Kazunori Yamauchi, Class Winner in the Nürburgring 4 Hour Race
On August 29, in the 8th round of the VLN series round 8 at Germany's Nurburgring circuit, "Gran Turismo" series producer, Kazunori Yamauchi achieved a Class win in SP8 (engine "close to production" class / Lexus IS F). Mr Yamauchi had only experienced 2 races prior to this in normal cars. In his first racing car, in his first international race, and competing on the Nurburgring for the first time, this achievement proves above all else that training within Gran Turismo is truly effective.
The VLN race is a touring car race series that is held over 10 times a year at the Nurburgring circuit. Also at the wheel of the car on the team with Mr. Yamauchi, was Motor Journalist Peter Lyon, and racing driver Hideshi Matsuda. All three are judges in the "World Car Awards (World Car of the Year (WCOTY))" judging committee, and this racing project was initiated as the juror racing team from the awards.
The machine was the Lexus IS F that successfully completed this years Nurburgring 24 hour race. This is an almost stock condition car, aside from the minimum required safety equipment installed such as the roll cage.
The race itself was not a smooth ride. In the official practice of the previous day, the bumper of the BMW Z4 running just ahead fell off and smashed into the front window of the IS F. Mr. Yamauchi was unable to complete a single lap before leaving the circuit that day.
Even during the qualifying round in the morning of the race, Mr. Yamauchi only had a single chance, just one lap. But he placed his trust in his experience gained from over 1000 laps he has driven virtually and went for it; recording a lap time that is only 7 seconds less than, Mr. Hideshi Matsuda, a veteran driver who even has experience racing in the Le Mans.
In the final 4 hour endurance competition, each driver was responsible for driving 7 laps, changing at refueling intervals. When the baton was just about to be handed to Mr. Yamauchi who was driving the 3rd stint, there was news that the BMW M3 that was leading their class slowed down due to trouble. Mr. Yamauchi persisted under the unexpected pressure of a possible class win, and jumped into the driver's seat, raising his pace carefully.
In the final lap of his stint, He recorded a laptime of 10 minutes, 9 seconds. This was the team's fastest lap, and is a time that is even 1 minute faster than the best time recorded by this car when it was driven in the 24 hours of Nurburgring this May. The combined efforts of Mr. Yamauchi and the other drivers brought fortune, and the team achieved the highest possible honor they could have hoped for.
On the reason for competing in the event, Mr. Yamauchi stated that "I wanted to confirm just how effective the experience in the virtual world is, by competing in a race on the Nurburgring. And that includes not just the driving aspects, but on a wider range of things including the building of the car, communication, and much more. And of course, this will all be fed back into future renditions of Gran Turismo. "