Back in 1982, Namco described its’ Formula 1 game, titled ‘Pole Position‘, as offering an “unbelievable driving realism”. It may sound hilarious today but the game had it all, from the colorful graphics to some of the modern video game “innovations”, like collision crashes and weather effects (in form of random rain puddles but still). Overall, it adequately provided a satisfying way to go fast on four wheels in the safety of one’s home, and for that aspect of it all, the whole virtual racing thing really could have stopped there. But it didn’t.
As video game technology improved, it became more and more feasible to offer something that ‘Pole Position’ could not: a chance to accurately experience the various exciting cars that most of us do not get to drive in real life. With a lot of new racing game releases, that is now an increasingly important claim and hope. At the same time, we all have our ideas about the countless beastly supercars, legendary winners, revolutions, record holders, and icons out there so racing game rosters simply can’t please everyone. However, there are some selections that absolutely must make the cut in any racing game that strives to be the second best thing.
Before I do start, I realize that I could have made this list infinitely longer by mentioning all the tremendously important automobiles from history, including a personal dream car, and still keep the title. It would be interesting to test out Ford Model T, for example, to see what the first sensible car one could own was like. But if I am ever to stop writing, I have to pass on the more short-lived fun of gunning what is now aged stock or a technological relic. As important as it was, Model T just wouldn’t make for heart-pounding tarmac action in a modern racing environment because well, it’s the Model T and the car was a piece of crap even back in the middle ages. So instead, I will be including seven very different experiences that would make a game’s offering substantially richer.
This is one of those cars that everyone forgets even exists but then they remember and say “I freaking love that car.” It is probably what happens at Polyphony Digital, when they make a Gran Turismo game because they do usually have the sense to include two versions of the XJ220 but they gave both of them the ‘standard‘ treatment in GT5. If any car should have been rendered in the game’s ‘premium’ quality, this is it.
First, it was one of those products of pure passion: the Xj220 was not conceived by the company but secretly designed by a bunch of Jaguar employees in their own spare time, motivated by nothing but their genuine nerdiness. Second, before the McLaren F1, this was the fastest production car ever made (hence the “220” for the 220 mph record it set… almost), which still makes it one of the fastest supercars in existence. As a matter of fact, in a Top Gear drag race, a twelve-year-old XJ220 absolutely owned the new and formidable Pagani Zonda. Third, even though Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson isn’t capable of driving one, this “Jag” reportedly grips like a tick: Autocar called it “the finest handling supercar we have ever driven.” Fourth, just look at the damn thing. As a package, XJ220 is unique and interesting enough to love irrationally, yet also powerful enough to deserve it. With only 200-plus of these made, unfortunately, most of us are only likely to do that on a virtual track. If we remember it’s there.
1962-64 FERRARI 250 GTO
The 1960’s are still a relevant era for racing, as some of their cars remain properly fast, in addition to being the embodiments of “cool”. If that were enough though, I’d be talking about nothing else; making sure to include Ford GT40, Lola T70, and especially the quintessential ‘sixties’ sports car–Jaguar E-Type. In the interest of time and space, I have to go with one that the E-Type inspired instead–the Ferrari 250 GTO. Only 39 of its’ various configurations were ever produced and one of them has set a record as the most expensive Ferrari ever sold, at $31.7 million.Needless to say, unless you are the guy responsible, chances of you even leaning on one in real life are rather slim.
But there are rarer and more expensive cars out there, so exclusivity alone means little; it’s the entire package that needs to be considered. Often referred to as “the greatest Ferrari ever made“ (think about that for a moment), the 250 GTO was built for and earned its’ pedigree in GT racing, by combining the still respectable power of its’ V-12 300hp engine, the ridiculously revered handling that has race drivers describing the GTO as “the ballet dancer of motor cars”, and that extinct level of raw ‘sixties’ craftsmanship that’s no trickery but all natural expression. All in all, this is the most extraordinary race car from one of the most exciting racing eras in history by, well, Ferrari. It is an experience that must be shared but for obvious reasons, simply can’t. At least, not in real life.
Obvious but still a must. The reason I’m including the Veyron isn’t just the fact that it is the fastest production car ever made, as of this writing. There will be faster ones (if they don’t have one already actually). It isn’t about its’ price tag or any of the other insane numbers associated with it either: from the horse power, to the number of cylinders, to the fuel consumption. It’s what this car represents. The Veyron was never just another supercar or another product for Volkswagen; they actually lost over $2 million on each one sold.
