Sunday, 28 June 2009

So Nick, about your beard…


First things first – yes, that is me outside the Brawn GP motorhome. I look an idiot, especially with my glasses, don’t I?

So, how was my weekend at Silverstone? Freaking. Awesome.

…What? You want me to actually tell you about it? Oh, go on then!

It was probably one of, if not THE best, experience of my life. This is something I could only have dreamed about. Meeting up with Tim Stedman, the Puma correspondent I’d be with for the weekend, it was a 2 hour drive down to Silverstone. Thankfully the traffic wasn’t as hectic as it would be on Sunday morning. The first big thing on Saturday was the Renault garage tour. But before that, I managed to get professional pics taken with Romain Grosjean, team test driver and then Fernando Alonso! Tim spotted him coming out of the garage straight after practice had finished and I shook his hand and everything. Now that to me was freakin’ awesome :D Back with the garage tour, I got to see mechanics working up close and personal on 2 R29s which was something else, as well as the engineers monitoring the telemetry on the super-computers they bring to every race. Also seeing the mechanics take the double diffuser off the car was pretty special to witness. Plus, I got to hold the steering wheel! OK, it was empty of its electronics, but it was cool to hold an current F1 steering wheel in my hands and play with the buttons and paddles. Also venturing out to the front of the pits to look at the main bodywork, the front nose and wing section and engine and sidepod covers. Still can’t believe how thin the shark fin is – it’s literally the thinnest piece of carbon fibre I’ve ever seen up close!

Qualifying was viewed at the beginning of Hangar Straight, which was probably a mistake picture-wise. Everyone knows how fast an F1 car is, but trying to take a snapshot of one going by at high speed is something of a fine art. I eventually had to wait for the car to come into my field of vision and then take the pic. Most of the shots I took were blank track but I did manage to get some cars on camera. Afterwards, it was time for the BMW driver interviews, but before that I found out after the event that straight after qualifying, the “Brawn Boys” (Jenson, Rubens and Ross) had been signing autographs at one of their merchandise stands. I’ll speak more on this in a bit.

It was so surreal when I walked into the BMW motorhome because as I was moving through, I turn to my right and who do I see standing right there looking up at a TV screen? Robert goddamn Kubica, that’s who! I thought “Jesus christ! It’s Kub!” Getting to interview both Kub and Nick was brilliant. I only got 3 questions with Rob but I got in 9 with Heidfeld, including the crucial one about his beard! He says he got fed up with shaving one day and when there was no PR or events to cope with, he just stuck with it. Mind you, both did look a little fed up with how things were going with the team and the car right now. Can’t blame them to be honest. But they’ve now become a favourite team of mine.

The Formula BMW hospitality was great too, but it began with a bit of a glitch with the TV feed for the FBMW race. A quad bike ran over the cable and snapped it. The announcer brought it in the said cable to show us he wasn’t lying! After a press conference with the top 3 from that race and some food, Kubica, Christian Klien and Mario Theissen were interviewed on stage. What was really funny was watching Rob get his phone out and play with it, and Klien all the while trying to concentrate on Mario while he was talking but getting ever so distracted by what Kub was up to. Shows F1 drivers are still human after all!

Saturday out of the way, Sunday was less eventful but still enjoyable nonetheless. The Santander stand was the main hub of activity for myself, taking part in the pitstop challenge and the simulator. I didn’t do all that well with the wheel gun on the pitstop, as most of the time the wheel nut was flying off the end and it was up to me to test my reactions just to keep hold of it. Also managed to get grease on my face somehow! The simulator was interesting and more my kinda thing, what with my passion with sim racing. The front half of a McLaren with a proper replica F1 steering wheel too was what I had to work with. I got 2 laps and messed up the end of my practice lap which meant I wasn’t at full speed going over the line. Still, a 1’15 put me 3rd on the board of times for the day. The fastest time over the whole weekend was a 1’06 by someone called “heikki”. Hmm… (Sorry Amy)

