Category Archives: Entertainment

Super GT star Mardenborough’s racing journey featured on ESPN SportsCenter

To diehard motorsport fans, Jann Mardenborough’s journey from playing video games, to winning the Nissan GT Academy in 2011, to becoming one of the most accomplished and versatile young racing drivers on the planet, is a tale that is well-known.

But to most sports fans, the idea that a young person could become a pro athlete in a given sport just from playing a video game based on that sport is something that would seem unfathomable. And it’s that incredible story that’s now been chronicled in a feature story for ESPN’s SportsCenter, the longest-running sports news and entertainment show in the United States.

Featuring interviews with Jann, along with his father Steve, his mother Lesley, and former Nissan Motorsport director Darren Cox, the SportsCenter Featured story on Mardenborough’s journey from “gamer to racer” is chronicled in an exceptionally produced mini-documentary, narrated by longtime ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi.

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Super GT’s driver introduction ceremonies are the best thing

For 2017, the Autobacs Super GT Series scrapped the Free Practice session on the morning of each race in favour of an opening ceremony at every round – which includes a driver introduction ceremony – not unlike the ones also seen in NASCAR, the Indianapolis 500, or the Bathurst 1000.

It’s a neat addition to the fanfare and pageantry of each Super GT event. And as some teams demonstrated during the Fuji GT 500km Race, it’s also perfect for creating comedic moments.

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On this day: The first JGTC race

Many unhappy memories are associated with May 1, 1994. The death of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna, and the death of Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger the day before, both of whom were beloved in Japan – Senna as a hero for McLaren Honda who won all three of his titles at Suzuka Circuit, Ratzenberger as a two-time JTC touring car champion, Japanese Formula 3000 race winner, and winner of the Suzuka 1000km in 1991.

10,000 kilometers east of Imola, Italy, and the events of one of motorsport’s blackest weekends, there was a new dawn – the date of the first round of the inaugural 1994 All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC), held at Fuji Speedway during the Golden Week holiday period, on May 1, 1994.

Thanks to Japanese motorsport archivist Rocketpencil, we have the entire TV broadcast of that first race of what we now know as Super GT, with its’ two-class structure, the early basis of what would become GT500 and GT300. This was also the first Golden Week race at Fuji Speedway, a tradition that continues today with the annual running of the Fuji 500km on May 4th.

There was a star-studded grid for this race, with reigning champion Masahiko Kageyama and his Calsonic Nissan Skyline GT-R, and featuring a number of Japanese racing legends such as Masahiro Hasemi, Toshio Suzuki, and Naoki Hattori. Even international drivers like Anthony Reid and Mauro Martini were on the grid, and one driver that’s still active today, Akira Iida.

The video is 51 minutes long, and features a number of Japanese-language interviews, in-depth machine analysis, and even support race footage.

 

Super GT in Video Games: Gran Turismo 2

One of the main reasons why the Autobacs Super GT Series has become the most popular domestic racing championship in Japan, and a big reason why it has steadily built a devoted fanbase overseas since the turn of the century, is due to the series’ exposure in video games – none more prominent than the marquee racing franchise of the Sony PlayStation console line, Gran Turismo.

Gran Turismo was a game-changer not only for the entire racing game genre, but for mainstream automotive culture on the whole. For much of the history of Gran Turismo, the awesome cars of Super GT, formerly the All-Japan GT Championship, have been a staple of the franchise.

Specifically, it was the 1999 sequel, Gran Turismo 2 for the original PlayStation console, that was the first to feature authentic, licensed cars from the All-Japan GT Championship (JGTC). GT2 exposed the JGTC to a brand new audience of racing fans and video gamers, and created a following that has slowly kept growing to this day.

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