Gran Turismo. Gaming meets reality!

Gran Turismo. Gaming meets reality!

The official movie poster.

I love driving… I love the feeling of control, power and speed. The connection between (wo)man, machine, and the hot tar. Working through the gears. The sense of freedom and adventure. Driving with my windows down and the radio blaring. Driving in the rain. On the open-road and the off-road. Driving alone with the mental space to just collect my thoughts and mull things over. Driving with someone to chat with, to solve the problems of the world and get stimulating new ideas. I love the corners and I love the straights. I just love driving…

I also love movies. Ergo, I love movies about cars and driving… I think “Ford vs Ferrari” was the best movie in this category. I loved every minute. If you’re a petrolhead and haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favour and find a copy for your viewing pleasure. But there are others that are also worthy…

So, we’ve established that I love cars, driving and movies featuring the same. I have, however, never been a gamer. What, you may wonder, does the one have to do with the other? Well, they come together beautifully in the movie Gran Turismo. In a nutshell, according to Wikipedia, “Gran Turismo is a series of racing simulation video games developed by Polyphony Digital. Released on PlayStation systems, Gran Turismo games are intended to emulate the appearance and performance of a large selection of vehicles, most of which are licensed reproductions of real-world automobiles.” But wait, there’s more… Let’s crack on!

Kazunori Yamauchi was an academic and a well-read child. His favourite books were those of Jean-Henri Fabre, a French entomologist who inspired Charles Darwin, and perhaps partly because of his lively writing style, Kazunori wanted to follow in this insect-lover’s footsteps. From the age of ten, his interests expanded into computer programming, which became another passion of his – one of two which were ultimately to define him.

Kazunori Yamauchi.

He had always had a keen interest in cars – from about the age of three years old. As soon as he got his licence, he came to the realisation that his true love was driving the cars. Instead of dreaming of becoming a racing driver, he acquired his first car, a Toyota Celica XX (known as a Supra outside of Japan), and became a “hashiriya” – basically, a street racer. At the age of 24, with the aid of a five-year repayment loan, Yamauchi bought a Nissan GT-R R32. Six months later, at a speed of 200km/h he spun out and crashed.

In the meantime, his skills on a computer found him employed at Sony, preparing the first PlayStation. He also headed up a studio within Sony Computer Entertainment called “Polys Entertainment” that was researching a new and ambitious driving project. Motor Toon Grand Prix was the studio’s first released game. After five years of protracted research and development, Yamauchi set the precedent for the rest of his career, and Gran Turismo was launched in December 1997. A total of 10.85 million copies were shipped worldwide, making it the best-selling PlayStation game at the time. There was huge acclaim by the public, and this was the true beginning of the legend – of both the man and the game. 

The fantasy was left behind and more purposeful, realistic rides were mirrored. The motivation was to make a real driving simulator, and to have real-life cars appear in the game. The initial Gran Turismo was one of the first, if not thefirst, to introduce physics simulations. The feel of driving was captured like in no other console game that had gone before, and concepts such as weight transfer, understeer and oversteer were introduced. To an audience more accustomed to the binary drifts of Ridge Racer, this was simply fabulous!!

The legendary game.

Interesting Fact: The nameplate GT-R is used on some of the most incredible feats of automotive engineering ever produced. The GT-R abbreviation stands for Gran Turismo–Racing. An Italian naming convention that was chosen by the Japanese as most cars that were made in Japan at that time used Western abbreviations – to further enhance sales.

In 2006, the GT Academy was conceived by Darren Cox, who was a former Nissan Europe executive. The idea was to help Sony PlayStation racing gamers become professional racing drivers. I couldn’t believe that this was actually possible, and yet here we are… The programme took players proficient at Gran Turismo and turned them into professional racing drivers. Its first graduate, Lucas Ordóñez (previously a Spanish taxi driver), stood on the podium at the Le Mans 24 Hours within three years of winning the Academy. The marketing exercise proliferated into a phenomenon of its own, mainly due to the incredible results achieved. And this is the story that is told in Gran Turismo, the movie.

The story revolves around Jann Mardenborough, a true life British professional racing driver. Born on 9th September 1991, in 2011 he became the third and youngest winner of the GT Academy competition. In 2013, Mardenborough placed third in the LMP2 class at the iconic 24-hour race in France, Le Mans. In 2015, a Nissan GT3 driven by Mardenborough got airborne. It left the notoriously difficult and deadly Nürburgring track in Germany and crashed into a group of spectators. One died and he was hospitalized. So yes, the film does follow the true-life narrative rather closely, although there are some disconnects as well. 

How good is the movie? Well, I thought it was pretty decent! It’s a true underdog story, complete with twists and turns, politics, rivalry, accidents, and great performances. It has energy and fizz and will keep you entertained for the duration of its 2 hrs 15 mins running time. The soundtrack is a delight too, and engenders emotion the whole way through… 

Its currently showing on Netflix– a worthy watch if you’re interested in motorsport.

Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team


GRAN TURISMO – Official Trailer (HD)

GT Academy 2011 Physical & Mental Activities

How I Went from Gran Turismo to Le Mans – /DRIVEN

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