Driving to the Nürburgring 24 in a Calsonic Nissan GT-R

27th November 2019
Dan Trent

With the spark of passion ignited how did you teach yourself about cars? Books and magazines will likely have played their part, likewise playground games of Top Trumps or Sunday afternoons watching Formula 1 on the TV. Chances are your immersion will have been a strictly two-dimensional experience, though.


For today’s young car nuts the boundaries are blurred. Games like Gran Turismo are now car culture full stop, with those like me who learned to trade and tune in the game now living the dream in the cars we covet and collect for real. And passing it on to the next generation.

Through the latest Gran Turismo Sport my six-year-old son has driven round Goodwood in a GT40 in a Gulf livery of his own creation, raced a Porsche 962 at Le Mans, knows the Nürburgring corner names by heart and understands how to play tyre compound and balance of performance to his advantage when racing his friends. Just how close is his virtual world to the real one though? An invitation from Nissan to drive out to the Nürburgring 24-hour in a historic Skyline GT-R was the perfect opportunity to find out.

Of all the Japanese manufacturers with a debt to Gran Turismo Nissan has done best, the Skyline little known outside of its home market before videogame stardom sealed iconic status. Nissan has been canny at working this association too, inviting the Gran Turismo team to collaborate on the real GT-R by creating the graphics for its onboard displays. Life imitating art then. Or possibly the other way around. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.


One of the features of Gran Turismo Sport is a ‘livery editor’ for customising paint and stickers on the cars you race in the game. For my daughter that means pink paint and Peppa Pig graphics on everything. Meanwhile my son and I spend hours recreating real life racing colours, from Lark McLaren F1s to DTM BMW M3s. And now Nissan UK has done it for real, wrapping its own Skyline R34 in classic Calsonic racing livery for our trip to Germany.  

Inevitably we set about creating our own Calsonic Skyline before the real thing arrives, placing it in virtual ‘scapes’ representing real roads around the Nürburgring. We also create the liveries for in-game GT-R GT3s in honour of the two customer teams running in the real race, meaning by the time we pack our bags for Germany our Gran Turismo garage has a Calsonic R34 alongside NISMO GT-Rs in KCMG Motorsport and Kondo Racing colours.

When the real Calsonic Skyline pulls up outside my son is gobsmacked, the more so when he learns where we’ll be taking it. Accordingly the journey to the Eifel mountains passes in a flash of limit-free Autobahn and excitable car chat, his every Gran Turismo dream coming real before his eyes. Race day traffic means we barely make the start but we land in NISMO hospitality directly opposite one of the KCMG GT-Rs, just like the one we ‘made’ in the game. The flag drops, the race gets underway and, bellies full of bockwurst, we head out for the true Nürburgring 24 experience.


The verges of the forest roads within the circuit are strewn with cars squeezed into every available gap in the trees or fences, many of the fans setting up camp days before the race to bag the best spots. The open gate to a marshal’s post gets us incredibly close to the action, the shockwave of air and exhaust noise as the car’s blast something no video game can replicate. It’s not a place to watch though, and so we hike through the woods for a better view of GT3 cars scything through the slower traffic like hungry sharks. NISMO flags are waved any time a GT-R comes through, the smell of beer and barbecues thick in the air as spectators settle in for the night.

We return to the NISMO shop at the GP circuit to recharge and catch the sunset from the Mercedes grandstand, there being a refreshing degree of accessibility. Unlike Le Mans there’s no difficulty telling the cars apart either – GT3 is the top category here so the sharp end of the race is all recognisable supercars, each with their own distinctive sound and look. Meaning you can tell an AMG from a Porsche or Audi before you even see it, the closing speed of the front-runners on slower cars enough to have you wincing.


And the racing is close. After a Sunday morning hike we find a prime viewing spot a little way up from the famous Karussell corner and, 20 hours in, the top five are separated by mere seconds. Overnight we’ve lost the two KCMG Nissans but the Kondo Racing GT-R is still in the mix and holding a commendable top ten place amidst the relentlessly fast leading pack.

Witnessing this through the eyes of a small boy watching his videogames world come to life is a buzz, his familiarity with the cars and track from the game making his appreciation of the real thing all the more vivid. And through Gran Turismo Academy kids like him graduated to become professional racing drivers for real, new initiatives like the FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championship taking place here at the GP track seeing finalists from across the world battle for honours in ultra-competitive virtual racing.

You may hear some doom mongers telling you the kids no longer care about cars and have no appreciation of motorsport’s rich legacy and significance. But fear not. The upcoming generation are every bit as passionate. And arguably more informed than ever, dreams and reality overlapping in mind-bending clarity. Nothing beats experiencing it for real though, and the flame that keeps events like the N24, Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard and Revival alive looks set to burn for generations to come.

  • Nissan

  • GT-R

  • PlayStation

  • Gran Turismo

  • Nurburgring

  • Nurburgring 24

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