Mexico’s Johnny Guindi Hamui crowned 2016 GT Academy International Champion
First-ever female finalist from the Philippines
The 22-year-old triumphed above 35 other elite Gran Turismo gamers from around the world, winning a place on the comprehensive Nissan Driver Development Program and a race seat in the 2017 Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai race, alongside 2011 GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough.
The decision came after an epic eight-day Race Camp in the UK, with Hamui chosen as the winner due to his consistent pace and adaptability throughout the week, as well as a willingness to listen and take on all the advice given to him throughout Race Camp.
In a new format for 2016, Race Camp came to an end with a 16-lap endurance race around Silverstone International Circuit, with two competitors from each territory taking part in the final race. In previous years, mentors have selected just one competitor to contest the race, but this new format gave a more in-depth look at how a larger range of competitors perform on the big occasion.
When the race got underway, Mexico initially made a quick getaway and led into the first corner. However, they were hauled in by the quick starting Mohamed Wally from North Africa who took the lead and built a gap in his 11-lap stint. Mexico pitted early, changing Enrique Manjarrez for Hamui, who within two laps had set the fastest lap of the race.
When North Africa eventually stopped, Hamui had narrowed the gap completely and the pair went into the first corner side-by-side after North Africa emerged from the pits. Hamui then went on to take and consolidate the lead before seeing the checkered flag.
“I can’t believe it,” said Hamui. “What I’ve just achieved is going to take a while to sink in! It’s been an unbelievable experience with some seriously tough competitors, and I’ve had the best time of my life. In the race I was just so concentrated on doing a good job that my 11 laps in the car flew by. I was alone for five laps and I was just looking for consistent lap times and then on my sixth lap I saw the North Africa car coming out of the pits. I was in a great rhythm and overtook him on the outside. After that it was all about holding it together and luckily I did that, I can’t describe the feeling when Jann read out my name as the winner.”
Hamui’s journey with Nissan will begin almost immediately, as he takes to the track for a national event at Brands Hatch this weekend with Nissan’s RJN Motorsport team. RJN Motorsport, who run Nissan’s participation in the Blancpain Sprint and Endurance Series throughout Europe, will also be the team that Hamui will race for in Dubai in the Nissan 370Z GT4 NISMO.
“The final race was just phenomenal,” said Mike Carcamo, director, Nissan Motorsport. “Hats off to all the teams who did a great job with the new format with the two drivers. It made for a really exciting race. Johnny did a great job in his second stint, having to come from behind and also overtaking guys and pushing hard. This was a real-life racing scenario and another great year for GT Academy!”
Hamui earned his place at Race Camp from the hundreds of thousands of Gran Turismo gamers that entered the competition across the world.
Having won through the Mexico National Final, he arrived at Silverstone as one of six to represent Mexico, alongside 35 International competitors overall, split into six territory groups. Each group formed a close bond with their territory judge who acted as a mentor, but then had to make the difficult decisions when it came to eliminations from the competition.
The on-track action got underway last Wednesday with six finalists from Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, North Africa, Philippines and Thailand. Throughout their week at International Race Camp, a series of both racing and physical challenges whittled them down to 12 this morning that took part in the final race.
Throughout Race Camp, various surprise challenges were thrown at them including the SAS assault course, Gymkhana elimination races, beach racing in Nissan GT-Rs and a Nissan Micra stock car race which decided the starting grid for today’s final race.
It was a landmark Race Camp for a couple of occasions, with the first-ever female finalist and also the oldest ever finalist taking part.
Elysse Menorca, 22 from the Philippines, earned huge acclaim from the judges for her attitude and determination and made it to day three of the competition where she was narrowly eliminated in a head-to-head race in Nissan Juke RS NISMO cars.
Meanwhile Kanokphan Wathanakitanan, 46 from Thailand, was consistent throughout the competition and made it all the way to yesterday’s final eliminator before losing out.