Are driving games anything like the real thing? Can a talented player really translate their skill from the virtual world? As a passionate racing fan myself, it would be a life dream to have the opportunity to race a real car in a professional season. Indeed on my first visit to Silverstone in the mid 1990's it truly represented the hallowed tarmac. There was something about it that just made me want to drive…fast! But the realistic situation is, for many of us, that racing will remain a dream, something for the select few who are either luckily enough or suitably financially backed to achieve their goals. Do I believe that a gamer’s talent can be converted to the real thing? Yes! Could I do it myself? If you had asked me years ago I would have said yes without hesitation, but as life has gone on I've realised my own limitations, physically and in the way I mentally approach a situation. Being a top racing driver is not just about driving quickly, it’s about your ability to learn and listen, to take information on board quickly and efficiently, it’s about the complete package.
Gran Turismo 5 may just be hovering on the horizon but 2009's GT Academy has certainly been keeping the racing community busy. It’s fired everyone up in the best way possible and finally for one lucky player, those that dream of becoming a real racing driver, that dream will actually become a reality. The road ahead will not be an easy one, winning in their local time trial competitions, competitors were brought together for regional heats before the chosen few were whisked off to Silverstone for the ultimate test.
On arriving it was a grey drab day and though still very much a building site, it was remarkable just how quickly the new Silverstone circuit was taking shape since our previous report a month ago. Arriving at base camp and all was quiet as the competitors were finishing their morning session, this area containing a Nissan GTR besides GT5, alas only Prologue was available for play. However it gave us the chance to organise our notes as we planned the upcoming interviews. Indeed, as it was Day 2 of the event, VVV were privileged to be one of the only reporters on site, so we were given pretty much free reign to report quality coverage of this event.
VVV: So guys have you always been gamers, what was the first console you had?
John Oh I’ve been playing racing games for years but I’m a big biking fan really.
VVV: Ah a Tourist Trophy fan, hopefully we’ll see a sequel to that too!
Alex Well the first console I had was the PS1 and the first racing game was probably F1 ‘96 moving onto ‘97 and my first Gran Turismo game I had was GT was GT2, played it on my friends console and knew straight away I had to have it.
VVV: Oh yes F1 97 was excellent, I remember hammering it round as Damon Hill in his Arrows, always trying to maximise its performance.
Alex Oh and I loved TOCA 2 as well, a fantastic game at the time.
VVV: Yeah a decent package, great sound and a superb atmosphere. So GT Academy came out in late 2009 and we were all excited to try the new GT5 physics. How long does it take, to really get good, to take you up to that top flight standard? I was stuck in the high 1:37’s tuned and 1:49 stock but just couldn’t find that time, where do you think you find that time?
Alex A lot of it comes from the fact that I’ve played loads of racing games all the way through over the years, but on Gran Turismo 5 much comes from the fact that I’ve played it constantly for the month and a half it was out, I played it most days and for the final day it was actually getting fairly close so I played it for about 7 hours that day to defiantly make it and get my place in the top 20.
John I was doing a couple of hours a day, of course in that time you can do about 60 laps so it was enough to get me up there.
VVV: John what were your times in the region of? 1:35 Tuned? Where do you think the time came from, were there any particular corners that stood out in really improving lap times?
John I think when you get down to a certain level; it’s just down to tenths on every corner, with the stock car you can easily tend to overdrive there but slow in and fast out is the key.
VVV: Do you use a wheel?
John Yeah I use a G25, the pedals are really good and a bit of resistance for the brake as well.
VVV: I can imagine that was pretty tough, I’ve done so many laps where I’ve binned it on Turn 2, you come storming into Turn 1, make a great corner, try to squeeze some tenth’s and it all goes away, the car just spins out every time, so frustrating.
Alex The problem I had was the corner leading onto the banked section because at that point, if you’re on an amazing lap, you’re thinking oh my god, it’s going to be top 3 or something, and than at that point you go too quickly around it or far too cautiously around it and just loose the whole lap and its so frustrating.
VVV: It is a tricky corner isn’t it? Coming out of the slowest corner you can take a good bite out of that right hander, really attacking the curb but finding consistency is tough, and then there’s that final banked corner with is deceptive in its difficulty, there really is only 1 right line.
Alex Yeah in the standard car especially, you can loose a lot of time in that corner, you’ve got to get the line right so you don’t scrub off too much speed, so it’s essential to get it right for a good lap.
VVV: So you made it through, absolute relief, coming here and the pressure is suddenly back on again , you’ve got an opportunity ahead of you, how do you think you’ve experience so far?
John I had reviewed the videos from last year and made a few notes on what they did last year, made a few notes and put it on file, just hoping for the best really.
Alex It’s been great fun, just all the way through; I’m doing things I’ve never had the opportunity to do before. I’ve had very little track time, I’ve been in a kart a couple of times and I’ve done a track day and that’s where my experience real performance cars ends so to actually get the chance and get such good training from all of these guys here as well, its been a privilege really.
John Yeah it’s the first time I’ve driven a car on a track so its tough keeping up, just hoping I can catch up, I think the speed is there, its just that I’m starting form a lower point.
VVV: Now have you been a big racing fan have you been following racing for a long time?
Alex Yeah, that’s why I got into racing games, I can just about remember Nigel Mansell winning the F1 World Championship so I would have been about 5 then, so from a very young age I’ve always been interested in motorsport.
John Not so much I’m defiantly more of a biking fan so my knowledge is in that area despite loving GT.
VVV: Obviously you’ve had training here today, you’ve been out in the 370z, you’ve done some karting, how do you think you’ve been getting on?
Alex I think it’s going quite well, in the 370z today I improved quite a lot over the times I managed yesterday, I was a bit frustrated yesterday because my laps were a bit messy, and I was sliding about all over the place, so my times and laps weren’t as in-control as I would like them to be, and today I was far quicker than I was yesterday, and in the go-karting I improved a lot throughout the hour that I had to drive. So I was quite pleased with how I had moved on, I know some people have a lot more experience than me through talking to some of them but I’m happy with where I would like to be at the moment.
John The karting was brilliant fun, really hard work, I’ve done it before but I think they are the fastest karts I’ve driven, 125cc Rotex 85mph so it was quite a challenge.
VVV: It’s certainly a competitive bunch, you’ve done a little driving test as well, or should I say, a surprise test, how do you think you got on with that? Was it just the flags and driving basics or was there more to it?
John No there was a lot of questions on sports car racing, who won Le Mans? What engine did this car use? Name 6 corners at Silverstone etc.
VVV: As a biking fan it’s a tough one for you, but too be fair unless you are a sports car fan you probably wouldn’t know many of those anyway?
John I felt like I was guessing a lot and hadn’t done that well but apparently I did ok.
Alex I think I got on alright, there was one or two questions that I looked and thought, I don’t know that, and I don’t know that, but then rest of the all of the others I knew so I think I got on alright. I haven’t been told what my marks were yet but I’m kind of curious to know.
VVV: Do you know what you are being judged on, have you been told specifically is it technique, or how you listen?
Alex It’s just everything, they’re looking for a complete package, so that’s why there is such a variety in the training objective, they’re assessing physical fitness, mental aptitude, and how we are able to deal with the press and of course driving skill as well. So they are looking for a complete driver, so its a bit of everything really.
John We had a briefing this morning for a lot of technical driving advice, racing lines and the different aspects of braking and exit points so I think they’re looking for an improvement on yesterday based on what advice we’ve been given.
John It’s very competitive I know some of the guys are dead quick, some of the Spanish guys were very quick.
VVV: Thanks for your time guys and good luck in the competition as well!