Until the last few years, there have only been two real ways of getting into motor racing.

One is to have lots of money, and buy your way into a drive. The other is to work your way up from the bottom rungs, and hope you're talented enough to reach the next level. Oh, and also have lots of money.

Now there's a third option, and for millions of online gamers, the first step to potential racing stardom will be behind the virtual wheel of a 2012 Nissan Leaf electric car.

The Leaf is one of several Nissans in this year's GT Academy, a competition run by Sony, Nissan, and the creators of the Gran Turismo videogame series.

The aim is to find the next racing driver, putting millions through their paces via a series of online challenges, finding the fastest, and then putting them behind the wheel for real. Several more real-world tests will narrow down the list further, before the victor is granted a real-life racing contract.

If you're sitting there thinking that gamers will never make for proper racers, then you're massively behind the times.

The first GT Academy was won by Spaniard Lucas Ordóñez, who has since gone on to compete in the Le Mans 24 hour race--with some success, too.

He's since been joined by French driver Jordan Tresson, Brit Jann Mardenborough and winner of the U.S. GT Academy last year, Bryan Heitkotter, all of whom now drive professionally for Nissan at various levels.

The online part of the competition runs until Monday, June 25, and the free GT Academy game can be downloaded from the PSN store now. If you already have Gran Turismo, you can even get some practice in with the Leaf...

Joining Nissan performance cars like the 370Z sports car and GT-R supercar, the Nissan Leaf will test the driving skills of every entrant, meaning the next pro racing driver could well have cut their teeth on a humble electric car...


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