I have been slacking on my GT Academy updates. I’ve just been grinding away on the wheel. If you look at the GTplanet website, you will see loads of players faster than me commenting on the competition. Still, I’m into the top 600 in my region. Out of about 100,000 participants that’s not bad. But, if I admit that I’m still 2.6 seconds slower than the qualifying lap times, you can see I have a lot of progress to make.
The competition is highly addictive and available to anyone with a PS3. So, I suppose you see the marketing angle right off. If you enjoy the free competition, you’ll definitely want to buy Gran Turismo 6. And, as addictive as it is for me now, trying to slice my time to get into the top 500, if you’re new to online racing or sims, but enthusiastic about motorsports, I guarantee if you spend some time with a controller in hand, you will slice your way through the ranks.
One of the little known secrets of motorsport is this: it’s not how much faster you can go, it’s how much faster you can go faster. Trust me, given an unlimited supply of coffee (your caffeine choice here) I could eventually get a qualifying time. But, the competition has a time limit. Every driving school, every track day, I’ve been to, I always improve. Improvement, if you’re paying attention and breathing is almost inevitable. Every lap is a learning experience in every kind of vehicle.
The good guys, though, the ones who become the great drivers: they go fast faster. They have an innate ability, or they’ve trained themselves, or the physiology of their inner ear that controls balance is just more finely tuned, or something. But, the trick to becoming a racing driver is not going fast. The trick to becoming a racing driver is going fast faster.
This holds true even more so in the real world, where every lap on track counts as dollars spent. Every lap you’re wearing away the tires and brakes, the engine is slowly shaking itself towards a rebuild, the suspension can only take so many bangs over the curbing, not to mention the gas and oil being consumed. So, a driver who can go fast, faster, in the real world, is a valuable commodity. You can almost put a dollar value on getting up to speed on the first flying lap, versus say the fifth. That’s four laps of gas, rubber, etc. not wasted.
Now, if that fast driver provides accurate feedback after just one flying lap: that’s what separates the absolute best from the very very good. But again, that is also a function of getting up to speed faster, then reading the vehicle and realizing what changes are needed. I once asked the manager of a kart track I raced at, how I could get down to the lap times of the most competitive racers at the track, his answer was simple, “Do about another thousand laps.”
So, there in lies the conundrum. The guys who are fast faster might have that inner ear advantage, but more than likely (and here, look no further than the current F1 grid) they probably started in racing at a very young age. I wonder if starting racing at a young enough age can actually change the physiology of the inner ear? Never mind, the point is, you need to get fast faster. Gran Turismo 6 might have finally reached a point of force feedback that makes gaming a valid opportunity to do just that.
This will shock traditionalists, but I am going to make a bold prediction. Within the next 2 years, a national sanctioning body will allow some form of simulated driving experience to be used to replace some portion of ground school for competition license qualifying. Undoubtedly, the requirements will be rigorous and probably involve a lot of the mandatory class room time that feels like waste at a race track. But, why shouldn’t it happen? The GT Academy series has shown us that a level of dedication to online racing shows a correlation to success on track. Yes, GT Academy grads are well supported in racing, but so far they have proved that support justified.
The next step is to go from just promoting the top 0.001% with race drives and sponsorship, to promoting the top 1% with license waivers and contingency programs. It can happen. It will happen. Maybe that’s why this old man keeps grinding on the wheel. I have faith that I can still unlock those magic 2.6 seconds and I believe that simulation is the path that will open up motorsport to a much younger generation.