his lap times qualified for the competition that would change his life. "At night and on the weekends, I used to practice for maybe ten hours at a time," admits Jordan "but it was worth it!"
Rapid lap times in virtual reality earned Tresson a place in round one of the GT Academy, where he impressed judges from the start. A tough five-day assessment by F1 aces Johnnie Herbert and Eddie Jordan at the Silverstone circuit followed, examining not only the competitors' real-world driving ability, but their mental attitude and physical performance too.
Super-fit Jordan, who runs five times a week, reckons he found the grueling fitness tests "very easy" and that's not just cockiness. Onlookers described Tresson as 'a machine' on the day, breezing through a tough triathlon course while barely breaking a sweat. It was this high level of fitness – a necessity for international level racers - that caught the attention of the judges. They even overlooked a minor departure from the track in a Nissan 370Z to send Jordan through to the final two from 18 competitors. "I was delighted to get through," says Jordan "particularly after I came off the track with everyone watching."
Before Tresson could accept his place in the final - a decision that meant moving to Britain to race for six weeks - he had another hurdle to jump. After four years of study, Jordan had to ask his university to put his engineering course on hold and allow him to pursue his motorsport dream. Luckily for him they agreed, and even said they'd count Tresson's time racing as vocational experience towards his qualification. "That was good of them," admits Jordan "it means I have to go back to France to complete my exams now, and it's going to be hard to concentrate knowing that in a week I will be racing in GT4, but I want to finish my degree."
Six weeks ago Tresson moved into a tiny Oxfordshire cottage with his fellow finalist, leaving his girlfriend, family and friends back in France. Since then he's completed 12 races around the UK, enough to earn his 'International C' competition licence in an incredibly short space of time. "All we've seen is the motorway - going up and down the country to race tracks. We didn't spend much time in the cottage and didn't do much else around the UK. It's just been racing."
Despite the jam-packed schedule, laidback Jordan remained unflappable and even forged a strong friendship with his fellow finalist, Italian mechanic Luca Lorenzini. "Me and Luca worked as a team," he says. "I didn't get nervous about what would happen or who would win. In the end, that's all up to Bob (Neville, RJN's team boss) all I could do was my best."
During a 90-minute endurance race at Snetterton, with faster Ginetta race cars from the class above streaming past, Tresson's ice cool temperament shone through. He put in a faultless drive and was the quicker of the two finalists and it was this performance that swung the competition in Jordan's favour says team boss and judge Bob Neville: "He just handled himself on track better. He's so precise, which I like, and he's unfazed by traffic, whereas Luca is always looking in his mirrors."
At Silverstone for the final shoot-out of the competition, both drivers were put behind the wheel of the Nissan 370Z GT4 car in an open test session that saw everything from Radicals and Le Mans Group C prototypes to Jaguar heritage racers sharing track space. Once again, Jordan's calm intensity and focus meant he was clearly the victor, scything through traffic to put in five quick and clean laps. "It was the best experience yet," said Tresson "to be driving and have a Le Mans prototype come screaming past you, and then to try and keep up with it... Just stunning."
Jordan's fellow finalist struggled with the traffic during the shoot-out, enduring a minor excursion on to the grass in front of the judges as a faster car overtook him. According to RJN's Bob Neville: "What we've seen today is the difference between Luca, who has come up to the standard you would expect in a short period of time, and Jordan who's exceeded all expectations and is really very good."
With the TV cameras rolling, Bob told Jordan he was the GT Academy winner straight after the shootout. "It's like a dream come true for me to win this competition," said Jordan. "I hadn't thought properly about what it would be like to win until now, although I've always been focusing on it. There is still a lot to learn."
Jordan will be on the grid for the European GT4 Cup within weeks - after he's got his exams out of the way. "It's been an incredible experience. It'll be good to see my friends and family, but I just can't wait to go racing next season!"