Nissan of Europe and Sony have once more teamed up, launching the third season of GT Academy offering one online game the chance to drive in next year's Dubai 24 Hours.

The initial stage of the competition will be played online on Gran Turismo 5 – the latest title in the massively successful series from Polyphony Digital which has sold over 3 million copies since being released last November.

“In Gran Turismo 5 we continue to bring the worlds of real and virtual racing closer together and the GT Academy programme, in partnership with our friends at Nissan, perfectly illustrates this ambition,” explained Kazunori Yamauchi, creator of the Gran Turismo games and Polyphony Digital president. “It is also a great showcase for the fact that GT5 will continue to offer players more than just the game they have bought. It fully utilises the online functionality of GT5 and highlights the community elements. I think that we shall see a lot of friends challenging each other to take part in GT Academy and seeing how good they are against others. I am sure that most people with an interest in motor sport have dreamt about having a go for real.”

The competition runs in ten European countries split into six territory groups; Germany and Austria, France and Switzerland, UK and Ireland, Spain and Portugal, Italy and lastly the Netherlands. When the deadline for the online time trial passes the fastest 20 drivers from each territory will progress to a live online final.

The fastest two from each territory in the final will then take part in a six day, driver training 'Race Camp' at Silverstone, Nissan promising starring roles for the 370Z and GT-R cars. The eventual winner will continue their training as well as taking part in a number of national level races in order to gain the international license needed to take part in the Dubai event.

“GT Academy is even more special as we watch the incredible progression of somebody racing our cars in the game to enjoying great success racing them at full speed on international race circuits,” said Nissan International's VP of Marketing, Vincent Wijnen. “GT Academy has become a great 'grass roots' mainstay of our international race programme and we enjoy the partnership with PlayStation very much.”

Over 1.2 million gamers took part in the 2010 GT Academy which was won by Frenchman Jordan Tresson. Tresson finished equal fourth in the European GT4 Cup, tied with Lucas Ordonez, winner of the first GT Academy. Both are expected to announce their 2011 racing plans soon, as they carve out a driving career after their GT Academy success.

The virtual part of the competiton begins on March 4, running until April 17 – more details of the initial part of the GT Academy process will be announced soon. All entrants must be over 18 and hold a full driving license, further terms and conditions can be found at