As the driving sim turns 15, we look at how Red Bull's drivers and cars have shaped Gran Turismo.
Gran Turismo, the big daddy of driving games, is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year, and Sony’s doing it in style. To mark the series’ birthday, it’s holding an event at Silverstone next week, where Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi will be talking about its future. In the meantime, we’re taking a look back at Gran Turismo’s history, and the finest GT Red Bull moments.
A Decade of Digital Red Bull Cars
The Gran Turismo series has featured hundreds of real life cars across all 13 entries since the first game launched on the PlayStation in late 1997, racking up almost 70 million sales worldwide along the way, from rally monsters to vintage F1 cars.
Developer Polyphony Digital’s commitment to realism in each and every game means they’re painstakingly recreated from all the championships around the world - and when you’re featuring top class cars and drivers, Red Bull’s bound to pop up. Sure enough, the first Red Bull car to debut in the series appeared all the way back in 2004 - the Audi A4 that Mattias Ekström powered to DTM victory the same year, and that scooped Audi the DTM Constructors Championship too.
After an agonising wait, Gran Turismo 5 debuted in 2010, and the Audi A4 ‘04 returned in HD, with a few more legendary Red Bull vehicles alongside it, including not just one, but two of Brian Vickers’ Toyota Camry NASCAR motors - but that was just the start.
Sebastian Loeb Lends a Hand
Gran Turismo 5 was a long time coming, but Yamauchi used the time wisely, getting the world’s best drivers and motorsport experts on board to advise and finetune the game. Those included WRC legend and Citroën World Rally Team driver Sébastien Loeb, who worked closely with Yamauchi on the rally elements of the game. The result? The Sébastien Loeb Rally Challenge, an iron hard section of the game that sees you pitting yourself against a virtual rendition of the French ace.
Loeb, who first discovered rally through a driving game, and used Gran Turismo 4 to train on the Circuit de la Sarthe before taking park in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2005, is proud of the work on the game, and says that even though you can’t simulate a rally course like a fixed track, the feel is there.
“In the real car you feel everything moving and you get the feel of the car. Here you rely on what you can see to get that response,” he says.
“But it’s really exciting to drive in the game. The biggest similarity is the emotional feeling you get from playing. And I think that’s well represented in the game because when I play a game, even for the first time, if it’s any good I have to be a little bit better than one of my friends.”
The Red Bull Dream Car Dominates Gran Turismo 5
Gran Turismo’s known for letting you drive the concept cars of your dreams alongside the world’s finest real racers, and for Gran Turismo 5, Yamauchi teamed up with Red Bull to create the piston-heads ultimate fantasy: the no-holds-barred F1 car.
After Yamauchi set Red Bull Racing chief technical officer Adrian Newey the challenging of designing a car with no race regulations - one built purely for maximum speed - the F1 legend came back with the Red Bull X2010. It’s one of the fastest cars in Gran Turismo 5, only unlockable once you reach level 30 - and even then you’ve got to smash some insane course times to get it.
Just how fast are we talking? Try 15,000rpm, 1483bhp, a max speed of 450 kilometres per hour, and capable of accelerating from zero to 193kph in 2.8 seconds. In fact, it’s so fast, that when Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel hopped into a simulator, he smashed the virtual Suzuka Circuit record by more than 20 seconds.
“The speed is so much higher it's like a new dimension – and you're not used to it. So you’d probably struggle to get the hang of it at first,” he says, and coming from a Formula One champ, that’s saying something.
While the X2010 may be a concept, it’s very much based on reality, says Newey. “I came up with a specification for the car, did a few sketches as to how components could be packaged in the shape. Whatever we draw has to respect the laws of physics,” he explains. “We could actually build the car we’re describing and get it to do a lap.”
Newey didn’t stop there though. A year later, he followed up with the downloadable extra X2011 (pictured top), a refined model that cranks up the fan technology - banned in real races - and blasts up to 311mph or 500kmh.
If that’s what Red Bull Racing’s capable of now, think of the cockpits you’ll be able to climb into in Gran Turismo’s future. We’ll see you at Silverstone.