Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

21 February 2020

Gran Turismo's championships pitched as 'the new entry into motorsport'

By Tom WhiteTom White

Polyphony Digital, makers of the iconic PlayStation-exclusive Gran Turismo franchise, has kicked off its latest FIA-approved championship for 2020 in Sydney.

The physical events are a new high for the series that has been running for 23 years, and it’s our bet that the developers had no idea it would become the most widespread simulator racing game on the planet.

We were invited to the qualifying round of the first set of physical ‘world tour’ events at Luna Park in Sydney, where not only would we get to see what Gran Turismo pro players looked like in their element, but also get tutored by them in a pro-am race around Mount Panorama.

The event kicked off with some interesting remarks, figures that set GT apart from its rivals. For example, the game had sold some 83 million copies, giving it largely unprecedented access to manufacturer and sponsor partnerships that make this championship possible.

Polyphony took up Luna Park's Big Top for a full weekend. The main event attracted quite a crowd. Polyphony took up Luna Park's Big Top for a full weekend. The main event attracted quite a crowd.

The biggest, of course, is the official sanctioning from motorsport’s global governing body, the FIA, with Australia’s representative-on-the-ground saying that the partnership was part of “building the next 100 years of motorsport” and that the GT Championship represented a far more cost-effective way to introduce people to motorsport than traditional methods (like motorkhana).

So how do you get on the stage as a pro driver? The GT Championship is made up of three events: the Online Series, World tours (the event we went to) and then the World Finals.

They are then broken into the Nations Cup – based on which one of five regions the game’s servers are broken into in which you compete, and the Manufacturer’s Cup – based on representative performance with just one make.

Each have 40 online rounds run over six months, which whittle down the number of competitors to a finals pool. For the Nations cup, this pool is just 24 players, whereas the Manufacturer series has 12 competing manufacturers with teams of three each.

Practice seems to be the key, with GT champs in the sim chairs coming within the hundredths of a second of one another during the qualifying rounds. Every corner of each track is precisely memorised, every brake point known, the abilities of each car explored.

Teams focus on strategy and were keenly watched by rivals during qualifying. Teams focus on strategy and were keenly watched by rivals during qualifying.

It was a unique thing to watch, the genuine emotion and focus spent over what many will see as “just a game”. Prizes are said to be in the hundreds of thousands of US dollars for winners, with the amount going up every year.

Our pro-am race was more or less like the real deal of a race driver talking you through a car and track – its possibly the most involved I’ve ever been in a racing game, with the sim chair doing a great job of the immersion. Naturally, the stakes are much lower, and the times must faster than the real deal, as running a virtual car into a wall costs you nothing but time.

It does do a great job of teaching you the cost of even small mistakes and following the correct line, though, which is more than can be said for the majority of other racers out there. The occasionally blocky and rigid physics that GT is partially known for didn’t take away from simulating the challenge of the upper sections of Mount Panorama either.

The events have gained size (and prizes have increased in value) every year. The events have gained size (and prizes have increased in value) every year.

If you’ve missed it this year entry was free to the event, so if the Sydney round returns next year it might be worth a look-in. It's also worth picking your copy of GT Sport back up if you haven't touched it in a while, as the developers have added a consistent stream of new content (for free) since its 2017 release.