Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Gran Turismo movie.
We expect a certain loose application of facts in moviemaking. Even when films are based on true stories, directors can’t seem to stop themselves from adding in just a few more explosions, a love interest, or a twist and turn of the real-life timeline. The creators of the recent Sony film Gran Turismo were up front about adding characters and modifying events to compress the multi-year story of Jann Mardenborough’s journey from casual gamer to professional race car driver into a movie-friendly few months.
Even understanding that, we left the theater curious about two of the plot points in Gran Turismo. Did Mardenborough really find an untried racing line at Le Mans because of his gaming experience, and was it difficult for him to see the Nürburgring crash portrayed on the big screen? Mardenborough was kind enough to take time out of his promotional tour to answer both questions for us.
Car and Driver: We were surprised to see the Nürburgring crash play such a big part in Gran Turismo. Was there discussion about that when you agreed to be part of the movie?
Mardenborough: Yeah, there were discussions and of course, Nürburgring was part of that discussion. But straightaway, once I agreed to be involved in the movie, I was of the opinion that it had to include Nürburgring, not only technically but also emotionally. Those scenes afterward in the hospital, that’s my perspective, and it was very dark. It’s still the lowest point of my life, personally, and also my career. But it needed to be there, out of respect for the situation and the spectator who was killed in the accident.
Were there other areas in the script where you had strong feelings about how the story needed to be told?
The other example would be GT Academy, and how that process went down. My favorite part of the movie is the first 40 minutes because it explains the process of where I was in life, my situation, living at home. I was 19, kind of with no real direction. And it explains how I found the academy, how I was good at the game, how I was working in a retail store. Neill [Blomkamp, director] was aligned on that as well because it really tees up the whole story, you have to know that beginning in order to understand the story.
In the movie, there is a major plot point based on your finding a faster way around the track from gaming, that the other drivers don’t use. Did you really find a new racing line from playing Gran Turismo?
In the movie, at Le Mans, there’s a certain line that I use in a particular corner that I found on the simulator. There’s a half-truth in that. I have found certain different racing lines. At one track in particular in Japan called Fuji Speedway, there is a corner called 100 R, which is Turn 4, Turn 5, quite a high-speed corner. I found this particular line doing it much tighter in Formula 3. On the sim—I was using Gran Turismo at the time—I found a tighter line was more consistent for me. And compared to some others, they were using a slightly wider line, exiting four and then going into five, whereas I would kind of stay quite tight.
It’s not Le Mans, but certainly, I found different lines in real life, at different circuits. I have stumbled across a different race line in the wet, at Fuji again, while doing Formula 3. At the exit of Turn 1, beyond the white line, there’s some “grasscrete,” we call it, like some cobbled stones almost. But they’re quite grippy. And I remember being out of control arriving at turn one in an F3 in a test session, very wet. Not going to make the apex. Definitely not going to make the apex. And I just cranked a little lock at the last minute and my front left tire hooked onto these cobbled stones that had quite a lot of grip on them.
And that was my line in the wet. It didn’t work in a bigger car because the cars were less nimble. It didn’t work in Super Formula, but it worked in an F3 car. And I’d always gain a 10th and a half compared to my teammates at Turn 1. I had the team manager telling me I kept missing the apex at Turn 1, but I was actually quickest. I mean, I didn’t find that line specifically in the game, but the line at Turn 4, Turn 5—that was through playing GT. So there’s a half-truth there. That’s the long answer.
See our review of Gran Turismo, or just see it in a theater near you.
Senior Editor, Features
Like a sleeper agent activated late in the game, Elana Scherr didn’t know her calling at a young age. Like many girls, she planned to be a vet-astronaut-artist, and came closest to that last one by attending UCLA art school. She painted images of cars, but did not own one. Elana reluctantly got a driver’s license at age 21 and discovered that she not only loved cars and wanted to drive them, but that other people loved cars and wanted to read about them, which meant somebody had to write about them. Since receiving activation codes, Elana has written for numerous car magazines and websites, covering classics, car culture, technology, motorsports, and new-car reviews.