The quest for the next great racecar driver is under way this summer at the GT Academy.
But this group of 20 candidates come from an unlikely source – the world of PlayStation's Gran Turismo series.
These gamers are the best virtual drivers in the US, whittled down from over 400,000 entrants at the beginning of the year. Now they will be tested to see if their skills in the virtual world translate to the real world in the American finals of the GT Academy at the Nashville Motor Speedway.
Lance Gomez, Jr, from the Bronx, New York, knows this is the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I'm excited but I'm a little bit stressed because I know that any stupid mistakes, any immature mistakes, will cost me a chance at winning this competition," said Gomez before heading to Tennessee.
"I don't have the money to start racing, so this maybe my only shot at, you know, becoming a racecar driver."
The GT Academy is a driver discovery program founded by PlayStation and Nissan in 2008 that selects and trains the most talented Gran Turismo gamers from around the globe. Arriving in the US in 2011, this is the fifth edition of the American championship.
"The game definitely helps you in real life. You can kind of transfer the skills you learn from the game to real life and it definitely helps, but driving the real car is another skill that you need to acquire. It's completely different when you're driving with G-forces and, you know, the fear of crashing and what not," said finalist Armen Agakhan, from Glendale, California.
The finalists compete in a gruelling two-day competition that includes a series of driving and physical tests, plus three virtual driving time trials. The six winners will next head to the famed English track at Silverstone in August to compete against the winners from other countries.
Those that impress at Silverstone will then enter Nissan's Driver Development Program for a chance to race a GT-R LM NISMO at the Dubai 24 Hours Race in January 2016.
"It's still surreal that I made it this far. I'm having a hard time so I'm just taking it in," said Agakhan after being named a winner.
Other winners at the GT Academy felt vindicated for all their time spent playing video games.
"It's funny, you know, my parents have always not agreed with [me] playing video games, but these past few weeks my mom has been the one who's nagging at me to get up there and play the video game. I think that's the only time she's ever done that," joked Tyler Utley from Utah.
"But my wife, when the baby was crying, I did have to turn the game off and help her out once in a while."
The racing future of the virtual drivers of GT Academy is quite real. Several "graduates" are currently somewhere on the racing circuit with Nissan-sponsored teams, including the GP3 feeder circuit to Formula One. Two drivers even raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015.