How ‘Gran Turismo 7’ is Revving Up the Reality of Racing Games!
Hey there, gamers! So, we’ve all been loving the Gran Turismo series, right? It’s been 25 years since the first title came out in 1997 and it’s been all about the realism of our favorite rides and races ever since! But let’s cut to the chase: the latest kid on the block, “Gran Turismo 7” on PS5 and PS4, is seriously blurring the lines between the game and reality.
Sure, the graphics are jaw-droppingly good. I mean, it’s getting hard to tell whether you’re in your living room or actually inside a Ferrari. But what about the actual car behavior? How close does it get to the real deal when you’re pushing the pedal to the metal? Well, who better to answer that than the real drivers who’ve tested the limits of these cars?
Enter Igor Omura Fraga, this dude’s not just a pro at the “Gran Turismo World Series” but also races in the big leagues – the SUPER GT (GT300 class) and Super Formula Lights in Japan. Lucky for us, he recently had a chat with 4Gamer.
Real vs Virtual Racing: Igor Fraga Spills the Beans!
Fraga knows his stuff when it comes to both real and virtual racing. He’s been sharing his thoughts on what’s similar and what’s different between the two. Plus, he’s got some seriously cool stories about his racing journey and how Gran Turismo has been a part of it. So, buckle up and get ready to dive into the fast and furious world of Gran Turismo!
Virtual vs Reality: A Candid Chat with Gran Turismo Pro, Igor Omura Fraga!
Interviewer: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy racing season to chat with us. We know there are tons of Gran Turismo fans out there, but few have had the chance to test a real car to its limits. That’s why we’re stoked to get the scoop straight from you, Fraga – a real-deal driver who’s mastered both the virtual and actual racing tracks.
So, kick things off for us, will you? We’re all ears to hear your thoughts on how “Gran Turismo 7” has revved up the game from its predecessors.
Igor Omura Fraga (hereafter Fraga): Absolutely, man. When it comes to the graphics, they’ve really stepped it up a notch. It’s baffling how you can barely tell the difference between the game world and the real one now.
And it’s not just about the visuals – even stuff like how the cars move and tire wear is getting way more life-like.
Interviewer: The game now lets you nail those real-life techniques, like timing your accelerator and brake, perfectly. So yeah, it’s definitely levelled up a whole lot from the previous versions!
You’re saying that the game has generally leveled up, but can you get a bit more specific? What aspects have become more true-to-life?
Fraga: You know, “Gran Turismo 6” on PS3 and “Gran Turismo SPORT” on PS4 already felt super realistic, but the latest version has really outdone itself.
Like, the moment I start to turn the steering wheel, I can feel more feedback, like the game’s giving me extra details straight from the road surface.
Plus, when the car starts to slide, the game’s response feels less gimmicky and requires a more subtle touch on the controls, just like real-world driving. So yeah, those improvements really stand out for me.
Interviewer: Sure, there’s a world of difference between actual racing and gaming, like the physical demands, but let’s park that for a bit. When we’re just talking about how the car responds to the steering and pedals, do you think we’ve reached a point where the game is almost indistinguishable from reality?
Fraga: Totally, man! We’re inching closer and closer to reality. And the best part about Gran Turismo? The amazing variety of cars, each with their unique behaviors.
In real-life racing, you’re usually stuck with the same car all season. Want to switch it up? Well, that’s gonna be a pricey affair and not exactly a walk in the park.
But Gran Turismo? It’s like an all-you-can-drive buffet with a ton of courses thrown in. It massively ups your driving game.
So, when you’re in a real race and have to drive a different car or deal with a quirky one, you’re already prepped. Just a little adjustment and you’re good to go!
Interviewer: For instance, would you say there’s a noticeable difference between a formula car and a box car (a car that’s been modified from a standard commercial vehicle)?
Fraga: Oh, absolutely! Formula cars are lighter beasts with a stiffer suspension compared to box cars. They’re super responsive and can whip around corners like nobody’s business. And the downforce – it feels like the car’s saying, “Just push me, I’ve got this!”
But you need to be savvy with the accelerator. Release it too abruptly, and the load shifts to the front, throwing the balance off.
