On Monday, 05 September, 2011, Formula 1 ace David Coulthard was thrilled to take victory in an innovative Mercedes-Benz virtual v. reality race staged simultaneously at two locations in Surrey, England.
Driving a real-life 6.3 litre V8 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, ‘DC’ completed a 15 minute shoot-out around the Dunsfold track, home to BBC Top Gear. Up against him were six drivers in the virtual Gran Turismo 5 version of the SLS AMG racing on the same track but from the comfort of Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands in Surrey.
With a live-feed from both locations being broadcast on the Mercedes-Benz website, the stakes were high. Coulthard was keen to uphold the honour of his profession while the gamers were keen to upstage the master and win a trip for two to attend the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix as guests of Mercedes-Benz.
With clouds threatening the outdoor event, Coulthard put in a string of super-quick early laps in the SLS AMG, on standard road tyres, and managed to set a 1’16.320 time. Back at Brooklands, only Jason Birt – one of the six who had won the right to race from a field of 24 competition winners earlier in the day – posed a serious threat to the 13-time Grand Prix winner. His 1’16.868 time fell just half a second short of the professional at the end of a fantastic duel.
Motor sport commentator Jonathan Legard hosted the PlayStation grid at the Mercedes-Benz flagship venue while the BBC’s Martin Brundle presented from the real-world at Dunsfold. Media and celebrity names, including Radio 1 DJ Reggie Yates, and TV presenters Pollyanna Woodward and Mike Bushell, also took part in the race, but did not manage to trouble the leader board.
East Londoner Jason Birt (31) was elated by his performance and his prize. “This has been a real buzz,” he said. “It has been a very impressive day with the off-road, SLS and drifting experiences this morning and then the GT5 racing has been excellent. I only got the call on Thursday to say that I was taking part and so I am really happy to have won the virtual race and be going to Brazil. Shame I didn’t get to beat DC, but he is a real pro and it would have been quite a feat to beat him. A massive thank you to Mercedes-Benz and PlayStation for making this happen.”
An action replay of Coulthard’s flying laps around the track with commentary from BBC’s Martin Brundle, combined with supporting footage from the spectacle at Mercedes-Benz World is currently available on www.mercedesliverace.co.uk.
GT5 fans from around the world are invited to take part in the Virtual v Real challenge, through a specially created in-game ‘seasonal event’ called the Mercedes-Benz Driving Event. The online ‘seasonal event’ went live in conjunction with the live challenge against Coulthard and it remains open until 23.59 (BST), on 26 September. Close to 80,000 GT5 gamers from around the globe have now attempted to beat David Coulthard via the seasonal event, with over 7,500 people setting times during the 15-minute live time trial, making the race arguably the biggest in the world. The on-going leaderboard information for virtual times is available now on www.gran-turismo.com.