Afterwards, I received a call from the lovely lot over at Sidepodcast, who were in the middle of their pre-race live show The Parade Lap. I chatted with them for a good 10 minutes and really had a laugh. Also, my purpose on the day was to interview fans about their British GP experience. I ended up chatting to two Ferrari guys, two BMW ladies, a pair of guys who supported Renault and Red Bull and two girls who were Hamilton fans and had Union Jacks draped around them. But I guess a highlight of the day was spotting and getting a picture with two Page 3 girls – Amy Green and Nikkala Stott. You probably have no idea who they are, but let’s just say… I know of them, OK? Ahem, where were we?…

Our spot for the race was the Luffield B grandstand, which was a much better spot for pictures. I did have a brief scare when I thought all the pictures I’d taked on Saturday were missing from the camera but thankfully that was just a misunderstanding thanks to the camera itself. I personally found the race rather uneventful but still a great experience to see a GP for real again (my first GP being Silverstone ‘05). With Vettel a worthy and rather dominant victor, while Hamilton decided to treat the home crowd to some post-race donuts, I had one other event which also made my day. I met up with F1Wolf after the race and had a nice brief chat with him. Someone who I knew through SPC, I got the chance to meet and talk to. Now how’s that for connectivity!

If I may, I’d like to go back to the subject of those driver signings I mentioned earlier. These were something I’d been looking out for over the entire weekend but there was no information posted up about them at all. If they are something that is only done on a Thursday or Friday on the GP weekend, I find that rather disappointing. This means fans don’t get to meet and greet their favourites and get autographs or pictures with them. If there are going to be such signings, there needs to be clear info on who, when and where right when fans have just gotten through the gates. I was rather disappointed not to come away with something like a signed picture or poster, but I did get Kubica and Theissen to sign my autograph book and got pics with all 3 of the BMW guys after their appearance in the FBMW tent.

So, that’s it really. My Fan Report should be up sometime next week now. It was going to be the end of this week but there were complications sending my written report. But I’m confident that it’s all gonna be good and that the finished and edited video that goes with it will be awesome, if a little cringe worthy having to watch myself on camera. But I have to say a massive, massive thanks to Puma Motorsport for everything last weekend. Without it, I wouldn’t be sat here telling all of you about my experience. If I ever get to do something like this ever again, I will be truly thankful as so far, nothing in my life has ever come close to my weekend at Silverstone. To them, and all of you guys for continuing to follow my work, I say – thank you very, very much.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Question time

NOTE: Read the end of this post for an update

As you’ll have seen in a blog post I did last week, I am going to be attending the British GP next weekend thanks to Puma Motorsport, as a guest of one of the 5 teams they supply. Well, I’ve now found out which team that’s going to be – Renault. Now, it does seem a little ironic that all this time Nelson Piquet hasn’t been my favourite driver in the world (far from it, actually) and now I have to sit in the same room as him, asking him and Fernando Alonso questions. Still, good experience and all that.

After hearing this news, I thought to myself – this is all about getting an insight to the fans as to what goes on behind the scenes at a GP weekend. So in a way it would seem maybe a little selfish if I only asked questions that I wanted answers, like why Piquet is completely and utterly…oops, almost forgot where I was going with that one…anyway… So, after a bit of thought, I decided to include some questions from other F1 fans that I associate with on the web, particularly Sidepodcast.

So, to anyone who happens to read or know about my blog, if you do have any questions for Fernando and Nelson that you want answering, then please leave them in the comments. I will compile a list of them and print them off to take to Silverstone. I will ask if we keep them sensible and realistic and nothing like “Nelson, why are you so rubbish?” or “Fernando, why do you hate Lewis Hamilton?”. While it may be a great experience for me, this is still serious business.

So, get thinking and I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

EDIT: Have found out that it will be the BMW drivers, Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld that I will be meeting and not Alonso and Piquet like I first thought. All questions are now for Robert and Nick instead. Also, if you have any for Anthony Davidson, then please do post them too. Thanks!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

13 – the unlucky number?