Box cars are a different ball game altogether. They’re heavier than formula cars with a more forgiving suspension. So, you’ll feel them sway a bit more, and they don’t corner like formula cars. That also means if your handling is a bit off, the car doesn’t immediately respond. It gives you a little wiggle room to correct your move.
Interviewer: So, Gran Turismo does a good job of replicating these features, right? Like, if you’re playing the game with the same car and circuit as a real race, you can figure out things like which corners you can take at full throttle and where to brake.
Fraga: Yeah, it’s pretty darn close! Forgetting the nitty-gritty details, Gran Turismo gives you a solid feel for the broad strokes of the settings.
Take this for an example – if you found that softening the front springs in the game makes your car turn in easier and shaves off some time, you can bet that tweaking it the same way in a real-world scenario will give you a speed boost too!
Interviewer: I’ve heard that many racing teams use their own simulators for training and preparation. Would you say these simulators are similar to Gran Turismo?
Fraga: Well, they’re really quite different, mainly because they’re designed with different goals in mind. Lately, European teams in particular have started using simulators, but these only include the specific cars and tracks that the team will actually be racing on. And they’re not too fussed about the graphics either – their main focus is on accurately replicating the car’s movements.
Interviewer: If we’re talking about pure simulators, it might not be as easy to “expand your driving repertoire”. Earlier, you mentioned the ways “Gran Turismo 7” has evolved from its predecessors. What further improvements do you think we might see in future versions?
Fraga: I’d say the next big leap could be in how the game portrays tires. Even in real-life racing, tires remain a bit of a mystery, so that could definitely be an interesting area to explore.
Interviewer: Could you be more specific about that?
Fraga: Sure, let me explain. In a real race, especially during last-minute pushes with fresh tires, there’s a thing that happens – if your tires start to slip, they may regain a bit of grip.
But it’s a tiny window of opportunity, and if you overshoot it, you hit what we call a ‘grip cliff’ where the tires just lose all traction.
Not every driver can exploit this fleeting grip, but in a do-or-die qualifying session, the ones who can leverage this tiny extra grip are the ones who top the charts. Now, this is a phenomenon that’s notoriously hard to replicate in simulators.
Interviewer: So, this is a realm understood only by top-tier drivers. You mentioned earlier that Gran Turismo can guide the direction of your settings, but do you personally use Gran Turismo as a reference when preparing for real races?
Fraga: Actually, I leave the initial setup to the engineers. My focus is on using Gran Turismo to prime myself to hit peak performance the moment I hit the track.
Given the limited time, you can’t afford to spend it figuring out your driving once you’re out on the circuit. The goal is to be fully prepped and ready to clock in fast times right off the bat.
Interviewer: That means you’re working in tandem with your team. But on the flip side, in Gran Turismo races, you’re pretty much a one-man band, aren’t you?
Fraga: That’s right! Official Gran Turismo races don’t involve any setup, so that’s one less thing to worry about. This has actually broadened my perspective in real races too, not just focusing on driving, but looking at the bigger picture.
For instance, if a car that’s clearly faster is closing in from behind, it’s more strategic to let it pass rather than fight it. The aim is to minimize the overall race time. Also, being aware of your situation makes it easier to coordinate with the team over the radio, like deciding the optimal time to pit.
Interviewer: Some of your Gran Turismo victories seem to hinge on smart strategy. For instance, while other drivers opt for medium tires, you start with soft ones and gain an early advantage. Could you share your thoughts on such tactics?
Fraga: Absolutely! The fundamental question I ask myself is, “How can I reduce the overall race time?”
Depending on the starting grid position and other factors, I usually opt for a strategy that lets me keep a clear track for as long as I can, minimizing entanglements with other drivers.
But the strategy can change based on the course. For example, if there’s a long straight stretch, I might try to draft behind another car to gain speed.
Interviewer: Indeed, sometimes driving in tandem with other cars can lead to faster speeds.
Fraga: On top of that, I always have various strategies prepped in advance, but I’m also ready to switch gears, so to speak, and adapt my strategy once the race kicks off.
In competitions like the “Gran Turismo World Series”, the skill levels of the drivers are pretty evenly matched.
So, I believe it’s the ability to make sharp, strategic decisions on the fly that ultimately decides the winner.
