U.S. GT Academy champion Bryan Heitkotter will co-drive the #05 car with Ryan Dalziel, Mike Sweeney and Thomas Merrill pair up in the #04 car.

For Immediate Release

Scotts Valley, California – September 9, 2011 – A.M. Performance is proud to announce that it has partnered with Nissan and their global motorsports program GT Academy to bring virtual racing to reality by giving one lucky person the opportunity of a lifetime to become a professional race car driver. Over 53,000 PlayStation Gran Turismo 5 players participated in the first round of the GT Academy competition and after an intense National Final the top 16 players in the country moved on to England where they participated in the final stage of the competition. At the end of the grueling week-long race camp at Silverstone, where the 16 competitors raced in real Nissan race cars, Bryan Heitkotter from Fresno, CA was crowned champion. This intense competition was also filmed as a reality TV show that will air in five hour-long episodes on Speed beginning on Tuesday, September 20 at 10:00 EDT.
American Muscle

As part of the transition from virtual racer to real racer, Heitkotter will get the chance to drive A.M. Performance’s #05 Nissan NISMO 370Z at the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, the season finale of the 2011 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge which will take place September 17th at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course.

Heitkotter will make his GRAND-AM debut alongside the highly experienced Ryan Dalziel who will be his co-driver in the #05 GT Academy/A.M Performance machine. The team recently had a chance to test their Nissan machines in Buttonwillow where both Heitkotter and Dalziel drove the race-prepared 370Z for the first time in preparation for the Mid Ohio event. Joining them in that test were the driving duo of the #04 Nissan NISMO 370Z which includes Mike Sweeney who has been with the rookie team since it’s inception, and Thomas Merrill who will make his second start in the Nissan machine.

30 year old Heitkotter, a self proclaimed professional Gamer, was the fastest virtual driver during the tournament phase of GT Academy and credits his driving success to endless hours of simulations racing. His commitment and speed have now given him a life changing opportunity to become a professional race car driver.

This historic accomplishment, never before seen in North American professional motorsports, opens the door for a whole new generation of racers that now have new hope and a different path to becoming professional race car drivers. It is also a testament for the realism and accuracy of virtual racing and proves that aspiring drivers now have a new cost effective way to develop their skills and experience before hitting the track.

The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will take place September 16 – 17. The 2h30min race will be broadcast on SPEED September 25 at 12:00PM Eastern Time. You can follow all the action through live timing and commentary at The GT Academy reality television show starts airing on SPEED on Tuesday, September 20th at 10:00 P.M. EST.

For more information about the team and its exciting new NISMO 370Z racecars please visit and you can also follow us at and

Bryan Keitkotter

Driver, #05 Nissan GT Academy /A.M. Performance / Nissan NISMO 370Z

“It will be a big challenge racing in the Grand Am Continental Tire series having just started my racing career in July. I’m looking forward to racing on my home soil in the US and learning as much as I can from my teammate for this race, Ryan Dalziel. I was fortunate enough to attend a test day with A.M. Performance while I was back home in California for a few days. It was great to have an opportunity to get to know the team and the car a little bit before the Grand-Am race weekend. We made a lot of progress during the day and we left feeling optimistic about Mid-Ohio.

GT Academy has provided me with a lot of experience behind the wheel in the past two months. The program is thorough and accelerated, with racing nearly every weekend and simulator sessions during the week, plus driver coaching. I’ve spent some time in the simulator at Silverstone running the Mid-Ohio circuit, getting ready for the real thing. I’m hoping I can get up to speed quickly as I’m sure there will be limited practice time.”

Ryan Dalziel

Driver, #05 Nissan GT Academy /A.M. Performance / Nissan NISMO 370Z

“I’m really excited to be part of this unique program with Nissan, GT Academy and A.M. Performance. I think the concept is so different to any other and that made me instantly attracted to it. After running some laps in the A.M. Performance Nissan NISMO 370Z a few days ago, I know we will turn some heads at Mid-Ohio and I was really impressed with Bryan and where his racing experience is at. I can’t wait until Mid-Ohio!”

Mike Sweeney

Driver, #04 A.M. Performance / Nissan NISMO 370Z

“This has been a pretty exciting year, being a part of this team as it all came together from scratch, but everything we’ve done so far pales to this Mid-Ohio event. It’s awesome to be a part of this great program, and to have our #05 car be the GT Academy car is just too cool, and we really need to thank the powers that be at Nissan and Sony for making that happen. The chance to work with a top-notch line-up is always fun too! We had no doubt that Ryan would be the business, we were very impressed by Bryan’s speed at our last test, he’s definitely an asset for this race, and of course I’ve driven with Thomas before; he’s always fast and we really made a good team, so I’m pretty thrilled about our driving line up here. Now we just need to go racing and bring home a good finish to make all those long seven-day work weeks back at the shop worth it for the guys!”

Thomas Merrill

Driver, #04 A.M. Performance / Nissan NISMO 370Z

“It will be great to get the nimble A.M. Performance Nissan NISMO 370Z back in competition again, especially at a technical track like Mid-Ohio. I’d like to thank Jeff Hecox, Andrew Armistead, Mike Sweeney, and all the A.M. Performance guys for allowing me to come back and race with the team again. The team has established a fun, professional atmosphere that any driver would enjoy being a part of! We have enjoyed working with the Nissan NISMO 370z platform, and with each outing we are constantly developing and improving the car. I’d also like to send a special thanks to Chris Tomaszewski, Jimmy Lipe, Bell Helmets and Sparco USA.”

About GT Academy:

GT Academy is a global marketing and motorsports program sponsored by Nissan and Sony PlayStation. It challenges gamers and racing fans alike from across the U.S. to compete in a series of online time trials using Gran Turismo 5 as the platform via pre-selected Nissan vehicles and tracks. As the competition progresses, thousands of hopefuls are narrowed down to the top 32 finalists, who compete in the live national finals for a coveted spot in the top 16. The top 16 will compete in a grueling race camp at Silverstone racing circuit in England, where their strength, stamina, mental agility, and driving skills will be pushed to the limits and beyond. On top of pure talent, it will take a lot of drive, passion and dedication to prove to the judges who really has what it takes to become a professional race car driver. One winner will start down the path of intense training in a seven-month “Driver Development Program” to become a pro, and ultimately, compete in a real race as part of a professional racing team. The entire journey will be documented in a reality show that will air on the SPEED channel for five (5) weeks starting on September 20th at 10:00 p.m. EST. Learn more about GT Academy by visiting

About A.M. Performance:

A.M. Performance is a race car preparation, aftermarket parts, and tuning company based in Scotts

Valley, CA. Our 9000 sq ft. facility is staffed with some of the most skilled and passionate racecar

minds in the country, with all the tools required at their fingertips to build high-end racecars for the most competitive series in the country. Our professional fabricators can handle any job, big or small, from Grand Am Rolex GT cars, to your everyday HPDE track car.

Although A.M. Performance is equipped to build a racecar from any make, we specialize in Nissan 370Z’s and Nissan GT-R’s. Our experience racing both platforms gives us unique experience to advise our customers on the exact products they need for their street, track day, or full racecar Nissan.

Check the A.M. Performance website often for company updates. Our first two years look to be

extremely exciting with our multi-car entry into the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS class. We will also be coming to market with multiple hard parts which will be must haves for any track or race car 370Z. An AWD chassis dyno is also in the works to be installed and ready for customer tunes by the end of 2011.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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