After weeks of speculation, we finally found out who is joining the 2010 grid (hopefully) alongside all 10 existing teams. We have USF1, which to me was a forgone conclusion anyway, Campos Meta 1 which I thought had an outside chance but wasn’t a favourite to get there, and Manor Grand Prix, who I had no clue who they were at all at first until I linked the words Manor and F3 eventually found that it was the same Manor Motorsport that gave Lewis Hamilton his first break in the Euro F3 series before he switched to ART and went on to bigger things. In fact, I don’t think any of us even knew they’d lodged an entry. In an interview with John Booth, team director, Autosport’s first question to him literally was “You kept this quiet…”

But despite this, there is unfortunately still the ongoing feud between the FIA and FOTA, one which I’m pretty sure all F1 fans such as myself probably got tired of just after it began. Here we are thinking “Oh look, Ferrari are throwing their toys out the pram again, just because it’s not going their way”. It’s true. Every time something has worked against Maranello, they kick up a stink and make some preposterous statement which will change their stance in F1 unless their demands are met. Frankly it’s getting ridiculous, but then again that’s politics for you. Sadly, F1 does not know the meaning of the word democracy, and you can see why.

It’s plain simple – the current F1 grid comprising of 10 teams has seemingly been split into 3 groups. There are those who want to stay in F1 provided their requests are met, those who are appealing against such a decision by the FIA to put them on the entry list because of a supposed contract that ties them in for the next couple of seasons, and those who just want to race in F1 no matter what happens. Williams and Force India, the latter of the 3 groups it seems, probably are better off in the short term, aka next season, in staying out of FOTA. By avoiding getting caught up in the issue of the day, it means they can focus on what F1 is truly about: the racing. Having said that, there is a downside to it – any decisions on the rules would go ahead without any input from either of them, meaning they would have no say at all as to what is and what isn’t allowed in F1. It would simply be a case of “Take what you’re given, don’t like it? Tough.”

Since Bernie and Max announced there would be 13 teams on the grid for 2010, I can’t help but feeling maybe the laws of superstition has crept into the sport. Like it’s the metaphorical black cat that’s crossed the path of the sport and bringing nothing but bad luck, bad fortune and a bad image. Back in the days when we had 26 car grids before, there was never this much politics. There were politics to some extent, but not to the level that we faced the threat of all the teams walking away from F1 to start their own series with their own rules. Sure, we had that in 1982 but that was a different era. Nevertheless, the FISA/FOCA war can be related to in the current arguments of the day. What strikes me is the fact that the teams had an occasion in the past where they had the opportunity to shape the rules to how they wanted to, as granted by Max. But did they take it? Did they heck. Now look what the result is some years later.

I guess now F1 isn’t truly that without some kind of political controversy or scandal to throw the whole thing out of balance. I fear that we shall never go back to the days when all it was about was the greatest drivers in the world in the best cars in the world and it simply being a matter of getting up, driving the car, having a glass of champers afterwards and then going home. Right here, right now, in 2009, that isn’t happening. If I’m honest, I don’t think it ever will ever again. Shame that, could have seen pre-qualifying come back.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Once in a lifetime


Today, on the train home from work, I received some rather shocking but fantastic news. Checking my e-mails on my iPhone, I find one from Puma Motorsport. Some time ago now, I entered a fan report competition being run by said company, simply asking why you think you should get the chance to go behind the scenes at a GP of your choice with a PUMA backed F1 team. After submitting my entry, all that was left to do was wait.

imageLast month I got a message through on Twitter from Tom McLoughin, head of Edelman PR who work with PUMA on promoting their products. He wanted to talk to me about the website itself and what my opinions on it were and what I thought would be good ideas to attract more visitors. For a while I had my hopes up that I was in with a chance, but after other things in my life, such as a new job, taking priority, it eventually slipped out of my mind

But then, this evening as I casually opened my inbox, I found an e-mail titled “Puma Fan Report / Congratulations You Have Won”. Upon reading the full thing, I sat there, mouth open in complete and utter shock. I simply could not believe it. I was now lucky enough to get the chance to go behind the scenes with an F1 team at what will surely be the last British GP at Silverstone, essentially becoming one of those people who say “I was there when…”

So yes, it is confirmed – next weekend, I shall be at Silverstone on the Saturday and Sunday for the 61st and last British GP at the circuit, courtesy of Puma Motorsport and one of the 5 teams supplied by Puma – either Ferrari, Red Bull, BMW, Renault or Toro Rosso. I’ll get to meet the drivers and technicians as well as receive a tour of the pit garages of the team I’m put with. That’s all I know at the moment, but after sending a response e-mail confirming my availability and also giving them my number to contact me on, I should get a call from them sometime very soon. I did ask for tomorrow (June 11th) but we’ll see.