This car was an engineering exercise, a technological challenge and a definitive automotive marvel of a generation that will remain relevant in the foreseeable future. Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson described it as the “Concord moment” of the industry and that’s precisely it. Every time the Veyron’s tires squeal, it is the sound of the human race fighting the laws of the cosmos to the absolute best of their ability in a given moment in time. Even if a car does something better tomorrow, it will improve on the Veyron in that way but it will not be a Veyron. Simple economics say that it can’t be. This is a rare project of our generation and one we should give the proper respect. Yet, it was another car that Gran Turismo 5 did not provide a Premium version for…
It’s hard to think of a Ferrari that is not important for one reason or another. It’s ridiculous, really. Even if I just picked the most iconic and unattainable legends of them all, I’d still fill this list several times over. I’ll have to narrow it down to two distinct experiences here: the raw natural racing feel that, in my opinion, belongs to the 250 GTO over the F40, and the most cutting edge technological achievement of this iconic brand–the Ferrari FXX.
It may look like an Enzo but it’s something else entirely. I mentioned how some of these entries are rare? Well, you can’t really buy a single FXX at all because it isn’t even a car, it’s a program. If you are one of the 30 people pre-approved by Ferrari to give them millions of dollars (one of whom is Michael Schumacher so good luck), the FXX will never come to you; you will go to it, and only on the days that are OK’ed by the horse people. Why? This is the fastest and most advanced Ferrari ever made and it will continue to be the case for a long while. As part of the program, the FXX will be continuously updated with the latest, most amazing innovations of the brand that later make their way to new productionFerraris. At this time, the various upgrades under the new Evolution kit have the beast doing 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds… Now, imagine, if instead of just adding an odd FXX to the roster, a racing sim partnered with Ferrari to deliver a virtual FXX Programme that would constantly be updated with tweaks to the engine, the gear shift timing and the rest of it as it happens for real? Unless it’s a paid DLC, I’d opt in.
It is a borderline hipster move on my part to include a supercar from the 1980’s and not make it the Ferrari F40, one of the best cars ever made. Being the last creation overseen by Enzo Ferrari (the dude), it was hugely significant too but not as significant as Porsche 959. Without 959, there wouldn’t have been an F40 or any other modern supercar, at least, not as we know them. After all, even though the two were vastly different, the main purpose of Enzo’s entry was to beat the Porsche, while the 959 was a technological achievement for the sake of achievement. It was the Bugatti Veyron of its’ time, down to a speed record and the whole sold-at-a-loss thing.
Sure, the technology has caught up but the 959 can still go chest to chest with the best of them and that was true when the F40 arrived, lacking the clever four-wheel-drive system, the electronically adjustable suspension or the electric seats of the 959 (or door handles for that matter). All that is certainly all that but a Ferrari fan might still disagree, until they note what I feel really gives Porsche a place here– its unmatched versatility. To this day, the 959 is the only car to win both such vastly different racing events as the Paris-Dakar rally and Le Mans endurance race. What else could it do? Imagine the virtual career it could provide, spanning all the different race modes that could bring out something new, yet appropriate from a single car. Imagine learning a car this much? Imagine owning noobs because of that. This is why Forza Motorsport needs more race types.
1969 CHEVY CAMARO ZL1
This is perhaps an odd choice but that is precisely the point. When placing an American car in a top cars list, nothing springs to mind faster than Ford GT40, the only American car to win overall at Le Mans and one to dominate it for several years over the likes of Ferrari. It is undoubtedly a legend and a car that would be insanely cool to race. However, I have already chosen the best ‘sixties’ GT car and adding the GT40 as well would be akin to repeating myself. I want to cover all the bases here and I could not possibly do so by omitting something so different and so unquestionably American as a muscle car.
There again, comes a dilemma. To many, the embodiment of a muscle car is the Mustang or the Charger but those aren’t exactly impossible to drive in real life, which is a point here. With only 69 units ever built, the 1969 Camaro ZL1 is a more appropriate choice but I have more reasons for it. If Ferrari F40 was one of the purest, most powerful race cars ever, the ZL1 was the purest, most powerful muscle car, the only difference being that nothing quite as pure exists with that much power. This ‘Billy Bob’ was reportedly the fastest production car Chevy has ever built and offered the most hp to the public at exactly 500. What was something like that like? Don’t think that the remake will give you a good idea.
PAGANI ZONDA R
I have to be specific with the model here but this is not just a souped-up version of the regular Zonda; this one has only 10% in common with it (or so they say so… whatever that means). There is also a more powerful Zonda–a road going version of Zonda R. That car packs 20 more hp but a lower top speed and is probably weaker in other ways as well. I can bet that it will also not repeat the R’s insane record of 6:47 at the Nurburgring (I’m not counting the lap time of that Raeder’s abominable “Gallardo” thing, as that car was pumped with steroids by a third party tuner). Why? Unlike the R, it was not built to break the laws of physics along with every man-made car rule in existence.
Zonda R is a true example of what a man-built four wheel machine can do, every possible regulation be damned. For that reason it cannot be driven. There are rules against using it on the roads and there are rules against using it on most racing circuits. Add to that the price tag of almost $2 million and it is pretty much a useless creation, which is precisely the point. Zonda R is a unique experience that is nearly impossible to have in real life. And additionally, because noone will ever be crazy enough to buy it, noone will ever be crazy enough to make it again. It deserves our attention.