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Gran Turismo 5 is out now! Honestly

And the Top Gear test track is in it... Here’s what happened when we caught up with creator Kazunori-san

  1. TopGear caught up with gaming god - and car geek - Kazunori Yamauchi to talk about Stig, the TG test track, GT5 and Nissan's virtual/reality racing experiment. Take it away, Kazunori-san...

    How did you first get into cars and games?
    I remember falling in love with cars back when I was about three. I got into video games when my parents bought me a computer; I was around ten years old, I think.

    How did the Gran Turismo series come about?
    I’ve always liked racing games. When I was around 15 years old it just came to me as an idea of a race game I wanted to play. A game in which there would be an accurate physics simulation and, of course, real-world cars.

    Did you pass your driving test the first time?
    [Laughs] Yes.

  2. What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you on the road?

    On the Tokyo expressway there’s a ring that goes right the way around - similar in length to the Nurburgring actually and with a lot of challenging corners just like the ‘Ring. I had a big accident on that highway where I caused a major traffic jam. You could see the traffic signboard turn completely red… and that was all because of me.

    What’s in your garage at the moment?
    I drive my Nissan GT-R most of the time, but I’ve also got a Ford GT, a Porsche 911 GT3, a Mercedes-Benz SL AMG, and a Honda S2000 racing car.

    Any cars you’d wish you had created?
    I was already involved in the development of the Nissan GT-R, which was like a dream come true. But if we’re talking about another dream, I would have loved to help build the McLaren F1.

  3. Are you working on any cars at the moment?

    [Laughs] Not at the moment, but even if I was, I couldn’t tell you.

    How hard is it to become a racing driver?
    Most don’t realise, but racing involves a lot of support from teams, sponsors, manufacturers, and it all has to be packaged very well for a race to function properly. All that is very difficult to organise. Of course, when you’re out on track and competing, it’s an extremely dangerous sport.

    Were you scared of driving at the Nurburgring?
    Just last week I was driving in an endurance race at the Nurburgring. Was I scared? No. But I could tell I was doing something very dangerous. Doing 167mph on the autobahn is one thing - that’s dangerous in itself - but at the Nurburgring, you’re doing 167mph on a bumpy track and going through corners. When you think about its, it’s kinda’ crazy.

  4. So racing doesn't scare you senseless?

    When I’m racing I’m like ‘on the other side’. It’s when I get back into the pits and climb out of the car that I’m sort of ‘back in society’ among regular people.

    Ever think you should have tried out for F1?
    [Laughs] I don’t have that much talent, so definitely no.

    What are your favourite racing games?
    Namco did a series of arcade games years ago which I loved. I used to love a game called Grand Prix which used to be on the Commodore 64 and Amiga - it was an F1 simulator.

  5. What’s the secret to being really fast on Gran Turismo?
    Just as you would on a real track basically - slow down for the turns and accelerate hard out of the corners early.

    So these skills translate easily into the real world?
    It’s exactly the same.

    What did you set out to achieve with Gran Turismo 5?
    Since Gran Turismo first launched back in 1997 all the way up until Gran Turismo 4, the style hasn’t really changed. But now I wanted to make it a new package and style for this game genre.

    Photo: Kazunori with finalists Jordan Tresson and Luca Lorenzini

  6. What’s the next step for Gran Turismo?
    [Laughs] We’ll be able to show you something some time in the future. I want people to experience it to find out…

    Were there any cars you couldn’t get your hands on for GT5?
    We’re still rushing with GT5 as we speak and will be doing so until the last possible moment, so we haven’t come to any conclusions on any of these just yet. There might be one or two cars which drop off if we run out of time.

  7. Have you ever been beaten on Gran Turismo by a teenager?
    [Laughs] Actually, on GT Academy qualifying I was ranked at around 80th place on the UK charts, so there are loads of youngsters I can’t beat anymore.

    How do you prefer to play Gran Turismo - steering wheel or joypad?
    If you have enough space, using a steering wheel is definitely better for honing your driving skills. If you want to learn how to drive well, get a steering wheel. However, at work I play with a steering wheel but I go home and play with a joypad.

    Why did GT Academy start?
    I wanted to prove you can learn real driving skills from playing Gran Turismo.

  8. Has anyone crashed spectacularly in GT Academy?

    [Competition finalist] Jordan Tresson went off track in the first corner on his first lap - cold track, cold tyres. It was quite spectacular looking back.

    How did you map out the TopGear test track on Gran Turismo 5?
    We had a helicopter taking aerial photographs of the circuit, and had ground crews taking photos and measurements of the track all the way around. It took about three to four days to finish the whole thing.

  9. What did you think of the TG track?

    I tried driving it myself, but it’s really hard to find the driving line. It’s so wide that it becomes difficult to find markers and visual points. It was only after I sat with the Stig as a passenger that I finally realised where all the turn-in points and the correct driving lines were.

    Did you drive the Reasonably Priced Car?
    No.

  10. Were you faster than the Stig?

    [Laughs] Not at all, actually. However, I didn’t really have an opportunity to go all out on the test track either, so…

    Why did you include the TopGear test track?
    Simply because the TopGear programme is so funny and interesting!

    If you were a car, what would you be?
    I might be a German car. Maybe a BMW…

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