Oh and just for the record, this isn’t a post to brag at all, that’s not the intention. But it has started to sink in and now I’m just looking forward to it! This comes a handful of weeks before I’m back at Silverstone again for the World Series by Renault, so this means two free trips to big race events! Yep, you guys probably all hate me right now!

Monday, 8 June 2009

So, who wants a new team?

2010 will once again go back to the days of 26 car grids as 3 new teams will join the 10 existing ones (hopefully) in the pitlane for next season. With about 8 new entries coming in from various teams, outfits and companies, there’s certainly a lot of competition. Of course, we won’t see the days of pre-qualifying return, or at least not any time soon. But with these new slots meaning more cars on the grid and therefore more packed and competitive racing, are we seeing this new era of F1 advance at such a rate that it’s getting difficult to keep up? Nevertheless, here is who I think will make it onto the grid. I’m looking at 4 teams, not ruling out the possibility of one team pulling out should the new rules not turn out the way they want them.

I feel that this team is in the best position to get one of the 3 places. A dream of Ken Anderson’s to have an American F1 team is on the verge of coming true. With support from journalist Peter Windsor, USF1 already has two bases set up in Spain and in Charlotte, North Carolina which is deep NASCAR team territory. But don’t see that as a bad thing. With so much technical expertise behind what seems like just going round in circles, poaching some of that talent will be valuable for this team to get off the ground.

There’s already been talk of engine deals, but the speculation of who will be driving for them is rife. One such name that seems to keep cropping up is Danica Patrick, IRL’s “first lady”. With an IndyCar in at Motegi last year already under her belt, the pressure’s on for her to perform and do it again. But if she was to come to F1, I can’t help but feel it would be more of a publicity stunt rather than a logical decision based on talent. There’s no doubting the girl can drive, but probably not at the level required for the pinnacle of formula racing. I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen her perform all that well on the road courses. But with enough time in the car, who knows.

Windsor and Anderson made it clear their intentions driver-wise were to have one American driver and one experienced veteran, therefore looking at both sides of the talent market. By introducing a driver from their homeland into F1, the first since Scott Speed in 2007, it might just rekindle America’s enthusiasm for the sport. Of course, it probably could never overthrow NASCAR as the number 1 viewed motorsport in the country. As for experienced, I can’t help but have Barrichello in my head for this one. Should he have finally had enough of Jenson’s winning ways at Brawn, a wise old fox like himself might just give USF1 the kickstart they need in terms of on and off track development. The American driver? Marco Andretti seems like the popular choice.

Predicted driver line-up: Marco Andretti and Rubens Barrichello

Not since 1997 have we seen this name in F1, and everything didn’t quite go to plan that time. 14 seconds off pole in Australia and that was it. The cars made it to Brazil but the covers never even came off. All the money and sponsorship had dried up and with it had Eric Broadley’s dream of a true works Lola F1 effort. But with the new rules, new company owner Martin Birrane seems to have sorted out their reputation and gone on to a world of great things in other forms of motorsport. Single seaters and Le Mans have been their strengths since their disastrous ‘97 campaign. They have built cars for F3, F3000, A1GP and Champ Car in terms of single seaters, while a variety of LMP machines have graced the world’s best race tracks including Le Mans of course.

What this says to me is that they have rebuilt themselves and done it well. With so much in their design portfolio, it’s clear to me that they’re best equipped out of all the teams applying. They have excellent facilities including their own wind tunnel, which will be a big aid in the design process. Personally I think they are the best developed race car builders. It’s plain to see what they’ve been to since last time we saw them on the grid. Surely some of the time they spent on projects for A1GP and F3000 will be of use. It’s good to see that they’ve kept themselves in the single seater loop all this time, so I think getting up to speed won’t be a problem.

