I have spent a lot of time playing racing games over the years.
Seriously, a whole lot of time.
Everything from arcade style stuff like Ridge Racer to more hardcore sims like iRacing.
But if you were to add up all the hours spent in all the games over all the years, one of them would Stand tall above the rest.
And that of course is granturismo.
Suffice to say a little bit of a fan and so I am very excited to be going to Polyphony Digital today to see where they make the game.
But this isn't just a bit of fan service.
No, I'm going there to get some practice laps in around the Tsukuba Raceway.
But later this week I'm going to be competing in one branch was hardest races, but I'm going to be doing it for real.
Like millions of other American gamers, I got my first taste of Japanese car culture in Gran Turismo.
An Introduction to a forbidden fruit like the Nissan GTR Subaru w RX STI and a civic type car cars that are all available in the US now thanks in large part to the success, That video game.
In fact, I owe my career in no small part to Gran Turismo, it was writing about racing game over a decade ago and they got me started down this whole long path to where I am today.
I feel so incredibly lucky.
[SOUND] But I never thought it would lead me here to do this to race for real and an event made famous, or perhaps infamous in granturismo.
Just about any granturismo fan will remember the four hour long monster roadster endurance race.
It's a massive test of skill because you can't tune your way to a win.
And of patience too.
As it turns out, that end game event is based on a real event, the Mazda media endurance race, run every year by teams of journalists and occasionally professional racers from across Japan.
2019 marked its 30th anniversary and Mazda was kind enough.
To invite me along.
Just like in the game, the cars in the endurance race are almost entirely unmodified, running [UNKNOWN] for four hours straight, and so I couldn't help wondering just how close to my lap times in the game could I get in the real world?
We're taking a road going MX 5 to get the Polyphony Digital to give me a little bit more time to get familiar, now with the neon I've spent plenty of time in the end.
But to get familiar with sitting on this side of the car shifting with my left over the course of the four hour endurance race, I'll be doing plenty of toe healing and rev matching and all that good stuff.
And all the pedals are we all in the right place.
Shifting with my left hand still feels wrong.
We're at the developer's brand new, super secret facility in a nondescript building in Tokyo.
his is where the next-generation of Gran Turismo is being built.
And it feels really special to be here and to get into one of their driving pods that they've loaded up with our car, with the Road Show logo on it.
That's pretty awesome.
It's time for me now To get in the game, run a few laps, and see how I do.
All right I've been running some laps around Tsukuba circuit, which is a place that a lot of you will be familiar with, either from playing Gran Turismo.
Yourself or maybe from watching some bootleg copies of the best motoring videos back in the 90s.
But either way, this is a really tricky circuit with a lot of tricky camera action.
The hair pins are actually heavily cambered which you need to take advantage of that to get good speed through them.
There's also some uphill and downhill sections which are always a little bit difficult to feel in the game.
But for sure on Saturday I would feel knows in the real.
Now, this is the same car that we were just driving around on the street.
Obviously it's a little bit more fun than it was driving around in Tokyo traffic to be out here.
It's definitely the same basic dynamics, the same sort of body roll that you're used to in MX five.
And since this is the one and a half liter motor, which we don't get in the states Having to get on the throne a little bit earlier than I might have otherwise if I had the two leader that we get back home, but we actually had one of the Polyphony Digital developers come over and go into developer mode and make some tweaks to the car to make it feel more like the real car.
We're gonna be racing on Saturday.
So I feel like I'm getting some good experience here.
My best lap so far is an 11.8 Which I think is pretty good.
We're aiming to be in the low teams, one minute teams when we're in the race.
But it's honestly a little bit academic at this point because the race on Saturday is not just about speed, it's also about efficiency.
At that point, what we need to do is save fuel to make sure that we get to the end.
So we're gonna be doing things like short shifting, lifting and coasting.
And maybe even doing a little bit of drafting if we can find a willing partner.
At that point, again, we're gonna be saving fuel and efficiency run to make sure that we can get to the end of the race without running out of gas.
So I honestly don't know how much time I'll actually be able to go full flat out as fast as I want to, learn how I can actually get to that 11 point in the real world.
