As several of the top racing series in the world continue to crumble for all sorts of different reasons, with very little in the way of fresh blood to truly fill the void, one series continues to go from strength to strength. This series is Super GT.
Since its early days as the JGTC it has been one of the coolest, yet underrated, series in the world. You and me were probably introduced to it through Gran Turismo, which has featured the series in bulk since GT2 in 1999. Indeed, if you want to go anywhere for Super GT and JGTC racing, Gran Turismo remains the series to go for to experience.
But Forza had a spell with it too. Its featuring of Super GT peaked with Forza 4, featuring a rather good mix of current and past GT500 cars with a few GT300s in the mix too. But all of them have been since sacrificed for no real reason.
There is a huge amount of appeal to Super GT itself. Everything from the drivers to the cars themselves have an aura of coolness about them, even if GT300 is largely just a GT3 championship these days with a hint of custom made original GT300 spec cars. But nothing is as cool as the racing, which is pretty much as perfect as it gets. Every variable that matters is down to a fine art in Super GT and the result is a magnificent bunch of races. Some have said that it tries to strive too far for perfection – but it hasn’t cocked it up yet, so why would this be a problem? The one thing that might be a deal-breaker is the weight ballast system, but unlike other series who use it, Super GT applies it in a simple form; double the car’s points, then half that for the penultimate race and get rid of it for the finale. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with it.
The cars themselves are way faster than you would expect. Gran Turismo, for all its support towards the series, has always undersold the speed of the cars massively. Recently, GT500 was close to LMP1 calibre with its new regulations. Forza, as you’re about to see, gets it more right. Some of the speed is down to the tyres, which are not dominated by one manufacturer. A tyre war means that the marques involved have all created epic tyres that make for real speed. Downforce is also at a premium in this series as well, and recent power figures in some GT500s have been massive.
I suppose there’s also at least one personal reason I have for sticking around – some of the liveries.
(Yes, of course I’m going to throw in the two that won the championship)
(Yes, of course I’m going to throw in my favourite thing right now)
Put it like this: you would never see Ariana Grande on the side of Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR. Little Mix would not sign a sponsorship deal to be on the side of Gordon Shedden’s Honda. But Hatsune Miku, mu’s, and Haruhi Suzumiya, they don’t know they’re getting put on the side of race cars. And I doubt any of them would care. Because they all look so good on the side of a race car.
But that’s only in the rather more kind and fluffy world of GT300. Where the real blood runs is in GT500, where the racing is at its most intense and the highest honours are at stake. And it’s now different from what you might be used to. Regulation changes have made the cars faster but have kept the racing as close as ever. But the series’ return to Forza 6, and the first serious representation of the new GT500 in a video game comes from the team who are threatening to run riot. It’s Nismo’s GT-R.
The team has won both championships since the start of the new regulations. The new season started on Sunday, and they won the first race too. I dare say they will be favourites to do a three-peat. Lexus have challenged them closely with the RC F (because Toyota don’t make any raceworthy cars any more), whilst Honda, in their quest for a hybrid NSX, bottled it at first (remind you of anything?) but promptly fixed it up, before deciding to get rid of the hybrid system…and they have consequently found themselves at the very bottom of the barrel again. Honda’s racing board must be about ready to hang itself at the moment.
But whatever. The 2015 championship winner is here and Forza 6 has a Super GT car to race in. So what’s it like?
Well, it’s as you’d expect a race car to be. Fast, furious and a great drive. And this GT-R does all that pretty well. Only with more sliding. But don’t worry. While the car slides a lot, it’s hardly ever harmful. It’s easy to get back. Just don’t go too far. Otherwise it will get very angry and spin you right out.
Unlike Gran Turismo, the often underrated speed of the GT500 is on full show here. Statistically it’s already pretty great, 550bhp from the 2-litre 4-cylinder engine moving just 1020kg around. Its speed is perhaps best exemplified in both its acceleration and braking. That said, the gearing is unusual. From a standing start the fact that 1st is so long means it takes an age to properly get up to speed there, if you’re starting from idle. Much like a turbo LM edition from GT1, actually. You also find yourself changing down into it a lot in slow corners. But from there the GT-R really gets going and can start to show its true colours.
The GT-R is well worth driving just for what it is – the game’s only Super GT car. Yet it’s more than that, as it’s also the fastest car in the class Forza has assigned it – Modern GT Racing. It beats the fastest GT1s there, as it always has done with the downforce it has. GT1s which have actually tried to compete in GT500 didn’t stand a chance after around 2001. Which is probably why they don’t exist any more. GT500 very much does, and you should get on it. Not just with Forza 6 and the Nismo Motul Autech GT-R, but in real life too. Here’s to another great year of Super GT!