Drivers seems to be a rather tough one when it comes to Lola. Seeing as there is no works Lola team in motorsport at the moment, choosing 2 drivers isn’t for me. For some reason, I’m not sure why, Vitaly Petrov from the Barwa Addax team in GP2 is the first name in my head. Alongside Renault-bound Romain Grosjean, the two of them have helped the ex-Campos team shoot to the top of the series. Kinda like Brawn only without the financial troubles. As for a second driver, I reckon Bourdais could seek refuge since it’s looking ever increasingly like his seat is under threat. Brendon Hartley would be the best choice to replace him, and with Le Seb having experience in a Lola Champ Car, it could be a wise move that saves his F1 career.

Predicted driver line-up: Vitaly Petrov and Sebastien Bourdais

Prodrive/Aston Martin
Now here’s a team that promised so much but delivered nothing, quite literally. After securing the 12th slot on the grid for 2008, Prodrive decided against entering, feeling that the ongoing row on customer cars at the time was the main reason why they pulled out. It was highly touted a customer deal with McLaren to provide chassis would help them along, but thinking better of it, David Richards decided to focus on his WRC and Le Mans projects with Subaru and Aston Martin respectively.

Then Richards was put in as a potential buyer for Honda, but he ruled himself out after a while stating that the current state of F1 was not good enough for him to consider re-entering. But when the budget cap was unveiled, it was just the spark that he needed to put forward the plans to mount a serious bid for the top flight. Richards is one of those guys who I admire as a team owner and businessman. He’s done so much, from starting out as co-driver to Ari Vatanen to running Porsche 911s in rallies, then being team boss of 2 F1 teams, Benetton and BAR, and ongoing projects like the Subaru WRC program, Aston Martin’s return to sportscar racing and also orchestrating Ford’s works team assault in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship. All that, plus he’s head of the WRC.

Now, there’s big talk of David bringing the Aston Martin name to F1. When his initial bid was made, he said he had no intention of using the brand, or Subaru for that matter. But with the British marque being the only major partnership he works with right now, he has hinted that while he’s not looking at doing so straight away, he wouldn’t mind incorporating them into the team in a few seasons’ time. An Aston Martin F1 car in Gulf colours would looks simply stunning and probably sound great too. In terms of drivers, Anthony Davidson crops up straight away. He’s racing for Aston in their LMP1 prototype at Le Mans this coming weekend, so if he performs well there he’d stand in good steed for a race seat and a return to the big time. Who to partner him? This requires some thought. I would suggest Darren Turner to make it an all British line-up, but despite the guy being an ex-McLaren tester, it probably wouldn’t happen. Perhaps Gary Paffett could benefit from this, or Paul di Resta. I can't decide!

Predicted driver line-up: Anthony Davidson and Gary Paffett/Paul di Resta

Epsilon Euskadi
OK, so if one team was to throw a hissy fit or lose interest and declare the words “I quit”, I believe this entry to be the best placed to capitalise on it. All I know of Epsilon Euskadi is that they’re Spanish, they have their own Le Mans prototype, their team is run by ex-Benetton man Joan Villadelprat and…well, that’s about it. Apparently, they have a full sponsorship board already in place and ready to initiate should they be accepted which means financially they could the best placed in that category. Villadelprat is a wise man who has been around a long time, so his experience in motorsport will prove invaluable. Apart from that, I’m not sure what else to say about them.

So, drivers? Alvaro Parente has come up straight away in my head for some reason. Maybe it’s because he’s Portuguese, I don’t know, but he seems to fit. Alongside him could be Lucas di Grassi. This man has been overlooked for a Renault driver thanks to Piquet and Grosjean and I think he deserves a chance at least.

Predicted driver line-up: Alvaro Parente and Lucas di Grassi

Now I dare say you’ve got your own opinions on who should be in which new team, whoever gets accepted. Please do share them, I would love to hear what you think. All I know is 2010 is shaping up to be rather awesome – I think…

E3 2009 round-up part 3 – Gran Turismo 5

Now come the 3rd and final part of the E3 racing game round-up, and I’ve saved the best ‘till last. Seriously, this is a game worth waiting for.