Wait untill we see [SOUND] After spending an afternoon practicing in the digital world, it was time to return to the real one and the real scoop a circuit, a short track it just over two kilometers in length.
It has become famous around the world thanks to its inclusion in so many racing games, so many Japanese motoring videos Plenty of drift battles too.
So this isn't exactly how ground and the way that say Silverstone is in the history of Formula One or lamal is to endurance racing.
But for me, this place felt incredibly special and weirdly familiar and given I'd never been here before.
It was here I got my first glimpse at our current in the flesh, all stickered up and looking like something right out of the game.
Perhaps because the folks at Polyphony Digital that do the in game livery design this one for us to beneath the skin, the car is almost entirely stock, the rollcage and interior being the biggest modifications, plus that lovely breed racing seat.
There's a new front strut tower bar under the nose to help balance the extra chassis stiffness introduced by that cage, new brake pads, hood, pin safety wiring on everything.
But otherwise, that's about it.
The overall package looked epic and I couldn't wait to strap in, but I wouldn't have the car to myself.
This being a four-hour endurance race, I have a little bit [INAUDIBLE].
Kamahiro Izumi is a veteran racer here at Tsukuba and a previous MX5 sprint race winner.
Kazuki Yamada is our hot shoot, 2012 Gran Turismo Asian Champion, and now an employee of Polyphony Digital, working on the Gran Turismo series.
Satoshi Saito is a Japanese automotive journalist and a Nurburgring 24-hour racer.
Peter Lyon is an international motor journalist, Nurburgring 24-hour racer and the man who went through all the hard work to pull this team together.
Lining up all the requisite sponsors and the drivers.
And then well, you know me.
Finally there's Anthony Winston who works at Sega by day but for this weekend would be the voice of reason from the pit wall calling out instructions in mostly telling us to slow down and save fuel.
One of our first tasks was learning how to get in and out of the car quickly.
That seems easy to climbing into and out of a roadster with full gear on and strapping in can be clumsy, especially after 45 minutes in the car.
Thankfully, all pit stops with a driver change are required to take at least a full minute.
And with a little bit of practice and the help of the kitchen timer, we got to figure it out.
Okay, that's really good guys.
And then it was time for me in the car for real, for a few minutes anyway.
I can turn on the air conditioning right?
We refuel after this right?
Yes, we do.
In that case, I'm going to Alaska.
It was a ridiculously hot and sticky day.
Japanese summer in its full effect with massive humidity, everybody in the pits was crowding near whatever fan they could find.
In the car, swallowed up in my [UNKNOWN] suit, I was absolutely baking.
We had just one short practice session ahead of qualifying.
All right, looks like we're going right out?
And since I was the only one on the team who hadn't been to Tsukuba before, I was given the honor of gettign a few laps in to find my way around.
But once I hit the track, it was all about getting up to speed.
Because none of the other competitors, some of whom have been doing this for decades, were wasting any time at all.
While I was quicker than some, I wasn't as fast as I'd hoped.
It's been updated 1-20.
The lifting and coasting I'd been taught to do meant I was coming in through that last long carousel corner much slower than I wanted, and it was throwng all my braking points off.
That in the brakes in the race car were way sharper than those in this simulated one.
lap after lap I was too slow into turn one.
But I was also being cautious everyone the team had warned me about pushing into that turn.
A tricky change of camera they said has sent many races spiraling off into the distance.
This will be your last full race lap if you will.
Lap after this we're gonna bring you in.
Eventually all too soon, I had to come in and hand the car over to Umanisant, our Gran Turismo Asia champion and the one who would do the qualifying.
How does that feel compared to Gran Turismo?
[LAUGH] A little bit different, the brakes are incredibly different from the simulator.
I haven't found that many good steering wheel [UNKNOWN] that actually feel anything like an actual car, and indeed, my braking points were way off than what they were in the game.
That's gonna be working.
I think that's where I'm losing most of my time, but I feel safe which is the most important thing I feel at any point like I was pushing the cars took a long way to go.
Meanwhile, my son was quickly up to speed and searching for clear tracks.
Make his run unconstrained by need to save fuel or tires.
