RINGSIDE SEAT: PLAYING GAMES
With the 'ring out of bounds our man in Germany keeps his hand in with a bit of virtual training
Or so my long-suffering wife would like to think...
anybody? ). For me, cars and computers have always gone together. Gran Turismo was the impetus to buy a PlayStation and Forza Motorsport the only reason why I have an Xbox gathering dust in the attic. And don't get me started on the PC games like Live For Speed, Grand Prix Legends and the like. If I added all the hours together I could have had a second job and a new life, I'm sure.
Of course, an admission like this isn't as nerdy or socially awkward as it used to be. Big computer game releases now make Hollywood blockbusters look like charity productions. Computer games are mainstream, and they help drive our whole petrolhead addiction.
Gran Turismo Academy. It's an incredible thing to see from the inside. The GT Academy sifts through regular folks, most of whom have never driven a car on a real track before, and finds those with the reactions, skills and talent to become a race driver.
So, just by playing a game, you can end up being a professional factory race driver. My mind still boggles, but some of the folks that have come out of that system (Jann "the man" Mardenborough and Lucas Ordonez) are absolute stone-cold professionals that live their life in the zone.
I will admit, as a frustrated racing driver, I was insanely jealous of the 12 guys I helped look after. Just by playing a computer game, they were getting a shot at the dream life.
So with that in mind, I vowed to put some hours in the PlayStation3 this winter. And I managed to lay my hands on the official Thrustmaster T500RS GT5 wheel to help me too.
It transforms GT5 from an arcade game to a home racing simulator. Maybe the finest points of tyre slip and wheel torque aren't 100 per cent perfect, but the way you have to concentrate your mind, judge the line and eke the most from your car are more than convincing enough. And the lift-off oversteer, the biting point of the tyres, it's damn near 95 per cent realistic in most regards.
Still, when I couldn't perfectly correlate my real-life experience with the version GT5 was offering me, I went in search of the ultra-realistic and signed up for a three-month trial of iRacing on the PC. Wow. iRacing is serious. Really serious.
So now I'm back at GT5 with a vengeance. I don't think I'll ever qualify for the GT Academy, but the new wheel means I've been doing rather well fantasy racing my mates and having fun. Which is what a game is supposed to be. And it's why I'm still waiting patiently for this celebrity baking thing to finish and my wife to go for a soak in the tub...