To coincide with the recent launch of Gran Turismo Sport, Daily Car Blog was invited to participate in an eSport event hosted by Playstation UK, the task? To compete against the elites of British motoring journalists. Thus the challenge was set, Wednesday 8th November, the time 19:30hrs, the venue... a borrowed PS4, a makeshift gaming set-up on 15-year-old 20-inch-TV, OK-ish Wi-Fi, a PSN ID- raaik207 - a tardy moth-eaten wing-back chair that has lost all fortitude to supply comfort and personal doubts about my ability even to compete grammatically let alone compete on a gaming level.
The race venue was BRITISH! Brands Hatch GP Circuit, 10 laps against - what I assumed would be a very competitive field. The best of the best of motoring journalists from well known BRITISH! publications in print and online - who buys print copy anymore?
Among these Goliaths was the latter day David... aka Daily Car Blog. Each of the 8 competitors was restricted to GT Sport N300 class cars, and performance was capped equally to create a level playing field. My choice was the BMW M4 that I had earned and unlocked.
I joined the 30-minute event 5 minutes early only to discover the competition had joined even earlier, by 10 mins or so. Lap times were being set, I hadn't set any time and realized I might run out of time to do so.
On my first fast lap I visited the gravel trap, not a great start. My second lap was cleaner but nothing heroic. I noticed someone had set a time of 1:48.795 seconds, at this point I was still virtually slipping and sliding my way around a digitally recreated Brands.
Then 15 minutes in and suddenly I nailed a really good lap, 1:47.402 seconds and if qualifying had lasted a little longer I would have dipped into the 1:46's. Nevertheless, I was still over 1.3seconds faster than second place sitter MSmag1924 in his Audi TTS Coupe.
Despite claiming pole I was sure that the competition was going to be fierce, 10 laps around a technically challenging and narrow circuit meant anything could happen. Mistakes are easy when under pressure and the pole sitter is always a target, those behind, the would-be assassins.
The race, greenlights flash up and I make an OK getaway, starting off the racing line means it isn't a clean start, MSmag1924 is already out, online issues, wdron is elevated into second and I now feel like the prey being hunted down fast.
It's easy to take too much speed into the very technical turn 1 and on lap 1 with little "virtual-grip" - I do like to imagine it's real folks -. I survive, the M4 is tricky to drive with a PS4 controller. No fancy steering wheel or racing seat setup, it's that tardy, smelly wingback, loose springs, and an aching back for me.
Second lap, entering turn one, still finding the grip in the M4, oversteering, wdron is close, I look in my rearview mirror as I exit turn one - a very tricky, downhill, slightly off camber corner that should be approached as though there are two apexes - and I see wdron in a massive slide as he carries too much speed. He makes a visit to the armco.
Prior to the race start, I decided to pick my braking zones and stick to them, the strategy worked and thereafter from lap two to lap ten I was setting fastest lap after fastest lap. Indeed I set a faster lap during the race than I did during qualifying.
Naturally, I was the first to greet the chequered flag with a 22s margin over second-place finisher bluevulcansix, on my last lap I had backmarkers in my sight as I crossed the line to take - if may say - a rather unexpected and totally dominant victory. Whether I could replicate that in real life is a really big question mark.
My fellow 8 competitors were quick to offer "congratulations?", particularly third-placed wdron - aka William Dron of Sunday Times Motoring - conducted himself with particular sportsmanship showing little grace and dignity, a sporting icon of the eSports world for sure.
It was at this point that Rudyard Kipling's 1890 poem about Gunga Din flashed into my mind, and that's exactly how I was made to feel in this new company of gaming communists.
Nevertheless, I didn't just beat my fellow competitors I pounded and bombarded them, and all they were thinking was... who is this guy?
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