Gran Turismo 5 (Sony/PD)


Yes, folks – that is a screenshot of a game, not real life. Sony and PD had us all guessing whether GT5 would make any kind of announcement or appearance at the show this year and at one point, they said no. But with rumours rife about them actually bringing something to the E3 table, the whole Sony press conference went through without any mention – of GT5 but not of GT as a whole. About midway through, Kazanori Yamauchi, father of Gran Turismo and Polyphony Digital, officially announced and showed GT PSP for the new PSP Go. It certainly looked impressive and as the conference drew to a close, everyone was thinking about GC or the TGS next year for news. But then, right at the end came a trailer which…actually, I’ll let you pass judgement on it:

The epitomy of awesome, is it not? Let’s just clarify the obvious first, in case you haven’t tagged on to it. Those sneaky beggars at Sony and PD have not only managed to secure the official licence of the World Rally Championship but also America’s premier race series, NASCAR. Yes, 2 official licences! Plus, some other little things. First off, eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted the NASCAR scenes at Indianapolis, which confirms the Brickyard’s presence alongside Daytona in terms of oval circuits. Also, we finally, FINALLY, got out first look at damage in Gran Turismo! This is something which fans and players of GT have been screaming for ever since GT2 was announced. At last, their prayers and calls have been answered. Thank goodness.

Also, if you’re even more of a good spotter, you will have noticed some new Super GT/JGTC cars, such as the classic Castrol Supra and a couple of NSXs from the past couple of seasons. There is also a shot of a Mazda 787B and an Audi R10 TDI on a runway of some sorts. A lot of people, through observation and picture comparisons, have come to the apparant confirmation that this is our first look at the Top Gear Test Track at Dunsfold. How has this come about? Simple – BBC did a deal with PD and Sony: you let us put Top Gear on Gran Turismo TV and we’ll put the TGTT in the game!

There’s not been an official word on how many cars and tracks GT5 will feature exactly, as that’s something that these guys like to keep us guessing on until the last minute. But according to Yamauchi, they have gotten to the stage of development with the game that if they wanted to, they could release it tomorrow. But I’m sure they’ll work on it as long as they need to and continue to tease us with pictures, videos and announcements. But let’s look at what we do know – there’s damage, 2 official licences, some of the world’s best tracks including the Nordschleife, Indy, Le Mans and Daytona, Ferraris for the first time, 16 cars on track, online play and graphics that have to be seen to be believed.

Put simply, no matter who you are, no matter how, if you so much as even have a minor interest in cars and motor racing, you NEED this game. I don’t have a PS3 but by god I will have one either in time for or when it comes out. Again, we’re still guessing on that too, but signs do seem to point to somewhere between Christmas and Spring 2010, with my money on the sensible option of the latter.

To sum up this game and the whole franchise in one sentence I shall simply say this: Gran Turismo is like Grolsch – never rushed! Nor should it be. See? We had to wait for it for 5 years, but look at the result. Trust me, this WILL be worth the wait.

E3 2009 round-up part 2: Forza Motorsport 3

Here’s the second part of my E3 2009 racing game round-up. Next, let’s look at Microsoft’s latest offering.

Forza Motorsport 3 (Microsoft/Turn 10)

Looking at that screenshot, you can instantly tell that this is gonna be an awesome game. Just look at that detail! All cars in the game have 10 times the polygon count than those in Forza 2, which means Turn 10 have worked bloody hard to get the game to this level. With the game officially confirmed and unveiled during Microsoft’s press conference at E3, we soon quickly found out some details. 400 cars and 100 tracks for a start. Gameplay footage, trailers and screenshots initially show us cars such as the Audi R8, Aston Martin DBS, Chevy Corvette ZR1 and Nissan 370Z.

As for circuits, all 3 shown off at E3 are fictional layouts based in Montserrat, Spain. According to the developers, all fantasy circuits in the game will each have their own unique features and back stories, which helps add depth to these locations. In terms of real-world locations, the Nordschleife is back (of course), as well as Sebring, Silverstone and Suzuka so far. There is talk of Le Mans being featured too, as an announcement concerning Forza 3 is expected at next weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours. Microsoft have close relationships with both Peugeot and Audi, with the latter officially confirming their partnership with them at E3. What this announcement entails remains to be seen. But hopefully it will be something that helps make the already awesome spectacle that is the 24 Hours just that little bit more enjoyable.

