Matt Simmons has a new career after topping more than 700,000 hopefuls in a shootout at Silverstone circuit in Britain yesterday that's turned him from a postie into a professional racecar river.
The Brisbane boy converted his game play into a real racing career at the climax of a week-long motorsport camp designed by Nissan and PlayStation to uncover fresh talent. His first start will be in a 24-hour race in Dubai at the start of next year.
"My boss is going to have to find another driver. But I think he knew what was coming," Simmons told News Corp Australia from Britain.
It's been an 18 month journey
"I'm sure he'll be happy for me. He's been following my progress."
Simmons turned the GT Academy into a two-year quest for success after realising there was no way he could pay his way into a professional V8 Supercars drive in Australia.
He won through to last year's Australian final but, after failing to make the international squad, re-focussed his efforts to join the six-member Australian team for this year's global shootout in Britain, surviving a series of eliminations to compete in the final shootout in identical Nissan 370Z racers. After qualifying quickest he was slowed by an overheating engine but, after a one-hour deliberation, GT Academy judges awarded him the top prize.
"I put all my eggs in this one basket. My upbringing didn't allow me to pursue my dream of racing," the 26-year old said.
"I went into simulator racing, in the online virtual world. I definitely put everything into it. I didn't have another avenue."
If I work hard, I'll have a career
Simmons even chose his job as a contract courier, working in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, to maximise his time for real-world training and online gaming. He spent as much as he could to race go-karts and occasionally hire competition cars for proper coaching and track time.
"Australia Post wasn't a career job, (it was) purely to support me having a good shot at GT Academy. It's been an 18 month journey. I was at the nationals in Australia last year."
Simmons is one of three GT Academy winners who will race in Dubai and he is hopeful that a good run in the desert enduro will cement a longer-term place in a program funded by Nissan and PlayStation that's already thrown up more than a dozen new drivers.
"I come home and I go back in early September in a development driver program. At this stage I believe the prize is Dubai.
"Then it's how hard you work in your program and what you make of that. If I work hard, I'll have a career."