He could attack every corner and read that little one and a half liter for all it's worth.>> Yeah Okay.
Just missed out on P1.
You're in P2 with 1 minute, 14.475 secs.
His first lap was good for provisional second place, just 19 thousands off the pole.
But he wanted more.
On his second lap, he dove into the hairpin and made it past one car on entry.
But on the way out, he got bonked by a second car, forcing him to back off.
Sadly, that was all he'd be able to do.
And with one other team sneaking under our time, we would start the race in Okay, so I have to stop the head.
Yeah, Madison did a great job.
He went out.
He hit the lines first off.
First from his first lap he was on speed and then from the second attack lap.
What can I say?
He quoted to position two.
On his first attack.
And while he wasn't able to improve on that, later on he did get caught in traffic, so all in all an awesome job.
So we're in the second row.
We've got, 17 minutes left until the race starts and running through all the teams right now.
Introducing themselves saying their spirit, how happy they are to be here and I'm very happy to be here myself.
I'm starting third on the grid, I'm going second so I don't have to deal with everybody [UNKNOWN].
It's a lot of traffic out there and nerves are starting to ramp up.
The sun's getting a little more, it's getting a little bit cooler but it's still pretty stinky gross.
I'm ready to give the car [UNKNOWN]
Peter Lyon, the man who brought us all together and made this whole thing happen would have the honor of taking the first stint.
We're away, [INAUDIBLE] we're away.
Traction control off, all good.
Starting on the second roll and, after rolling starts, diving right into the fray.
The passing started in the first corner, roadsters cutting and diving for position as soon as the green flag flew.
This, remember, is a four-hour endurance race that's all about fuel saving It's meant to be a marathon.
Doing good, Pete, keep your elbows out.
But these guys wanted to sprint.
Yeah, I had to let this guy go, doing crazy ****.
Some acting more aggressively than others.
Starting to roll it back a bit.
I'm starting to roll back the revs a bit.
By running fewer revs and shifting sooner, Peter was conserving fuel, enabling us to run longer and hopefully get to the end of the race without running dry.
[FOREIGN] Thank you, Peter.
You might be wondering just how we're tracking our fuel consumption.
I wish we could say we had a fancy tank monitoring system or the like, but such augmentations are not allowed.
Instead, every few laps when we cross beneath the mainstream bridge, we radioed in the figures displayed in the trip computer.
These then were interpreted by our dedicated pit crew, giving us an estimate of just how we were doing on fuel.
But it was really only that An estimates.
On track things continued to get heated with some drivers resorting to flashing their lights in an attempt to distract Peter.
On the straight maintain five but only five.
No, no, no, no, no.
PI the next car is about 10 seconds behind you but.
Even though I'd like to leave you out there, I'm gonna have to bring you in.>> Soon it was time for our penalty, a penalty for what?
Well, Peters teams in the past have been competitive, quite competitive.
In fact, thanks to the occasional inclusion of former Formula One driver Yokoyama.
Coming in now
Despite Cody Asan not joining the ranks this year, and despite the handicap of fielding a certain American rookie journalist, our team was still awarded and unnecessary run through the pitch, plus an agonizing one minute stuff.
We've been running in seventh place.
Now we're back nine Wait for it, six, five, four, engine on, two, one, zero, start.
Peter headed back out for the rest of stint, and then it was my turn.
Is Tim ready?
One more lap.
It's only you've got to go now.
Keep your elbows out, staying clean.
Coming in, coming in.
Okay, feed road.
Shoulder straps, please 40 kilometers an hour.
Yep, yep, yep, yep.
From the white line.
Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep.
I don't know if that was ready, but I was suited up.
It was my turn to shine.
In the pits, my first instinct was to help strap myself in.
But knowing it was quicker to let them handle all that all I needed to do was make sure my seat was in the right spot and make sure the belts were tight.
And then go.
[UNKNOWN] Five in stock, please traction control.
Two, one, go.
YOu are clear.
Watch it, stop, stop.
Woah, woah, woah, woah.
All right, guys.
Well done fellows.
[UNKNOWN] Coming up on traffic Immediately, I was in traffic with no time to warm up.
Racers who were in the group swarmed all around me.