Turn 10 have been working very hard on perfecting their tyre physics for FM3, going to both Michelin engineers and their partners at McLaren for information, data and notes on tyre behaviour, flex and deformation. This concept of realism is nothing new, as sim racers will know too well that Live For Speed on the PC simulates deformation brilliantly. Apparently engine and tyre sounds and physics have both been upped in quality as some websites have reported after getting the privilege to . Also, another notable addition to the game is the addition of roll-over, i.e a car going into it’s roof. The trailer clearly shows a Ford GT lose it and barrel-roll through the air. Speaking of damage, this has also been given the once over with improvements in bump and dent mapping. All 400 cars also feature cockpit views, a first for the Forza franchise, with detail so fine even the indicator stalks look completely life-like. That shows just how much precision and hard graft has gone into the making of this sequel.

October 27th has been revealed as the release date, exclusive to XBOX 360. Dan Greenawalt, head of Turn 10, has said that FM3 is pretty much finished, all cars and tracks had been built and that as a whole the game ran rock solid during the entire duration of E3. Plus, if you think the game looks good now, then apparently it can only look better from now on. As some will know, I already have a 360 and along with NFS: Shift, this is one purchase I definately will not think twice about.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

E3 2009 round-up part 1 – Need For Speed: Shift

For those who are avid gamers such as myself who follow what goes on in the gaming world, you will probably have seen all the news that has filtered out of the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 for short. The racing genre was well represented and I shall reel off the 3 big titles that got revealed and reported on at this year’s show.

Need For Speed: Shift (EA)

EA’s NFS series was well represented by it’s new flagship game simply called Shift. It’s supposed to focus more on the driving experience and the reality of it. One feature they have done is worked on in-car views. By making it as realistic as they can, in a way it helps you believe you really are at the wheel of a Porsche or Lamborghini. The camera shakes as the car goes over bumps, turns to focus on apexes and corners and goes completely mental when you have a crash. On impact, all colour drains out of your in-game vision for a moment, the camera violently shakes and everything goes blurry before readjusting. What this does is help simulate the feeling and experience that is a car crash. Not that you’d ever really want to in real life, that is.

They have also introduced a brand new Driver Profile system, which awards points depending on how you drive. Clean drivers get scored for clean passes, brilliant cornering and achieving top speeds on straights, while those who prefer to bump and grind with other cars will get points on collisions with other cars and also with the barriers. Basically – dirty driving. This all counts towards a profile which can be viewed by anyone around the world and shows off what kind of a driver you actually are. Now let’s face it – this game won’t lie, so if you decide the best way to get past someone is to ram them off the road, your profile will reflect that and it’s more than likely you’ll only attract similar drivers. You have been warned!

So let’s get on the important matter of cars and tracks. The headlining vehicle seems to be the all-new BMW M3 GT2 which runs in the ALMS under Rahal Letterman Racing. A stunning looking car with a transmission that screams as though it’s just been castrated means this is one fierce machine. Other cars of note include the Lambo Reventon, Pagani Zonda R, Bugatti Veyron and Audi R8 GT3. Course-wise, the mighty Nurburgring Nordschleife makes its NFS debut, along with Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Road America, Spa and other real world circuits, with street tracks in London and Tokyo providing an urban challenge.

Visually it’s not as stunning as the other two games I’ll be talking about, but in terms of a driving/racing experience it probably looks like the best of the 3. The level of immersion which the in-car view seems to give will make drivers believe they are there in the car clipping an apex or rubbing door handles with a Supra or Nissan GT-R. The profile system will mean we get to see who are race winners and who are race ruiners and with a rather impressive line-up of locations and machines, this might just be a racer that gets your blood pumping should total simulation not really be your thing. It’s out in September on the 360, PS3 and PC. One game I definately like the look of and will be purchasing.