Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Madness from Maranello

Is it me or are Ferrari going nuts again? First off, they decide to try and bring Schumacher back, then when he's not able to do it they choose Luca Badoer over Marc Gene. Are they mad? Gene is the only one out of the two that still has an active racing career, yet all Luca's done is test for 10 years. Marc's even the driver they take to the race weekends as the reserve driver, as far as I know, and he even won Le Mans this year. Yet it still all counts for nothing just because some guy who's not as talented gets to drive instead just because he's been with the team longer. Let's face it, Luca's career is over. Marc should be in that car, regardless of any other LMS commitments with Peugeot. Think about it, if you had a choice between a Le Mans Series drive with Peugeot or an F1 race drive with Ferrari, which one would you pick? Exactly.

Even when these two were teammates together at Minardi in 1999, it was Marc who scored more points, Marc who outperformed Luca and Marc who was kept on for another year. But it’s probably done because of 10 years of loyal service. Which I can understand. But if you were the team boss at Ferrari, you’d at least want someone who can still go racing and do it well. How can they determine he’s race ready when all he’s done is pound around the test tracks clocking up miles. He might have done race simulations in testing, but it’s not the same as an actual race situation. Gene has managed to run in a 24 hour race and win it with Brabham and Wurz. But despite their rich history there as well, it seems the endurance classic means nothing to them anymore, regardless of who waved the starter flag this year.

Plus now there's this new fiasco where LDM wants 3 car teams, just so he can get Schumacher back racing again! It's ludicrous. How on earth can anyone let this go on? I for one hope that Vatanen becomes FIA president, so to stop this whole Ferrari favouritism that seems to be going on. With Todt, no matter how glossy his brochure may be, I fear for the future of F1 as we know it. Ari is a politician, he knows what he's talking about and should be given the chance to lead. Todt's only in that position because he's rubbed shoulders with Max for years just to get into his good books, and in return is able to get the nod over controversial matters. They said it themselves that F1 isn't F1 without a competitive Ferrari. More like a coniving Ferrari, if you ask me.

The idea of 3 cars teams was toyed with a few years back. Ironically, I remember seeing a picture in Autosport showing 3 Ferraris with Jacques Villeneuve in the 3rd car. Now this idea is ridiculous, simply because a new Concorde agreement has just been signed, with everyone agreeing to bring spending levels down to those of the 1990s. How in the world are teams going to do that by running 3 cars? Plus, it’s probably just another cheap ploy for publicity by both Ferrari and Schumacher himself. Some people never change.

I for one am glad that Michael isn’t coming back after all. It did seem to be tearing the F1 community in to two evident halves -  those that did want him to come back and those that didn’t. I was rather impartial at first, but after seeing what the mention of one man can do to F1 fans to a certain extent, I decided to move firmly into the latter. I think F1’s all the better for it. Now we just need Ari to become president and then everything will be alright. If Todt wins, I don’t even want to think about the consequences. Not for a second.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Tuning of a different kind

I LOVE music. Who doesn’t? But then I also love cars and motorsport. So putting the two together always tends to make for an epic combination. This can be said for racing and driving games. Marrying the right soundtrack to such a game is crucial in order to help it flow smoothly when moving through the menus and raise the tempo when out on the virtual racetrack. Quite a few songs, bands and artists that I enjoy have originated from games I’ve played over the years. From that first play on a Sega Mega Drive to everyday use of an XBOX 360, there have been some great memories and these are just some of my favourite tunes that have helped create them.

Song: SURV1V3
Artist: Jonathan Underdown w/ Daiki Kasho
Game: Gran Turismo 5/Prologue (PS3)

Starting with something from the current crop of sim racing games on the mainstream consoles, we have the song from the European and Japanese intros of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (PS3). As a song just by itself, it’s brilliant but as a driving song, it’s on another level. The intro envisions preparations before the beginning of a race, and the bridge sounds like something you’d nudge down a gear and nail the throttle to. Also, during the interlude, at about 2’05 when the drums kick in, I can see a car driving fast through a winding mountain pass. Probably just me on that one, but anyway that’s not the point. Back on topic, the guitar riff is catchy and something to move your head to and the lyrics can be hard to make out at first, but a quick search on Google will help you find and understand them. There are parts where the singer Jonathan Underdown shouts lyrics like “Break Out!” or “Block Out!” which helps to make it all the more addicitive. I could easily listen to this over and over again, which I do, and never get tired of it. It is such a great song and Sony and Polyphony Digital made a great choice. One only hopes this will be on the full game’s soundtrack, which I’m sure it will be.

