Category: General Nonsense
I’ll be honest, I thought it was the usual extreme creative license games can delight in taking. “A prototype sportscar, around Laguna Seca? That sounds like fun – in the same way as driving a Formula 1 car around Mallory Park.”
But proving further that I’m a sportscar racing ignoramus, I was wrong: LMP2 cars visit the circuit also known – less attractively – as Mazda Raceway, as part of the American Le Mans Series. Look, here’s Marino Franchitti winning earlier this year.
Nonetheless, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro is quite a fun car to have included in the Forza Motorsport 5 demo, even if the idea of LMP1 at Laguna Seca isn’t as far-fetched as I thought. Certainly it was too much for me to resist when I spent some time with the game at the Eurogamer Expo recently.
So, a new generation of consoles. Is Microsoft using the Xbox One to usher in a new generation of racing games? Well, not obviously, no. But there are some neat ideas, such as shoving your performance data to the cloud for processing, to endlessly tailor the AI in future races. It also features open-wheel single-seaters for the first time – IndyCar and classic F1.
It certainly looks terribly pretty, with a low sun clearly chosen for the demo to showcase some particularly distracting lighting effects. By ‘distracting’, I mean ‘realistic’. And also ‘it nearly made me crash once’.
It’s worth being careful with that word ‘realistic’ though. You’re not going to be mistaking this for the real thing; it’s the same lack of incidental imperfections which give away a CGI render.
As if inviting the comparison, there was an actual McLaren P1 on the stand. That was covered in an unavoidable thin layer of dust, while the McLaren P1 in the game was either perfectly gleaming, or perfectly damaged. None of this is a criticism, but it’s worth setting expectations given that we’ve got new hardware here.
Whatever the fancy hardware and cloud-based shenanigans, the meat and potatoes is going to be driving cars around tracks – so how does it feel? A short time standing at a demo pod at a games show is never going to be the best place to judge, but so far so good.
One thing does feel different. The Xbox One pad has added individually vibrating triggers, which means you can feel the accelerator and brake pedal through your digits. The latter is particularly effective: leave it too late to hit the brakes and you’ll feel the squirming and wheel-locking through your left index finger. It’s a remarkably enjoyable sensation, especially noticeable when I was hooning around in the Ford Focus ST.
Of the cars on offer, the Focus ST was the most suited to the track. Throwing it around with a bit of BTCC attitude – rubbin’s racin’ – was most satisfying. There wasn’t really space to give the Audi R18 or McLaren P1 a proper run – clattering down the corkscrew in the R18 in particular felt rather clumsy – though suffice to say the added performance was obvious.
The old gull-wing Mercedes 300SL was a pleasant tootle around in comparison. It was also a reminder that steering wheels used to be massive. So much so that it was slightly in the way of the in-car view. Realism’s one thing, but couldn’t they have found a taller virtual gentleman driver?
Just as there are some fantastic place names in the UK – Chipping Sodbury is a personal favourite – British circuits have some have some excellently named sections of track. These are five of the best – and the great stories behind a couple of them.
Incidentally, there’s only one corner even in contention for the title of worst British corner name: the Real Radio Hairpin at Knockhill. Sponsored corner names are uninspiring at the best of times, but this is pretty much unique in its unwieldiness. It’s awkward to say, it sounds awful, and it means nothing.
Reuters has served up more excellent Formula 1 facts ahead of the Korean Grand Prix. And they add up to one thing: Sebastian Vettel is doomed. Doomed!
For example: I’d not noticed that Vettel is the only one of the five drivers still in the running for the championship, not to have topped the standings at any point so far this season.
Also: the circuit at Yeongam is the first of three anticlockwise tracks to end the season. There are only five such circuits on the calendar, and Red Bull Racing didn’t win either of the two previous anticlockwise races.
Admittedly, you get nothing for leading the championship mid-season. And no wins from two races is not a statistically significant result.
But maybe there is a reason that Vettel won’t win the championship: I put money on it.
Any time spent at Thruxton, in my experience, is time well spent. As well as spectating there, I did a driving experience there a few years ago. Too long ago, indeed, which is why I did another one today.
I’d say it’s money well spent, but in truth it’s bloody expensive. Today’s shenanigans were, in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion, financed by Tesco Clubcard points; and the time previous, I had a gift voucher. Under those circumstances, it’s excellent value.
So it was that in the pouring rain I was driven around the circuit with a couple of other guys in a Mazda3 MPS, before being put behind the wheel of a Porsche Cayman. Which was, you know, nice. I’m no motoring journalist, clearly.
Not like TV’s own Tiff Needell, off the telly. He’s now resident at Thruxton, offering five laps of the circuit in a BMW M3 for £125. Yes, £125. Needless to say (weak pun intended), I didn’t bother. I mean, it looked like a lot of fun when he overtook me sideways, but £125? Nah. Though it was highly amusing to see him bombastically shouting about the wet conditions, and how that makes his experience even better. He clearly has no problem assuming the role of shameless salesman.
That was in stark contrast to the regular instructors, who were very humble. Amongst their number were Duncan Tappy, who is racing internationally in Superleague Formula; and BTCC frontrunner Tom Onslow-Cole. Indeed, The OC seemed utterly thrown when I knew who he was, as he guided me over to the supercar area.
Where I got what I had been waiting for: the Ferrari California. The circuit was drying, and it was an absolute treat to get progressively less bad at driving the thing lap after lap. Power, balance, cornering – all that good stuff was utterly effortless. Especially compared to the Ferrari F355 I drove last time, which was a mechanical beast to drive. But still fun, obviously.
