The 2012 Gran Turismo GT Academy got underway on 1 May, with PlayStation gamers competing online to win a chance to race as a real professional racing driver.

The competition is open until 24 June, 2012 and images of the tracks and cars used in the event have been released.

Tracks featured in the driving challenge include the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, an Indy Car circuit, street circuits based in London and Tokyo, as well as the BBC's Top Gear test track.

Rounds one and two began on 1 May, 2012, with rounds three and four following on 14 May, rounds five and six open on 28 May and rounds seven and eight taking place from 11 June.

Round one sees drivers tackling a course in Nissan's all-electric car, the Leaf, while the second round has gamers taking control of Nissan's front engined, rear wheel drive FR Silvia Spec-R Aero.

Each round includes five events that players can retry as many times as they want in order to record their fastest lap times.

The fastest racers from each country will eventually compete in national races, with the winners flying to Silverstone in August to battle it out in real Nissan sports cars.

The Gran Turismo Academy challenge 2012 is available as a free download on the PlayStation Network (PSN) for the PS3.

Lucas Ordoñez, who won Nissan's first Gran Turismo Academy event back in 2008, finished second in class at the 2011 Le Mans 24 hour race. Ordoñez had never driven a real racing car before entering the online competition.

He has now been selected to be part of the team testing the Nissan DeltaWing, which the company will enter in the 2012 Le Mans competition on 16-17 June, 2012.