Monday, December 17, 2007

Gran Turismo virtual track test

Since we're in the off-season and racing news is somewhat thin on the ground, I think it's time for a little fun and games...

I've been lucky enough to be offered a new job starting in the New Year, and it brings with it a very significant pay increase. For years although I've had nice motorcycles I've always had old and/or difficult and/or ugly cars ('83 Golf GTI, '87 Alfa Romeo 75/Milano, '90 Subaru Legacy). So I've decided that I'm going to be spending a portion of my new paychecks on a car payment, and that for the first time in my life I'll have a nice, newish, fast, interesting car.

Numbers have been crunched, spreadsheets created, insurance quoted and classified listings scanned, and a shortlist of nine cars came out. It was easy enough to gather information on acceleration, insurance costs, fuel consumption and other pertinent details to help my decision, but until I start test-driving actual examples, it's hard to figure out how well each will perform, and impossible to determine their abilities at track days (until I'm the owner).

Then the idea came to me... I'll do the ultimate virtual track test, utilizing the amazing tool that is the Gran Turismo 4 video game on the Playstation. I've always loved this game, and am far enough in to be able to buy all the cars in question without emptying my virtual bank account.

The rules are simple:

  • Each car will be stock. No upgrades or modifications, and all must be on street tyres.
  • Each car will lap Laguna Seca in practice mode with no other cars on track until I feel that I've done as good a lap as possible.
  • Traction control will be set to 50% (default is 70%). If I was to turn it off, basic control of the car would become impossible and I'd spend more time struggling to play, than actually evaluating the cars.
  • Manual transmission must be used.
  • If a car is not in the game I will endeavor to find something suitably close for evaluation purposes.
  • Cars will be evaluated based on best lap time as well as handling and power characteristics.
  • As much as I'd love to use my Driving Force steering wheel, the game is actually harder with it. See the traction control rule. So I'll use the standard dual-shock controller.
Okay, let's look at the projected line-up:
Let the games begin!!!

(By the way, what do you think of my choices? Any other suggestions? Some cars that were considered but discarded include the Pontiac GTO, Nissan 350Z, Audi TT, Volvo V70-R and Mini Cooper S.

Budget is less than $25,000, and it must be fast, interesting and have rear seats.)

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