Finally I went out in the Formula Renault, on a virtually dry track. It was my second go in a single seater, and a great deal of fun – although not as revolutionary as the first; it really is quite unlike anything else, and a true experience. Even my girlfriend sort of enjoyed it, even if she was petrified before she got in.
I thought I’d had bad luck with the weather, considering how dry it’s been recently. But when the heavens absolutely opened on the way home, I counted myself lucky that I wasn’t still out on track. That would not have been fun, even with Tiff Needell at the wheel.
Coming home from holiday, there was a surprising little ditty waiting in my inbox, in the form of the a motorsport art attack. No sign of Neil Buchanan, but he probably looks worryingly old these days, so that might be for the best. And the use of vehicles – truck, Jolyon Palmer’s Formula Two car, Caterham R300, kart, motorbike – is rather more controlled than I had hoped. Still, it’s an imaginative bit of PR for Palmer’s F2 sponsor.
There are more details, plus photos, here.
It was nice to see that, because otherwise, coming back after a week and a bit away is rather daunting: so much to catch up on.
I caught only the end of BBC One’s Formula 1 coverage from Canada, while over on Ireland’s west coast. Northern Ireland’s BBC channels shouldn’t be available so far into Ireland, should they, what with not paying the license fee and all? Anyway, I had to watch the highlights when I got back.
Then there were the two final Isle of Man TT races to watch – both won by the ludicrously softly-spoken Ian Hutchinson, who became the first rider ever to win all five of the week’s bike races. Good to see that Guy Martin is well on the mend following his nasty crash in the Senior TT.
I had to read about the Le Mans 24 Hours, because there’s still no bloody sign of it on Freeview anywhere. Sounds like very bad luck for Anthony Davidson.
Not to mention watching today’s BTCC action from Croft, and the spectacular 125cc and Moto2 races from the new Arena circuit at Silverstone, plus the middling MotoGP race. Bradley Smith‘s season starts here, hopefully. And Danny Webb‘s, for that matter.
What is art? Everything! Why not. Motorsport certainly has the capacity for beauty.
Track-side photography is the most obvious form, and there’s plenty of that around. James Allen’s favourite, Darren Heath, has a handy eye, of which there is plenty of evidence on his website. His blog is also well worth reading – particularly when Michael Schumacher is the subject. Unlike journalists, Heath has the advantage of not needing to talk to the man, but still being on the scene. It’s a good combination.
Cars can be beautiful in and of themselves, of course. Will Buxton has been enthusing over a new book, ‘Art of the Formula 1 Race Car’. Logically, it has a lovely silver and red McLaren on the cover.
Away from photography, I’m a big fan of the BTCC Spotter Guide. The representations of the liveries are exquisitely precise, though not even that can make Martin Johnson’s lame wavy line effort look any better.
Even more diagrammatic, the people behind the Visual Aid books have launched a gloriously clean poster of motorsport circuits. You’ve got to squint a bit – it’s a rather small sample on the website – but if nothing else it highlights that some tracks are uglier than others. Marina Bay in Singapore, for example, is a horribly angular thing. You’ve got to love the bizarre crab that is Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya though.
The style of the Visual Aid books reminds me of the excellent Information is Beautiful – a book of which was released recently too, funnily enough – and the Guardian Datablog. That sort of stylish visualisation of data really appeals to my inner geek; I must get to grips with some graphics software, and do something with motorsport data.
Are Britain’s racing circuits perhaps looking for a bit of free publicity at this time of year, hoping to sell a few more advance tickets for the season ahead? The reason I ask is that there’s been a curious glut of track works news stories recently.
It started a week ago with extra run-off at Cadwell Park‘s Barn Corner, which MCN picked up on. The same day, MotorSport Vision itself brought news of resurfacing at Brands Hatch, which Crash.net and MCN dutifully relayed this week.
Not to be outdone, Thruxton communicated its efforts in extending spectator banking via BTCC.net on Wednesday.
But Silverstone did the best job, getting details and photos of what they’re up to on the likes of Joe Saward‘s blog and autosport.com. MCN, meanwhile, approached it from a different angle, getting the views of Bradley Smith, Scott Redding and Danny Webb.
So: fancy going to a few race meetings now?
Celebrating advent with motorsport’s best names. Obviously.
So we come to the end. Christmas Eve. If you’ve stuck with me through this massive waste of Internet that was the Good Name Advent Calendar, then thank you. You must be keen to know who I’m declaring to have the best name in motorsport.
Well wonder no more: it’s BTCC driver Erkut Kizilirmak. He’s Turkish, he raced in a British championship, and pretty much no-one dared to use his surname. It was just Erkut on the side of his car, and the commentators almost never uttered the wonderful surname that is Kizilirmak.
More accurately, it’s K?z?l?rmak (K?z?l River, or Red River in English) using the proper alphabet. It’s the longest river in Turkey. And that’s a fact. Happy Christmas!
Celebrating advent with motorsport’s best names. Obviously.
Perhaps it’s a controversial choice, but I’m going to say that British single seater driver (World Series by Renault and Superleague Formula amongst others) Duncan Tappy has motorsport’s second best name. It’s just an incredibly happy sounding name – in no small part because happy rhymes with Tappy. Well done to all involved.
Celebrating advent with motorsport’s best names. Obviously.
There’s been no particular order to the good names up to now, but for the last three days I’ve tried to do something of a top three. So at three: rally driver Urmo Aava. Being Estonian clearly works in his favour – because Estonia is excellent – but the opportunity for elongated vowel sounds means that it more than holds its own as a name.