Song: Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 Intro
Artist: Barry Leitch
Game: Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 (Amiga)

Now for something retro! Going all the way back to 1991, we have here a classic piece of video game music in my eyes. Personally, I never had an Amiga so I never heard this version originally. I had a Sega Mega Drive when I was younger, so it was this version here that I experienced. Still, it brings back fond memories of my first days playing racing games. This, plus Gran Turismo, helped me develop my love of cars and games to what it is now. Without them, I’d probably look at them a bit differently. The original Amiga version is in the style of classic synthesiser 80’s/90’s music and could easily be played in a club and people would dance to it regardless. It has been remixed several times, but my favourite is Lain Courbet’s Turbo Remix version, which can be found here. It’s like the original, only extended a bit and brought forward into the 21st century a bit more. This is a song I will treasure, since it set me off on the path of sim racing that I currently drive down today. Without it, and this game, who knows what I’d be like!

Songs: Paradigm Shifter, Photon Rez, Cygnus Rift, Quantum Singularity
Artist: Electronic Arts
Game: Need For Speed Road Challenge/High Stakes (PS1/PC)

Moving forward again into the late 90s and another favourite racing game from my past. Back when EA made good Need For Speed games, High Stakes (or Road Challenge as it was known to us Europeans) featured 4 instrumental songs which, although different to each other, seem to relate at the same time. All of them were used as menu music, but you could drive to them in reality if you wanted. Above is Paradigm Shifter, probably my favourite of the 4. They all tend to use a mix of electronic dance beats with drum and bass in the background for good measure to give it some feeling. As I mentioned at the beginning, music in a game should help the transition from menu to menu and these music tracks do just that. They’re not too relaxed, but at the same time not too upbeat and overpowering. Each has its own unique beat and meaning it seems. Still, I have great memories of this game and the music. It was probably the first to ever feature the mighty McLaren F1, in it’s GTR Longtail guise. I’ll never forget the standard colour it was available in which was the very same orange that featured on their Can-Am race cars of old. Plus, the engine note of the Porsche 911 in this game is also a lasting memory. At the time, I thought it sounded exactly like it, but then as an 8 year old boy, you tend to do such things. You can listen to the other 3 songs here:

Photon Rez
Cygnus Rift
Quantum Singularity

Song: The whole sountrack
Artist: Various Japanese composers
Game: Ridge Racer Type 4 (PS1)

OK, I have saved the best, in my opinion, until last. I really can’t pick one song from this game’s soundtrack. I love them all too much in equal measure to decide. For me, the music in Ridge Racer Type 4 is THE best in any video game bar none. There is such a great mix of genres here, from upbeat dance to funk to drum and bass. It provides music for various occasions in the game. Pearl Blue Soul is great for a high-speed battle while Lucid Rhythms provide a gentle synthesiser track with a gentle yet effective drum beat, perfect to put over something like night racing at Le Mans. Other songs like Move Me have heavy use of drums and guitar to push home the illusion of speed and going fast. I think it’s brilliant how there seems to be two different styles of music in the same game, yet they match up so well. From the upbeat intro of Urban Fragments to the calming and sombre tone of Epilogue, it really is a complete soundtrack in my opinion. The best thing is, it is available to buy! A quick search on Amazon finds a music CD for the game. Sure it’s a little bit pricier than you’d expect, but take it from me – do some searching on YouTube, listen to a few of the songs and I hope that afterwards you’ll be hooked. I know I am, and I think I’m going to have to get that CD. The prospect of playing it in my car when I start driving is too good to pass up, me thinks…

I could list a lot more songs, but I thought I’d keep it short and sweet. So, if you have any favourites from racing games of past, present, and dare I say future, then by all means post them here. Who knows, you guys might have a song I’ve not heard yet that could just be a hidden gem.