With news appearing over the last week that Gran Turismo 6 would feature the Goodwood Hillclimb, TheSixthAxis was lucky enough to be invited down to the Goodwood Festival of Speed to try out a new demo of the game featuring the course.
Before all of that we also got to sit down with previous GT Academy winners Lucas Ordonez and Wolfgang Reip for a chat about the Academy, plans for the future, and of course, Gran Turismo. We started by asking the guys whether they always had an interest in racing, before Gran Turismo.
“Well, I come from Spain where my Dad and my Brother are racing drivers so I have motor racing in the blood,” said Ordonez. “I always dreamed of becoming a racing driver so I entered the GT Academy program and tried to win, and fortunately I won.”
“I had no racing background,” replied Reip, “but I had a karting background. I started karting as a child, the same time as GT1 came out, and I had to stop as a teenager as it was too expensive, but I was still playing GT.”
Did they ever think that booting up Gran Turismo would lead them to where they are now? Ordonez tells us “he never would have expected it” but says that after five years of racing, including Le Mans three times, it’s “completely a dream come true for a gamer and for someone who wanted to become a racing driver.”
“It really is an amazing experience,” added Reip. “When I first entered GT Academy I would have never expected that one day I’d be driving some very fast GT3 race cars.”
Do the guys find themselves coming under more scrutiny from other drivers due to the link with video games, we ask. “Well yes at the beginning everyone was thinking coming in via video games was not possible, and I remember in the first international race I did with Johnny Herbert, all the teams and drivers were joking with each other saying ‘what’s this gamer doing here?’,” replied Ordonez, “but then we showed on the track that we had the pace.”
“After that,” he adds, “some of the biggest LMP1 drivers came to me and asked ‘is this real, Lucas? We can’t believe you are here because of the PlayStation competition’. It’s amazing to see professional racing drivers talking about our story and really getting surprised about it.”
“The experienced drivers, maybe those aged 35-40 were really friendly and welcomed us,” added Reip, “but some of the younger drivers, around my age, made fun of us and thought we couldn’t drive. I think they may have been jealous as we were lucky – it took them 10 years to become a racer, where we did it within a few months so it’s understandable.”
Ordonez says that making the jump from Gran Turismo to the track was “difficult” despite the game’s simulation leanings. “Racing on the screen doesn’t demand you be fit, whereas in reality you have to be fit, you have to train and you have to learn from your mentors how to go faster and faster on a race track,” he says.
“It’s all a learning process. GT Academy isn’t just what you see on the PlayStation. You have to do a transition, to do local racing in the UK, fitness training and improving concentration.”
“The Driver Development Program is really progressive,” says Reip. “You start with a stock Nissan 370Z, in which you gain some experience, then you go in a 370Z group N, which is tuned for racing, then you go in the 370Z GT4 which is a proper race car.”
“After that you go to GT3, so it’s really a step by step thing, but because of this you feel quite comfortable.”
And in the future, what do they hope to achieve? “Well, Le Mans in the biggest race in the World for endurance racing, and that’s the place to be,” replies Ordonez. “My dream is to be in the top category, in LMP1 with Nissan one day, and that’s the target. At the moment I’m really enjoying GT3 in Europe where we’ve had some successful results. This year is going to be pretty busy around the World with some testing and racing overseas so I’m really excited.”
Reip says his goal is to “stay a racing driver as long as possible.” “It’s always been my dream,” he adds, “so I just want to do it for the rest of my life.”
And do they still get the chance to play Gran Turismo? “Yeah, Gran Turismo is the reason I became a racing driver and it’s really good fun to see all the people here playing on Gran Turismo 6,” says Ordonez. “The game is cool, and it’s good to see the Goodwood Hill climb in the game for the first time. You can feel a big difference between GT5 and 6 in terms of the physics, which have been improved. It’s good fun.”
“When I have time,” explains Reip. “I travel a lot, but when I have time it’s always nice to have a go on Gran Turismo. GT6 is a really good step forward, and we can really see an improvement in the physics. If you look at Silverstone, it’s amazing how accurate it is. I know that track very well, and in GT6 it’s exactly the same. You cannot be more accurate.”
“I think the fans will be happy.”
With Wolfgang’s statement of “you cannot be more accurate” ringing in my ears, I eagerly made my way over to the demo pod to try out the Hillclimb course. I’ve got to say, I think it will be a firm favourite among the TSA Gran Turismo fans – combining speed with tricky bends and an extremely narrow track in places. It will also lend itself well to competitions, with the whole thing being over in 50 seconds if you’re good enough.
In terms of accuracy, there was really only one way to test this out. Both Lucas and Wolfgang, who have never done the Goodwood Hillclimb had a go on the GT6 track before heading out onto the real thing to do a fast lap. I was lucky enough to be a passenger with Wolfgang – although beforehand there were moments of nervousness as both the guys hadn’t managed a lap in the game without hitting a wall!
Fortunately the real lap went fine, and between my screams of terror and having my head bounced around a shiny new Nissan GTR I was impressed at the accuracy of the track in the game. I knew exactly what was coming, although my approach speed in the game was slightly lower than Wolfgang’s in real life. Slightly.
Edited by Alex C.