CHAMPLAIN - Christopher Roberts has a need for speed and it's getting him places.
The 19-year-old Clarkson University engineering student and Northeastern Clinton Central School graduate was recently named to the top 16 competitors in the Nissan GT Academy - a competition sponsored by Nissan and Sony that will give one virtual race car driver the chance to become an actual professional race car driver.
Roberts recently competed against more than 53,000 Gran Turismo players during an on-line racing tournament, earning one of the top 32 spots for a semi-final competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., March 22-23. During the three-round Orlando tournament, Roberts placed second amongst his competitors - a feat he is very humble about even as he brimmed with enthusiasm during a recent interview.
"It is pretty impressive," Roberts admitted reluctantly, trying to keep a modest attitude about his accomplishment.
The top 16 finishing qualifies Roberts to take part in a final competition at the Silverstone Racing Circuit in England in June. The competition will consists of a week-long "boot camp" - to be filmed for a reality television series to air on the Speed Channel this fall - where contestants will test their physical and mental abilities behind the wheels of real Nissan race cars. Racing professionals will make up a panel of judges to evaluate Roberts and his competitors to determine who will be the most skilled athlete and winner of a racing contract with Nissan.
"It's pretty overwhelming," said Roberts, thinking of the possibility of becoming a professional race car driver. "I'm a little bit nervous."
As a way to prepare for his upcoming competition across the pond, Roberts recently flew to Dallas, Tx., where he trained with Mazda race car driver Eric Foss and was able to drive a real Mazda MX5 race car. The experience was one Roberts said he'll never forget.