A stint at Suzuka for the Toyota GR GT Cup

A stint at Suzuka for the Toyota GR GT Cup

With my foot pinned to the accelerator, I blast down the main straight of the Suzuka Circuit at more than 200kph. At the 150-meter marker, before the tricky double-apex first corner, I move my right foot from the throttle to the brakes, then slam it as far down as it would go. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • What is the Toyota GR GT Cup?

    Organized by Toyota Motor Philippines, the GR GT Cup is a virtual race for gamers and racers, and a lap time challenge for the public.
  • What game and vehicle is used in the GR GT Cup?

    Participants compete in the "Gran Turismo" game using the GR Supra.
  • Now travelling at around 120kph, I ease off the anchors and point the wheel at the first apex with equal precision. And before I know it, the second right-hander comes into view. Straightening the wheel slightly, I brake to coax the gearbox to downshift at fourth gear, ride the curbs as I turn, then progressively speed my way into Suzuka's iconic S-curves. 

    And amid all this drama, I'm hardly breaking a sweat in an air-conditioned hotel ballroom, which features a glistening chandelier and thick carpet floors. 

    This is the Toyota Gazoo Racing (GR) GT Cup, a virtual motorsports tilt organized by Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP). After a successful e-sports season — joined by gamers, racers, and the general public — TMP opened for the media a virtual lap time challenge at the famous Suzuka track, particularly its short East Course. 

    Toyota GR GT Cup

    So, it was a good idea that we were let loose only in a Gran Turismo game that's connected to a racing simulator, because I have no idea what I'm doing. Even with the sim's usual-looking steering and pedals, and my familiarity with the Toyota GR Supra — having driven the real thing — I spend most of my practice laps on the grass than tarmac.

    But maybe I was just too cocky. I have some idea of the ways around this F1 venue, thanks to the "Real Racing 3" mobile game I sometimes play. In that game, I steer an F1 car by tilting my phone, accelerate and brake by pressing the screen.

    Of course that's nothing compared to the simulator, as every exuberant flick of the wheel sends the GR Supra spinning, every press of the brakes with a slight degree of steer sends the car plowing forwards.

    Toyota GR GT CupThen again, the Gran Turismo game is known to be among the most realistic racing games out there. The simulator offers a cockpit view of the cars in the game, like the aforementioned GR Supra. The game also got Suzuka's challenging and undulating S-curves down pat. 

    What's more, I also felt that GT captured the driving characteristics of Toyota's sports car. Just like the real thing, the in-game's Supra has a cozy cabin, light steering, punchy three-liter engine, and quick-shifting gearbox. 

    But no matter how quick and nimble the car is, my practice lap times hovered between the one minute to 1:25, way off the benchmark times of 55 to 59 seconds. I managed to be sluggish even without running off the track!

    Toyota GR GT Cup

    Thankfully, TMP's track marshals saved me from some embarrassment. They instructed me and my media colleagues to brake later, particularly before that dreaded first corner, and modulate the throttle during cornering to prevent the car from understeering, something that worked wonderfully at the last set of sweepers before the main straight. 

    The instructors also remained quiet when I tackled the S-curves like I usually do: driving over every curb left and right. The same silence stayed when I got the hang of lifting off before turning, so as to tuck the nose in the apex. I must be doing a good job. 

    Toyota GR GT Cup

    Thanks to the instructors and my newfound confidence, I clocked in a time of 58.58 seconds! TMP has yet to release the official results, though, but I'm more than pleased to break the one minute barrier. 

    And still, the F1 fan in me ecstatic to lap — and somehow, also spin around — an F1 track, even by virtual means. But that's probably for the best for safety's sake.  

    Photos from Gran Turismo and Dylan Afuang 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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