Interviewer: Deciding the optimal course of action often requires understanding the time gaps with other cars, but Gran Turismo doesn’t always provide that information for every vehicle. How do you handle this?
Fraga: Actually, we can gauge these time differences using the circuit map and the icons representing each car. When planning the timing for a pit stop, it’s crucial to envision the state of the race once the pit work is completed.
I often check the map, especially around the start/finish line, and make decisions based on that. For instance, if I think I can re-enter the race ahead of a slower group, I might decide to pit in that lap.
Interviewer: It must be challenging to observe and make decisions while racing.
Fraga: It’s incredibly tough. During the finals of “Gran Turismo: World Series,” I have to compete in two or three races back-to-back, all while staying hyper-focused.
By the time it’s all over, I’m mentally exhausted; I could almost just collapse on my bed. It’s not physical fatigue, but mental exhaustion.
In real races, it’s a bit easier in this respect because our team relays the time differences with other cars over the radio.
Interviewer: If you’re in contention for the championship, you might need to consider the point gap with your rivals towards the end of the race. Spectators might wonder, “What position are my rivals in now?”
Fraga: While some drivers might race with that in mind, I personally don’t. My fundamental belief is “If I perform at my best, it will naturally lead to victory,” and “Aim for the top,” so I don’t let the point differences dictate my strategy or driving style. There are plenty of things to contemplate during a race, but my primary focus is always to give it my all.
Interviewer: On the flip side, can such considerations become distractions?
Fraga: Absolutely. In a race, maintaining intense focus is crucial. There are elements to account for at every corner, and even on straight stretches, you have to monitor the time gap and the type of tires your competitors are using on the screen, planning your strategy accordingly. Cutting out any unnecessary information as much as possible simplifies the racing process.
Interviewer: There’s a significant difference between real and virtual races, especially when considering the potential life-altering consequences of accidents. Does becoming a professional driver help eliminate these fears?
Fraga: It’s not something you can completely get rid of. Despite my familiarity with cars and races, there’s always a hint of fear lurking somewhere.
However, in my view, fear isn’t something to be eliminated or conquered. Instead, it’s something that must be acknowledged and embraced.
I believe that an element of fear can heighten concentration. So, I tend to accept it and use it to my advantage during races.
Interviewer: Indeed, one may assume that fear is less prominent in Gran Turismo.
Fraga: While it’s true that fear is less present, Gran Turismo brings its own unique form of tension, so I wouldn’t say that I’m drastically different when playing.
The time spent practicing often exceeds the actual race duration, which intensifies the feeling of “I’ve put in so much work, I want to see good results.”
Plus, severe penalties can be imposed for causing accidents, so I still strive to avoid them.
Interviewer: The upcoming movie “Gran Turismo,” set to premiere in September, is said to be inspired by the journey of Jann Mardenborough.
He made his professional debut through “GT Academy,” a collaboration between Nissan and PlayStation* aimed at discovering and nurturing professional drivers from Gran Turismo players.
While physical strength is an obvious requirement, I wonder what else would be necessary to transition from e-motorsports to becoming a real driver like Mardenborough.
*This contest is a joint venture by Nissan, PlayStation, and Polyphony Digital with the goal of identifying and developing professional drivers from Gran Turismo gamers.
Fraga: I concur. For me, regular muscle training and aerobic exercises are part of my routine. Additionally, I receive guidance from Ken Nakata, a renowned trainer for professional racers and Olympic athletes. He supervises my intense training sessions two or three times a month.
Interviewer: What is the toughest workout?
Fraga: That’s tough to answer… Each exercise poses its own unique challenges, so essentially, they’re all quite difficult (laughs). To truly enhance your physical strength, your training needs to push beyond your current boundaries. I find myself nursing sore muscles every week (laughs).
Interviewer: I understand that racing drivers undergo neck training to endure the lateral G-force experienced during cornering.
Fraga: Indeed, but having been away from actual races for the past couple of years, I’m a bit leaner compared to my fellow racers. However, I’m beginning to feel like I’m regaining my former shape. While I do train independently, some aspects of racing can only be honed through actual driving experiences.
