Bob Earl Racing
As you probably know, everyone at the FiringSquad office is a huge fan of Gran Turismo 3, particularly the realism. We're very pleased to present our interview with Bob Earl, a professional racecar driver and coach whose resume includes two victories at Daytona 24 hours, a victory at 12 hours of Sebring, Winner of the Grand Prix of Macau, 24 career victories in the International Motor Sports Associations Camel GT Series, Director of Instruction for the Derek Daly Performance Driving Academy, former Chief Instructor for the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving at Ontario Motor Speedway and Sears Point Raceway, and perhaps as equally as impressively, ďall goldsĒ in the GT3 license tests. Though Bob no longer races professionally, he continues to coach pro drivers and often turns to the Gran Turismo 3 as a teaching tool and has recently made his Virtual Racing Chassis available for purchase. Our questions are in bold type and Bobís responses are in plain type.
FiringSquad: Hi Bob! First of all, thanks for taking the time to talk with us to answer a few questions about yourself, your interest in Gran Turismo 3, and your new Virtual Racing Chassis. Letís start with the basics since some of our readers may not know who you are. Can you tell us a little bit about your racing history?
Bob: Sure, 1972 was when I started racing Formula Ford and won the National Championship in 1973 continued in Formula Ford for 2 years and then to Atlantic, Super Vee, Formula 3 at Macau etc. I was actually a mechanical engineer so I understood what went into making a car perform the way it does, and I became a very good test driver with the help of Carroll Smith.
In í72, I decided that I would try racing and I realized that I could probably be a better driver with practice than an engineer. Now, Iím not one of those people who are somehow born with a talent for driving; I had to learn and practice. But I could make my car quicker and more competitive than most of the other guys, and that helped me early on. Anyhow, in Ď85 or Ď86, I started driving for Pontiac in IMSA and ended up doing all the classes (GTU, GTO, Lights and GTP) with them. I then drove for Nissan in GTP in the early 90s and ultimately retired in 1994. You can read more details on my website.
FiringSquad: How did you get started with Gran Turismo 3? Were you at a video game player at all before then?
Bob: Well, this is actually a funny story. About two years ago, I bought my six-year old son the PlayStation 2. Since he was a big fan of Michael Schumacher and his antics on the podium, I got him both of the Formula 1 games - and he beat me!
Iím a professional race driver and my six-year old son was beating me. I knew that wasnít right, so I decided I had to get a steering wheel. Of course, once I got the wheel, I had no problems winning at all. [laughs] You have to understand that before this, the only game I played was Pong -- that tells you how old I am, but the F1 game felt great. The only thing that bothered me was that the brake pedal was way soft and it was hard to really get the full feeling out of it, but I was impressed with the game and that got me interested in all the others.
When I tried Gran Turismo 3, I was amazed. For some reason, the brake pedal problem I told you about with the F1 games wasnít so noticeable in GT3 although it could be stiffer. I donít know what they did or how theyíre doing it, but it felt like the real thing. The car dynamics as I trail braked into the turns and power slid around the turns was spot on. I think one thing that makes a big difference is how the car leans a bit as your turn. Other games do it too, but they donít do it the same way GT3 does.
FiringSquad: Yeah, in our first review of the game, one of the details that really struck us was how natural the cars looked in the replays as they tilted during a turns.
Bob: With GT3, it really does feel like youíre driving. Anyhow, Iíve looked into most of the racing games on the PlayStation and on the PC. Another game I like is Grand Prix Legends, which is what all the PC enthusiasts talk about. I actually have the ACT LABS setup with the shifter. GPL has awesome car dynamics, but itís still not as good as GT3.