I Am A Race Car Driver is a series of diary-like articles by Xero based on his experiences of Gran Turismo 5, plus a short analytical review of a specific section of the game and a lap time to beat for those who already have the game.
This week I have become frustrated with my career. It feels like I have lodged myself into a rut, hit a glass ceiling from which I cannot rise further and this irritates my sense of vaulting ambition no end. The issue, you see, is political and financial, as opposed to a lack of skill.
The world of Gran Turismo is a cruel one, I knew that going in, races can be won by simply having a better car than your opponent and this is something we all blindly accept. It’s the same in Formula 1, the best drivers in the world will never place in the top three if they’re not driving that season’s best technological offering, so it’s not like this is an uncommon practice in motor sport. But being a little older and a little wiser I no longer find a thrill in destroying a rival simply because I have more BHP under the bonnet.
Yet this point that I have reached has reinforced that without a powerful car I am nothing, as the gulf between high performance commercial vehicle and suped-up racing weapon is a chasm I am having severe issues crossing. No one in the competitive scene can take me seriously because I cannot challenge the big boys of the sport without a super car, but to get one of these beasts I must demonstrate I deserve one by winning races. Races I need super cars to win. It’s a vicious circle of Joseph Heller proportions, creating a privileged elite of competitors that only accept new members if the ludicrous entry costs can be ponied up. For the rest of us, myself included, we’re left to languish in the lower leagues, competing for comparatively little prize money and reward. While these races have hardcore fans, it’s never going to be a place to earn the kind of living I always thought would come with the territory.
Just when I thought I’d had enough, I was lucky enough to hook up with my newly found racing colleague Antman and two equally hungry motor sport enthusiasts, going by the racing names of The Lynx Defect and The Yiddler. Discussing with them pre-event some of these issues I have with the current GT scene, we decided to get officials involved to equal the playing field, realising that all of us were at significantly different stages of racing life. Plumping for cars chosen by a third party proved intensely satisfying, all of us piloting a vehicle that could potentially see us taking home the metal work, neatly side stepping any economic advantages or disadvantages affecting our chances of glory.
Each race was close, with nail biting finishes and dramatic mid-race changes, tactics morphing throughout a session proving the most beneficial for each of us to stay in the competition. My aggressive driving style was initially rewarding, but as soon as this approach was figured out, they could compensate, closing off gaps I could have exploited and forcing me to slam the brakes on, losing valuable position on the circuit and consequently damaging my lap times. To compensate I would play it safe, sacrificing speed for consistency, playing the long game for victory. The highlight though had to be when we jetted to Nurburgring for the finals, a late night to mid-morning spectacular, watching as the dense and foreboding forest of that most famous of circuits transformed to a haunting, crisp dawn and in turn a lush and inviting Bavarian countryside.
My passion rekindled in Germany I realised that it was the sport I truly loved, not the fame or the glory and that I should perhaps alter my goals accordingly. But how would I do this?
This week’s single lap time: Unmodified Triumph Spitfire 1500 ’74 at Autumn Ring Mini – 42.088
Gameplay: In terms of pure driving, when you are actually on the tarmac, Gran Turismo 5 is without equal in the simulation-on-console genre, with an improved artificial intelligence, a genuine sense of progression in the acquisition of experience and a staggeringly varied number of racing types, including karting, rallying, NASCAR and touring. Getting to these races is tough though, with a menu system that really hasn’t changed since the first Gran Turismo. To some users this will be part of the quirky charm of GT, but to most this will come across as designer arrogance, Polyphony ignoring many major improvements to racing titles that have become integral since Gran Turismo 4. Online is strong but complicated to set up, there are plenty of tracks and vehicles but fully exploring them is a hassle. It’s a big game, but how much you’ll see largely depends on your patience to see through significant design flaws.