Interviewer: So, it’s not just about physical fitness. Aside from that, what else is required to transition from e-motorsports to the real thing?
Fraga: One crucial component is having a mentor to guide you through actual racing. Gran Turismo drivers possess incredible potential, but there are certain elements that change when it comes to real racing, be it driving techniques or mindset. So, having someone who can provide proper guidance is crucial. I hope to have such a person in my corner.
Interviewer: You mentioned mindset, so what kind of mentality is needed during an actual race?
Fraga: Ultimately, forging a solid relationship with your team is key. To get the desired results, the contributions of mechanics and engineers are indispensable. Therefore, it’s important to inspire them and foster an environment where the entire team is working in unison.
Interviewer: As the driver is the heart of the team, if those active in real racing were to participate in Gran Turismo, would they excel?
Fraga: It’s not that simple. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve been playing Gran Turismo since I was a child. When I first entered the “GT Academy,” despite having real racing experience, my fastest lap time was 1.2 seconds slower. That was just enough to scrape into the US region’s finals.* It was a wake-up call for me to strive harder. It took me over a year of intensive training to finally reach the top tier.
*At the time, Fraga was below 18, thus due to regulations, he was not eligible to participate in the final.
Interviewer: What challenges might a real driver encounter when playing Gran Turismo?
Fraga: The most pronounced difference is the lack of sensory information. The absence of physical vibrations through the seat makes it difficult for those who solely have real racing experience to comprehend the vehicle’s condition and limits.
Earlier, I mentioned tire grip. In real racing, there’s a degree of leeway where you can “cheat” slightly beyond the limit without consequence.
However, in Gran Turismo, exceeding even slightly results in lost time. Therefore, if the tire grip is hypothetically 100, one must meticulously drive to the edge of 99.5 or 99.8, but never surpass 100.
Interviewer: There are elements that are tougher than in actual racing. From our discussion so far, it seems that both real racing and Gran Turismo have unique challenges, and it may not be fair to compare them directly. Still, I’d like to ask you a question that’s often debated among gamers: “Is eSports a sport?” Everyone has their own opinion on this. What’s yours?
Fraga: That’s a tough question. Sports traditionally involve physical exertion. However, if we overlook that aspect, the mental preparation and pre-race tension are absolutely identical between real racing and Gran Turismo.
Looking at it from a broader perspective, in terms of life skills like perseverance and optimal utilization of your abilities, I believe Gran Turismo has taught me more than real life experiences.
In Gran Turismo, you’re responsible for all race preparations and managing your training routine, which has helped me refine these skills.
Interviewer: Fraga’s career is quite intriguing, having raced globally including places like Japan and Brazil. We know that he was born in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture in 1998 and spent his early years there. When did he get his start in racing?
Fraga: My interest in racing sparked around the age of three when my father took me to a circuit to introduce me to go-karting.
I found it quite appealing. Around the same time, “Gran Turismo 3” was released for the PlayStation 2 along with a steering controller.
However, my parents were hesitant to let me drive at such a young age. So initially, they gifted me the game as a birthday present.
Interviewer: So, your first experience with driving and racing was through Gran Turismo?
Fraga: Yes, that’s correct. I learned the rudimentary aspects like identifying the accelerator and brake, and understanding the car’s response to steering wheel adjustments, all through Gran Turismo.
After gaining this basic knowledge, I transitioned into karting. However, on weekdays when I wasn’t practicing or competing, I would play Gran Turismo after returning from school.
Interviewer: In karting, you’ve won numerous competitions, including the Asian Kart Open Championship in 2008. However, I understand that you had to stop?
Fraga: Indeed, motorsports can be quite financially demanding, which led me to leave karting in 2008. Later, I moved back to Brazil and managed to return to four-wheeled racing instead of karts in 2014. But during that hiatus, I consistently kept playing Gran Turismo.
Interviewer: When you resumed racing in Brazil, Gran Turismo was taking off as a major competition. What spurred you to engage more seriously with it?
Fraga: Upon discovering “GT Academy,” I saw it as my opportunity to turn professional. Until that point, Gran Turismo was merely a pastime for me, but this switched it to a more focused mode.
