In 2008, Lucas Ordoñez of Spain was a 22-year old gamer and devoted motorsport fan pursuing his MBA.
Now, in 2011, he’s living out his dream behind the wheel of roaring V-8 engines, pushing his Signatech team’s racecars up to 170 mph around some of Europe’s most prestigious racetracks.
(More on TIME.com: Study: The Average Gamer is 37 Years Old)
This past week he made history by placing second overall in the Le Mans 24 Hour, a grueling race that tests the upper-thresholds of a driver’s physical and mental endurance. He ended up atop the podium alongside his teammates, beating out a handful of more experienced drivers and even more powerful LMP1-class cars.
But how’d he get there? Simple: He did so by beating out 25,000 other competitors in Gran Turismo for the PlayStation, winning himself a shot at becoming a professional racecar driver.
In a partnership with Nissan, Sony Computer Entertainment America started the GT Academy to find professional racers back in 2008. Gamers compete in an online series of time trials before being whittled down to a field of 32.
Those 32 then become a top 16, who are then put through an exhaustive race camp located in England where “their strength, stamina, mental agility, and driving skills will be pushed to the limits and beyond.”
“Today all of my dreams came true,” said Lucas on Motorsport.com. “Three years ago I won an amazing prize but never in my wildest dreams did I think that it would take me all the way to the Le Mans podium. I have been on the biggest adventure you could ever imagine.”
The popular racing franchise is often held as one of the world’s best driving simulators, but it takes more than being a PlayStation ace to be a professional racer. Back in 2008, Lucas had to hire a personal trainer to get him into peak physical shape, as professional drivers must be able to sustain massive G-forces under dangerous, breakneck conditions.
More on TIME.com:
Hands On With Nintendo’s New “Wii U”