Soon though, it was my time to turn it up.
[INAUDIBLE] clear [INAUDIBLE]
Every time I'd get into a groove, cars that were on a different pit schedule and a lap ahead would come through.
A blue flag meant I had to get out of the way and let them by.
I'm getting blue flags.
Cool, let them through.
And then try to find my line again.
But there were passes for position too, with every car making exactly the same power, you don't get the pass done on the corner, it might not get done at all.
All right, coming up on number eight.
It's all right, good stuff, that's the way to go.
Domo arigato saying that we can give you a little bit more, so why don't you shift to a 5,200 on the infield?
Blissfully, Anthony gave me a few more revs to play with and the passes started coming more frequently.
Yep that was, you're down until the 117's, 117, 8.
[LAUGH] This is taking forever.
But I wasn't the only one making passes with a car running a rather patriotric livery sneaking by.
You just made a gesture.
I'm hoping it was a polite one.
I'll have to ask you later.
Despite all the air rushing around me, with the windows up, the car felt like a furnace.
I had to keep my helmet cracked just to keep enough wind going in my face.
It was incredibly hot, and even though I was only halfway through a fairly short stint, I was starting to feel the impacts of dehydration.
Still, my times kept creeping down.
So you know, Tim, you're in the low 17s now, that was 17.2.
The longer I spent in the car, the better I felt and the quicker I got.
I'd only had about ten laps to go before I'd have to pull in and I was gonna make the most of it.
This guy, he's not gonna let me by, so this should be fun.
Now he's gonna let me die, all right, maybe.
There you go.
Well he put his blinker on he didn't lift at all.
So that didn't help me too much.
There you go.
Domo arigato, Mr. Toyota.
Yeah, by the way was Mr.
Toyota as in Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation.
So you're laughing Between two and three seconds faster than the two cars ahead of you as well.
Lap times were continuing to improve and I really wanted to get a few more cars pushing a little too hard into the hairpin.
That didn't sound good.
We go, drift into action, no big deal.
[LAUGH] I'm gonna do a little bit to path back from here.
Give it a stretch if you need to.
>See how I can make him nervous on the left turn?
>Oh, I sure did.
Probably three laps there.
The fourteen [UNKNOWN] lap.
>On my final lap, I won't lie, I got a little bit misty eyed.
Which is impressive considering how dehydrated I was.
It hit me just how special a thing this was that I was doing, literally living out a fantasy game I'd spent so many hours of my life preparing for.
And the time was almost over.
My fastest lap time was a 117 dead.
That's about six seconds lower than my absolute fastest lap in the game.
But when I was saving fuel and short shifting like I had to in a race, End game laps were actually in the low 16s, meaning I was less than a second slower in the real world.
But the big difference was how I felt, I was completely destroyed.
The adrenaline seemed to dump out of my system and all I wanted to do was sit down and drape a blissfully cool towel over my head.
[LAUGH] That was pretty good, man, I felt like I was finally getting tot he point where I was getting to lap times and I was happy with or close to happy with.
And then I caught up with traffic, which slowed me down but made it a whole lot more fun.
So I guess it's a give and take.
Man, that was incredible.
That time flew by.
I really thought that a stint that long would have me eager to get out of the car.
But, nope, I wanted more laps.
I definitely wanted more laps.
I could have got that last guy, at least, with one more lap.
[SOUND] So it goes.
I don't know how you replicate that in a simulator.
You have to set up your wheel and pedals in a hot yoga room or something like that to come anywhere near.
I am completely drenched under the suit.
I desperately, desperately wanna show, but not as much as I wanna go back out again.
And how did I do?
Well, we were in 15th position when I got back on track.
When [UNKNOWN] merged back on after me, he was in 14th position.
For total rookie, I was pretty content with that.
[FOREIGN] Okay, so my day was done but we were still less than halfway through the race, with the sun getting lower Hitoshi psycho slotted in to take his turn, cutting through traffic and bringing us up a few more spots as the sun came down [FOREIGN]
Okay, okay, okay.
At night, most of the cars run some sort of external LED strip.
To make them easier to spot.
Otherwise, they'd all look the same in the dark.
