Monday, February 11, 2013

Racing Game Players Drive Too Fast for "Gentlemen" Competition

In an interesting bit of gaming news, the British GT has banned graduates from Nissan's GT Academy from competing. For those of that aren't car racing/game enthusiasts, there's a lot in that sentence that probably doesn't make much sense, so let me break it down. The British GT Championship is a sports car racing series based (predictably) in the UK. The GT Academy, meanwhile, is an interesting little experiment where the best players of the Gran Turismo games are invited to train/compete in real cars in what essentially amounts to an annual reality television special. It's been going since 2008 and has probably been little more than a PR-stunt, only been notable to those involved/interested. Until now.

Last week the British GT Championship announced that it will not be allowing graduates of the GT Academy to apply for the series' "pro-am" format. By all accounts, this format uses teams that pair a professional driver with a "gentleman driver," AKA a talented amateur who's expected to be good-for-their-experience-level but below the professional level. This difference typically manifests itself in the speed at which both drivers race, with the "gentlemen" amateurs generally coming in at much lower speeds than their professional counterparts. Only last year, GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough drove at speeds that were on par with his pro-driver partner, Alex Buncombe. The guy who got his start playing Gran Turismo on his Playstation was suddenly driving as fast as the pros.

In response, the British GT Championship has banned this year's GT Academy graduates from competing. British GT series manager Benjamin Franassovici has issued a statement saying,
[GT Academy] has shown itself to be a great way to source raw talent and turn that into real racing talent as we saw in British GT last year with Jann Mardenborough. However Nissan’s ability to find such amazing raw talent means that we cannot accept their full season entry for British GT in 2013. Their new recruits have very little racing experience so they have to be on the lowest performance grade. Their talent, going on Jann’s speed last year, doesn’t reflect this lack of experience so it is not fair to put them up against our Pro/Gentleman grid, the basis of British GT3.
I'm not a fan of racing games, and I don't even care about car racing, but I think this is pretty cool news. Essentially an entire (albeit small) class of video game players have been deemed too talented to compete as amateurs in a real driving competition. That's not only the best marketing that Gran Turismo (subtitled "The Real Racing Simulator") could ever have hoped for, it's an honestly good argument in favour of taking the medium seriously in terms of training potential.

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