When you compete in races like F3, all the funding from sponsors goes directly to the team. At that juncture, securing sponsors was tough, forcing me to borrow money and even sell a cherished airplane model my father, an engineer, had assembled from a kit for my grandmother. As I was getting older, I was eager to progress to the next level.
Interviewer: When you began dedicating more time to Gran Turismo, what were the reactions from those around you? Did people involved in real racing view it positively?
Fraga: Absolutely. Many mechanics, for instance, shared that they’ve also been playing for a long time. Even later, when I joined new teams, I often experienced a welcoming environment, thanks in part to Gran Turismo.
Interviewer: Does Gran Turismo carry a lot of weight in the real racing industry?
Fraga: I believe it has a significant impact. In my experience, the accomplishments I’ve amassed in Gran Turismo have facilitated my efforts to attract sponsors.
Interviewer: Apart from your on-track performances, it seems that there are sponsors who also support your Gran Turismo endeavors. Changing tracks a bit, after Brazil, you competed in Mexico and the United States. Why did you choose to go that route?
Fraga: Upon becoming the Brazilian F3 champion, my initial plan was to race overseas, ideally in Europe, and work my way up to F1.
However, the financial implications of that route made it unfeasible. Conversely, in Mexico, I had ties with the team I was part of in Brazil, making it a less stressful option compared to Europe.
That led me to the United States, where I entered the lower division of IndyCar. Winning the championship in that series comes with a scholarship that covers most of the following season’s expenses, so that was my target.
Interviewer: Indeed, funding is always a concern in actual racing. In 2018, you secured the 4th position in the American USF2000 series and emerged as the winner of the “FIA Gran Turismo Championship.*” Also, you triumphed in the Nations Cup in 2019 and managed to participate in the European F3 in 2019, fulfilling your dream.
*The Gran Turismo World Series, the official world tournament of the Gran Turismo series, marked its inception with this championship.
Fraga: That’s correct. Following my victory in the Nations Cup, we received sponsorship from Gran Turismo. Given these circumstances, a European team that was impressed by my achievements in the U.S. extended an offer. I accepted, thinking it might pave the way to F1.
Interviewer: You also finished third in the series ranking there, and during the European off-season, you raced in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. There, you outpaced global rivals, including Yuki Tsunoda, who’s currently in F1, and clinched the championship.
Fraga: Indeed. Following that, Red Bull approached me with an offer to become a junior, or training, driver. I believe my performance in Gran Turismo played a part in this. At the time, I was around 21 or 22, even though Red Bull’s junior program is typically restricted to teenagers.
Interviewer: They likely saw your potential and appeal in being involved in both real-world and e-motorsports. Red Bull operates some of the top F1 teams and their junior program has nurtured many F1 drivers. This must have boosted your confidence when you joined them.
Fraga: Despite that, various circumstances led to a mismatch in timings in the subsequent races, and I found myself without a team in 2021 and 2022. Nevertheless, I believe my involvement in Gran Turismo will continue to serve me well in different ways.
Interviewer: Those two years must have been quite challenging for you.
Fraga: Indeed, contemplating various aspects can often lead to bouts of depression. However, I’ve always tried to give my best and maintained an attitude of acceptance, understanding that if something doesn’t pan out, it simply wasn’t meant to be.
Despite these setbacks, I constantly sought the next opportunity and concluded that Japan would be the ideal place for it. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic made it exceedingly difficult to enter Japan, but I’m hopeful that I’ll finally be able to make the move around the end of 2022.
Interviewer: Despite these challenges, you emerged as the champion in Gran Turismo’s “TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GT Cup 2022.” Did your involvement in Gran Turismo help you during the period when you couldn’t race in real life?
Fraga: Absolutely. While it isn’t physical racing, the competition is at a world-class level which helped keep my driving skills sharp. Additionally, maintaining visibility is crucial for making a return to real racing, and Gran Turismo served as an effective platform for that. As a result, I dedicated those two years to honing my skills in the virtual racing world.
Interviewer: What prompted your decision to return to racing in Japan?
Fraga: It was mainly because I believed it would be an effective way to promote myself. While competing abroad, I raced under the easily memorable name “Igor Fraga.”
However, when I decided to return to Japan, I wanted to forge a closer connection with the Japanese audience. So, I chose to race under my original name, “Igor Omura Fraga,” incorporating my mother’s maiden name.
