London is a place I enjoy going to and I got to visit it last week when I flew over to attend the 15th anniversary of Gran Turismo, the highly popular racing simulation video game. Gran Turismo is the best-selling Sony PlayStation franchise ever, having sold over 70 million units across its five versions, so you can imagine what a special occasion this was!
When I received the invite for this, I was really excited because like everyone else interested, I was wondering what “exciting announcements about its future” (as stated in the invite) would be made.
Much speculation was about the Gran Turismo 6 (GT6) and true enough, when Kazunori Yamauchi – creator of Gran Turismo and CEO of Polyphony Digital the development company of Gran Turismo – took the stage, he gave a presentation on what we can expect from the upcoming GT6.
To be released during the holiday season with a demo release in July, the anniversary event was held at Silverstone Circuit because it will be one of the seven new locations for the GT6, of the 33 locations in total. Silverstone was never featured in any of the previous five Gran Turismo versions.
Other things to expect from the GT6 include 1,200 cars to choose from, a new course maker, enhanced user interface, shorter load times, a huge inventory of custom parts and accessories, as well as multi-device compatibility between the PS3, smart phones, tablets, and PCs for greater connectivity.
Chauffeured to Silverstone from the Sofitel Heathrow in a Mercedes, it was a rather long journey and I fell asleep most of the way as I was still suffering from jetlag.
Upon reaching Silverstone, we were greeted with a string of cars on display:
Some of the cars that really caught my attention from this front deck display are:
The weather was gloomy and it was drizzling slightly, but it didn’t stop any of us from snapping one photo too many. They started ushering us into the hall and I was one of the last few to go in because I just couldn’t get enough of the cars. The white S2000 was making me miss my pinky one at home too.
Registration took some time as there were quite a lot of international media members and invited guests. More cars were on display inside the hall, including this Red Bull X2010.
The red Honda NSX was a hot one too!
The event kicked off with a string of speeches by Jim Ryan (pictured below), President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe; Darren Cox, director of Nissan’s global motorsports and of course Yamauchi-san the man himself.
There was free wireless access in the hall for us, so once Yamauchi-san officially announced that #GT6iscoming, everyone started updating websites, Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms.
Gran Turismo has become a significant avenue for car manufacturers and related automotive companies, where new ideas are tested and designed. The GT Academy, in partnership with Nissan, has also successfully been grooming real racing drivers, transitioning them from online gaming to actual racing on the track. Started in 2008, the GT Academy has plans for the biggest year ever. Basically, the fastest Gran Turismo gamer in each participating country will compete for that one spot to be trained into a real racing driver.
Once the speeches were over, we rotated in groups for the different activities. We were watching graduates of the GT Academy race each other off-track and also on-track, before taken for joy rides around Silverstone in some of the cars that will be added to the ever-growing vehicle list in GT6.
New car additions you can expect in the GT6 are the 2011 Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale, 1971 Ferrari Dino 246 GT, and 2012 Tesla Model S. Three new Mercedes-Benz AMG models – the SLS AMG GT3, the E63 AMG and the A45 AMG – will be making their debut in the game too.
I wanted a joyride in the SLS AMG GT3, but only one participant per group was allowed and this guy from Hong Kong beat me to it. I have this unspoken affinity with the SLS AMG GT3, especially after spending a whole season with the PETRONAS Syntium Team‘s pair in the Super Taikyu season and also after visiting the AMG factory in Affalterbach.
Well, I wasn’t too bad myself, I was taken round (left and right rather) in the KTM X-Bow. I first saw the KTM X-Bow at last year’s Race of Champions in Thailand, but getting to sit in one is totally different from just seeing it in action. Duh.
Once the joyrides were done and we were supposed to be more or less familiar with the route, it was time to do some driving ourselves!
We were randomly allocated to the cars available for test drives and I was assigned the 5-litre V8 Jaguar XKR-S!
Other cars included the Nissan GT-R or the Toyota 86.
Accompanied by an instructor, I only got three precious laps and then it was back into the pit lane; just as I was starting to get used to the crazy amount of torque.
We had a go at a sample of the GT6 and then there were interview opportunities with the three speakers. I chose to sit in the one with Yamauchi-san – the man behind this whole thing, the reason why we were all gathered at Silverstone on 15th May.
It was a short 10-minute interview so I couldn’t get all my questions asked, but I managed to ask if he ever expected his creation to become this big. It was in 1992 when he first started developing it. Launched in December 1997, it has gained worldwide acclaim to a level he never expected.
I hope I can get to speak to him again one day, because I have so much more to ask him! Meanwhile, I got his autograph to keep that hope company.
View here for more photos of the Gran Turismo 15th Anniversary.