Cotton Couches to Carbon Race Seats

Historically, an entry into the world of proffesional motorsport has come with immense sacrifice and expence. What if there was a new alternative to aspiring drivers? Well, now there is.

Driving fast cars for a living is a dream that is kept by many a fan and young child. Funding a career going into Motorsport can be an arduous and difficult task. In Formula Ones’ premature years, drivers found their way into racing cars through working as a mechanic at a successful garage, or perhaps owning a road car dealership. This type of entry into the sport was quite normal and accepted. In fact, it spawned triple world champion, Jackie Stewart. The flying Scot began his early days as an apprentice mechanic with the family business in his father’s motor repair shop. Barry Filer, a trusted customer of Stewart’s garage offered Jackie a number of opportunities to test his cars at English race track, Oulton Park. This sowed the seeds of Stewart’s racing career. It was only in the twilight of the seventies when a new crop of drivers, the most famous driver being young Ayrton Senna, took to karting – a new alternative for Grand Prix training. The Brazilian worked his way through each tier of racing before hitting the big league of Formula One. Beginning in karts was a fresh and respectable style of entry. Thereafter he graduated to more prestigious Formulae and then finally, F1.


This has since been the tradition where drivers starting as young as eight years old begin their racing careers. As with any sport, there is no guarantee that everybody will be successful. Motorsport requires risk, time and excessive monetary funds. Some of the most successful drivers have come from wealthy backgrounds, or have been lucky enough to be endorsed with large sponsorship deals. McLaren and Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel… and yes, it has “paid off”. Both were nurtured by their respective racing families to become profitable drivers, and won championships for their respective teams. During Vitaly Petrov’s stint at Caterham, the Russian brought with him a sponsorship deal worth $10 million. Decades earlier, and easily one of the sport’s greatest pilots, Jean Manual Fangio was endorsed with hefty amounts by his own Argentine government.

Financially at present, the global economy’s only certainty is uncertainty. Hence being able to support just a single season in even the lowest and most basic karts and formulae can leave participants with a large deficit and little to no reward, consequently leaving a wealth of talent in an ocean overflowing with “almost success stories”. All but too soon, they find themselves drifting out of motorsports orbit.

Thus far there has been a minority of pariahs who have mapped their way into motorsport through a means which was previously unheard-of, with one name in particular. His name is Jann Mardenborough. For young drivers of the modern era to make a valued impression on the world of motorsport and F1, they need to invest their efforts into the racing spheres of Europe. However, the driver market in the region is saturated, and with an almost constant influx of young competitors, the inevitability of success isn’t in ratio with the funds required. Their odds are forever decreasing. But for some there is a new, promising horizon. Their dreams could be manifested within the perimeters of their living rooms. As a young boy, Jann Mardenborough sat down in his lounge in Darlington, England and began playing a T.V game based on simulated racing, which would later become the door opener to his career as a professional racer. This isn’t a typical starting block for most racing drivers, but with thanks to Polyphony Digital, and brainchild Kazunori Yamauchi, a video game by the name of   Gran Turismo was released on PlayStation in 1997/98. It has since been developed into an entirely realistic racing simulation experience. With a snowballing number of “in house racers”, a PR move from NISSAN materialized. They created an innovative and interactive racing experience, immercing the gamer into the Gran Turismo Universe, challenging him/her to develop as a driver. They created an online driving academy in union with the Gran Turismo franchise.


In short, the mechanics of the driving programme are simple. The competition runs for 6 to 8 weeks where new challenges are released each week. The final week plays host to a “time attack” challenge where drivers are asked to beat the given time around a lap. The fastest gamers are then filtered out and put through into the next round. Then there are regional finals where the best drivers are chosen. From there, winners undergo fitness tests and are put in front of the media to test their marketability. Eventually they compete in an auto test. Should all go well, they are shipped off for Silverstone Race Camp Week. Participants receive in car training from many well established mentors. The competition itself is able to observe and search for talent in over 160 different countries and has even achieved the Autosport Innovation Award as a part of its accolades.

The academy has bred few drivers as competition is thick and fast.  23 year old Jann Mardenborough is the brand’s most successful candidate to date. The Briton started out like any other youthful fan of motorsport where he had a keen interest for simulation gaming. Jann would have had no idea that this would pave the way into having to a fulltime career in racing. Thus far Mardenborough has secured an array drives for a many teams. His most notable appearances have seen him compete twice in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and having just completed his inaugural season in GP3 where he scored a convincing, yet exciting victory.

The world of simulation racing is fast approaching a novel age where an all new pedigree of racer is coming to the fore. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, more commonly known as the FIA (motorsports governing body) has allowed the endorsement of an online championship with Gran Turismo. The tournament is due to be launched this year and will unite “living room racers” around the world like never before. The FIA has certified four competitive real life circuits. Endorsement is no slow process either. For ultimate realism and authenticity, track models from Gran Turismo developers are carefully observed and then compared to their own FIA blueprints. Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi said “Our partnership with the FIA is a further step forward in our continued quest to bring the worlds of virtual and reality racing into a full circle”.


The chance for gamers to race in pursuit dreams is now closer to home than ever. In fact, they need not leave home at all. Albeit to the discretion of their parents. As modern expenses of breaking into a racing career are perpetually rising, this new generation of drivers will no longer need to set aside large budgets, cars and expenditures. Their equipment is simple. A television, a PS3/4 console, a steering wheel and peddles and most importantly, an internet connection that joins them to a vying universe of competitive likeminded individuals.

The world of online simulation racing is an entity worth looking into for aspiring racers. It is an arena where an underground forum of talent can be found and mustered. Many that are competitive are purists and respect the spirit of wheel to wheel action. With the collaborative effort between the FIA and Polyphony Digital Gran Turismo, it appears that bold new steps are being put in motion to spread the influence of racing in a search for otherwise undiscoverable talents.

Revs for thought



About dphansen24

I am an avid freelance Formula 1 writer and blogger. My writings are diverse and range from historical insights, to thorough and exciting analysis of the modern era and the topics that come with it. I am also able to take in requests from readers that wish to gain vision into particular stories. All are welcome. I encourage constructive criticism and conversation in comments or via email. My passion for the world’s fastest show consumes my daily efforts and I am always enthused to write about the sport I love most. Even as a pundit, I too have a curiosity and am always ready to learn more about an ever expanding sport.

Posted on February 4, 2015, in Currents News, Original Pieces and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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