“Bloody hell, I’m not from around here, I don’t know what this is.”
About five years ago I was in Bathurst for a reason that is boring so I won’t explain. But my Australian wife felt the need to take me to Mount Panorama. She told me I should drive around the track because a big famous race was held there. I didn’t understand the significance.
But what the hell, I did it anyway.
I find it crazy that Australia’s most famous race track is fully accessible to the public. That it takes place on a public road that anyone can access. I could actually drive up to Bathurst in the next couple of hours, drive around Mount Panorama and then come back home. Crazy. Actually. I don’t find it crazy. That’s just Australia. It might be the most Australian thing ever. “Bloody oath,” the track seems to say, “you might as well have a bloody go ya flaming galah.”
So like a tourist with absolutely no idea what I was doing I drove the car up to the start line. My wife hopped out and started taking pics. I revved the car. Hilarious. Then she got back in and we drove off round the Mount Panorama track, doing the speed limit the whole way like the law abiding citizens we are. Safety first ladies and gentlemen. Safety first.
Now I’m sitting at the Sony booth at the EB Expo. In a virtual car, with a virtual steering wheel and a virtual gearbox. I’m driving a virtual car around a virtual version of Mount Panorama and I am absolutely gunning the crap out of it. This is Gran Turismo 6, it’s the world’s premier driving simulator, but I’ve always really, really sucked at doing anything in this video game besides hurtling towards walls at an insane trajectory, crashing into everything possible.
This is a lot of fun. I’ve never been good at describing the experience of driving games because I’ve never really ever been all that interested in cars and how they handle. But Gran Turismo has always felt good. It’s always felt right. You can feel the weight of the work that goes into this explicit car pornography masquerading as a video game and I’ve always enjoyed ‘playing’ it.
But, despite the fact I’ve driven around most of Mount Panorama (albeit five years ago) I don’t really recognise much of this track. Mainly because I only drove around it once, and I don’t have an endless well of childhood memories of the Bathurst 1000 to draw upon. I just have that one time my wife forced me to drive on this weird road for reasons beyond my understanding.
Yet there was that one moment. Coming over the crest of the hill, jamming around tight corners at high speed, bombing down the mountain as she comes. I sort of remembered for a second. I had that feeling of Deja Vu. I’ve been here before. I headed into the final straight with the pedal grinding on the floor, reminded of five years ago, when my wife took a photo of me revving the car like a complete idiot and we drove off safely, doing the speed limit like good Australian citizens.
In the video game — of course — I crashed.