But slightly more troubling for us was another light that came on, the fuel light.
That meant it was time for our single fuel stop cycle sun pitting in from 18th place, we were allowed just one dose of extra fuel will the entire race run on just 60 liters.
That's less than 16 gallons of gas for four hours of racing.
Go, go, go.
All right guys.
Izumi san headed out into the deepening night And quickly realized there was a problem.
During the pit stop, the trip computer was accidentally reset, zeroing out all the precious calculations through the race.
Now making our final liters of fuel last was gonna be a bit of a guessing game.
Despite that, Izumi Samos was having fun in the dark, quickly bringing us back to tenth position while also doing his best to figure out the fuel situation based on the car's indicated consumption.
By the way if you want an idea just how hot it was, the only time the ambulance had to be deployed during the race was not due to crash,
The Judo race official becoming overcome by the heat.
This lead to some confusion on the track, but thankfully everybody was okay.
Maybe a little bit longer.
Thankfully, everything was also okay when Uzumi san got a little loose in the same hairpin and almost caught me out.
No damage done, except to the grass, but with the tires aging, grip was only gonna get harder to find.
Not along after another close call, it was time to pit again and send out our anchor and our Gran Turismo champion, our last hope of finding the podium and more importantly finishing the race.
[FOREIGN] [INAUDIBLE] okay, [INAUDIBLE] go, go, go, go.
[UNKNOWN] slotted into the race in 12th place and immediately started climbing up the ladder again, but just a few laps into his stint, it happened.
The dreaded few light was on again.
It was lap 158 and we still had 28 minutes of racing to go.
Gas tank lights are pretty pessimistic coming on early, but we really had no idea how much fuel was.
Sloshing around in that tank.
To be safe, Kazuki was asked to drop the revs by a further 500 leaving the bulk of this car's limited power band untouched.
From here on out, it would be all about momentum and conservation.
Amazingly, he was still running laps around 118 and making progress, up to tenth by 161, and then eighth by lap 164.
Somewhere in the dark, Kazuki had missed a yellow flag for a competitor who'd run out of fuel.
He passed under yellow and now we had a drive through penalty.
That meant running the full length of the pit lane at under 40 kilometers an hour, which killed any hopes of elite search to the podium.
But it also saved our race.
We were back down to 10th after the penalty, but with cars dropping like flies running out of fuel left and right, we were soon back up to 9th, and then to 8th.
Two cars were parked on the back straight.
Two cars are parked at the same spot.
It seems like they have stopped together.
We were all counting the minutes on the pit wall, wanting more laps so Kazuki could keep climbing the ranks.
But also aching for the damn race to be over before we ran out of fuel.
[UNKNOWN] The engine started sputtering through the turns.
It was running on fumes but we still had laps to go.
Kazuki was shifting earlier and earlier, costing more and more time.
Now at just 4,000 RPM yet still managing lap times around 1 minute and 22 seconds.
With the final lap looming, there was nothing we could do but hope.
With just a minute remaining, cars were still running out of fuel, and we were about to as well.
With the time ran out, the officials decreed, one more lap.
We still have to make it a final one and a quarter mile before the end.
We had no choice but to let a car going by in the back straight, and then [CROSSTALK] We were completely out of fuel with quick thinking because you can put the car in neutral and hopes and prayed.
With no power at all, he coasted through the last corner, and took the checkered flag, gliding over the line, and coming to a stop in the front straight, Right in front of us.
We'd done it.
We'd made it to the finish by the finest of margins, a testament to the skill of the team on the pit wall and all those calculations.
Our final position?
8th place out of 24 enters.
This has been an absolutely incredible experience.
Coming to Tokyo, driving on some of the highways that I memorized in games like Tokyo Extreme Racer and Midnight Club.
Then going to Gran Turismo AQ to run laps before coming here and doing the race for real.
My lap times, they weren't quite what I wanted them to be, but I came really close to my lap times in the game
People tell me it takes a long time to actually figure this track out so I feel pretty good about my performance.
I spent hours and hours and hours playing Gran Turismo as a kid, time that a lot of my friends thought was wasted.
But I am more and more convinced that was time well spent.
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