It was my 34th lap around Trial Mountain and I was getting frustrated as to why my lap times were not getting significantly better. I was pushing my car so hard around the track that my eyes were dry from not blinking and my shirt was drenched in sweat… and then I needed a toilet break so I hit pause. Of course, I’m actually talking about the Playstation 3 racing game, Gran Turismo 5.
You can blame one half of my love for cars to that great game; it was not only fun but also a good representation of tuning and racing cars. When paired with a good gaming steering wheel and pedal set, it was as real as you could get without leaving the comfort of your living room.
The other half could be blamed on the influences of friends, car videos and magazines.
Both of these things left me with a desire for not just wanting to own a fast car, but one that would go fast around a racetrack… and with that, this is where it all started.
Remember the old school Daytona 500 and Outrunners games at your local Timezone or Galaxy World? Achieving victory was all about avoiding obstacles and going faster than your opponents (or if you were dodgy, running them into the wall). Going faster means being a better driver and that meant having better skills than the rest to come out as Number 1.
Of course these were only arcade games so the physics and realism of being behind a real car weren’t really comparable, but it did give you a whiff of the racing adrenaline. Moving forward in time, games that were labeled as “Racing simulators” such as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport made an appearance in our homes and gave us a taste of real driving physics and modifications. We were all soon upgrading to Level 3 turbo kits, customising bodykits, dumping our rides to the ground and hooning around real world circuits. If you weren’t into cars previously, then these games should have made an impact… I know it did for me back then. FWD, RWD, MR, turbo, LSD, camber – these were just some of the foreign words these games introduced me to… oh how I’d learn!
From thereon, I knew I had to own a sports car as they were fast, sounded awesome, had the potential to attract chicks and would allow me to know what “going fast” really felt like in real life.
Over a 7 year period, I went from a Mitsubishi FTO GPX to a Subaru WRX MY00 based on friends recommendations and what I learnt from magazines. But throughout my ownership, neither showed their true potential on the track as I was guilty in getting sidetracked by focusing on looks and straight line power.
When the Rex was gone after 5 years of reliable ownership, I experienced a horrid turbo drought and relied on 2 wheels to get me from A to B due to financial circumstances. Although this was a truly depressing period of my life, it was also “the calling” that I’d been hoping for.
So with no performance car to play with, I rekindled my love of Gran Turismo and watched Best Motoring International (BMI) episodes religiously to sedate my withdrawals. BMI showed me how intense and fun circuit-racing was whilst also teaching me the tuning potential of many performance cars. I would watch Tsuchiya or Orido San for hours with undivided attention and envy, as they were truly amazing drivers and really knew how to get the best out of a sports car. I wanted to have the driving skills they possessed as they made controlling cars and going fast look so easy… I thought to myself “surely it can’t be that hard?”
With my bladder empty, Logitech GT Steering wheel in grasp and GT5 in my Playstation 3, I gave it a proper go – I always found using the game controller quite dull so I was impressed with the steering wheel as provided so much more depth and involvement to the game (if you haven’t tried playing with a steering wheel definitely give it a go).
I ended up hours on end battling on international circuits, striving to come first or get the best lap time. The technique needed to get the best driving line whilst driving fast, accurately and smoothly is quite difficult, but I loved the challenge and the victorious outcome. And what do I do after finishing the race?
I would watch the whole race again via replay, simultaneously admiring and scrutinizing my car and driving style. I owe it to the game creators – the game graphics are amazing and watching how your ride weaves around the track so realistically is definitely the pinnacle of their motion magic.
Cycling through different cars throughout the game, the differences between engine types and drivetrain layouts became more and more of an addiction. Soon I learnt that the power delivery of a Naturally Aspirated (NA) engine compared to a Turbocharged engine were quite different, the same goes for the handling characteristics being vastly different between Rear Wheel drive (RWD), Front Wheel Drive (FWD), Mid-Engine Rear Wheel Drive (MR) and Four wheel drive (4WD)… All in all it was all a great learning experience.
With all these newfound knowledge, determination and aspirations, I now needed to take control and translate it into the real world.
One day Jay calls me up asking if I want to buy his old 1989 Nissan 180SX from someone who bought it off him a few years back. It was going for relatively cheap, was in good nick and had the criteria to make a good track car. As soon I heard those words, it was enough said.
After managing to scrape the last few dollars that I had in the bank, ‘SKY-180’ was sitting in my garage…
Oh turbo boost how I’ve missed you.
This was the defining moment, Sky was going to be my speed chariot to lap record history.
It was RWD (which to the motoring purist is the winning layout in motorsport), had a turbocharger for power and response and was topped off with basic handling modifications for tackling those corners… real life Gran Turismo, it’s on!