Interviewer: Your name, no doubt, has piqued the interest of many. Regarding your activities in Japan, you were appointed as the “SUPER FORMULA e-Motorsports Ambassador” last October.
Fraga: Indeed. Through this role, I aim to bridge e-motorsports and traditional motorsports, highlighting the thrill of the sport and various ways to enjoy it. This involves creating social media videos, writing columns, and occasionally visiting race circuits to share my passion directly with others.
Interviewer: For some time now, people in Japan have been gravitating away from cars, and it seems this shift is also impacting motorsports. What’s your take on this?
Fraga: This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Japan, it’s happening in Brazil as well. Lately, I’ve noticed a significant decrease in the number of sports cars being produced by automakers.
As a child, I’d often find myself admiring cool cars on the streets, but such instances are becoming increasingly rare.
When it comes to motorsports, the distance of the circuits from city centers makes it challenging for people to engage with the sport.
E-motorsports, however, could potentially solve this problem. It allows people to experience racing with various cars, which I believe could reignite their love for cars and stimulate interest in racing.
Interviewer: It seems like a role tailor-made for you, Fraga. Owing to your efforts, you’re back in actual racing this year, participating in the GT300 class of SUPER GT and Super Formula Lights. What are your objectives?
Fraga: My aim is to perform well in both categories and use these experiences as stepping stones for future opportunities. If all goes according to plan, I hope to progress to the GT500 class and Super Formula next year, which I anticipate will be quite competitive.
Of course, I’ll also be participating in both the Nations Cup and the Manufacturers’ Cup, which are official Gran Turismo World Championships, and I intend to achieve commendable results there as well.
After the conclusion of the online Nations Cup series, I’m set to participate in the “Gran Turismo World Series Showdown 2023” in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on August 11th and 12th.
Interviewer: When you think about your long-term goals, what do you envision?
Fraga: My primary ambition is to become a professional driver.
Interviewer: From our perspective, drivers participating in events like the SUPER GT are generally considered professionals. Don’t you view yourself in the same light, Fraga?
Fraga: While I believe there’s little disparity in terms of driving skills, to me, professional drivers are those who make a living solely from their race winnings.
Currently, I’m at a stage where I’m able to compete in races largely due to the financial contributions from sponsors.
My goal is to progress beyond this and reach a point where I can sustain myself through my racing career alone.
Interviewer: Even if you’re racing in a higher category, it seems that not much has changed if you’re still sponsoring yourself.
Fraga: That’s true. It was the same this year. Often, I sign contracts with teams first, and then we secure sponsors to provide the necessary funds. You might wonder, “What happens if the sponsors don’t cover the costs?” But if I don’t take that risk, another driver might take my spot.
Interviewer: That’s quite a burden in addition to the actual racing…
Fraga: Indeed, even after finding a sponsor and receiving their financial support, I have to shoulder my own travel and accommodation expenses. With races and tests occurring twice a month, these costs add up significantly.
Interviewer: I always assumed that being part of a team meant the team covered these costs. Is it common to self-fund?
Fraga: It feels like I’m investing everything I have into racing. In fact, I don’t even own a personal car. That’s one of the advantages of Gran Turismo – there are no external concerns, so I can focus solely on improving my driving skills.
Interviewer: The Lehman shock incident led to you leaving Japan and taking a hiatus from racing, which must have been incredibly tough given that it wasn’t directly related to you. Yet, you’ve persevered.
Fraga: My love for racing sustains me. Even if I can only race a little, I’m willing to endure hardships. I’ve stayed committed, driven by the desire to experience the thrill of driving a formula car again.
Interviewer: Since your return to racing in Japan, your situation seems to have improved, and I hope this positive trend continues. As we wrap up, could you share a message with our readers?
Fraga: Absolutely. I want to tell those who share my dreams that consistent effort can bring you closer to your goals.
To achieve this, it’s crucial to listen to diverse perspectives and constantly strive to better yourself. In the end, these experiences can be leveraged in numerous ways.
Personally, I’m committed to giving my best this year, both in real life and in Gran Turismo, and I greatly appreciate your continued support.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
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