MINI Space published last week an interview with Christopher Weil, Lead MINI Designer of the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo founder Kazunori Yamauchi. Their discussion is focused around the collaboration between MINI and Gran Turismo along with the design process behind creating the Clubman Vision GT.
What happens when classic design meets the limitless possibilities of a virtual world? That’s what MINI and the pioneering racing simulators of Gran Turismo set out to do with the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo, a virtual concept supercar available now on Gran Turismo 6 for PS3. Featuring carbon fibre components, LED lights and a 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds, we think that’s a few good reasons to listen up to the creators in this exclusive interview below.
When it comes to virtual reality, the team from Gran Turismo know a thing or two. Taking 3 years to develop, Gran Turismo 6 takes incredible care to create hyper-realistic graphics and give intense attention to performance detail. The game matches the physics of a real world race so well that youths have actually launched real racing careers after first mastering the simulated version through a program known as the Gran Turismo Academy. After learning the basics of racing on the game he himself created, Gran Turismo founder Kazunori Yamauchi now races competitively on world-class tracks like the Nürburgring.
Celebrating 15 years of Gran Turismo this year, Yamauchi launched the Vision Gran Turismo project, selecting exclusive car designers to submit a purely experimental concept car, giving them total flexibility to try out new aerodynamic, design and performance adaptations in a way real-world car designing doesn’t quite allow. As a particular favourite of Yamauchi’s, MINI was invited to participate and a unique collaboration was set into motion.
The fruits of months of labour, the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo is now ready for the starting line in Gran Turismo 6. To get some exclusive insight into what went into this virtual concept supercar, read what Yamauchi and lead MINI designer Christopher Weil have to say about the creative process.
MINI Space [MS]: Kazunori, how are you and the Gran Turismo team involved with the creation of these digital dream cars? Do you just explain the possibilities of the game or do you actively coach the designers on what type of vehicles you want to see in Gran Turismo?
Kazunori Yamauchi [KY]: I think it’s safe to say we basically recreate the vision of the automotive designers exactly as is. But if the design would be a little conservative, we would remind them, “This really is a rare opportunity to venture out there and the players will appreciate that”.
Christopher Weil [CW]: Yes, Kaz let us do whatever we thought was right, which is amazing I think. We could really care for every cut line in a realistic way, because he wants the cars to look totally believable. When he saw the car he was so amazed, asking if it would be built, because he wants to have one! He’s a real MINI enthusiast!
MS: How does the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo stand out within the fleet of Gran Turismo vehicles?
KY: MINI is a very unique brand, in that there’s no other brand in the world in which its name and the shape of the car are so deeply and inseparably linked together. MINI is already successful as a premium and active compact car brand, but the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo takes on some new values of sportiness and a little bit of a bad boy attitude. In a sense, that is going beyond the boundaries of the brand. I think this is a very interesting proposal to Gran Turismo players.
MS: As you acquire new cars like the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo, do you envision them as thriving on a particular course or terrain? Do you see the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo as performing best one course more than others?
KY: Since 2009 I’ve participated in the Nürburgring 24 hour race, but I’m starting to see more MINI on the Nordschleife now. MINI racing on the Nordschleife actually look very natural, more so than I had imagined. There’s no other car that goes so well with the word “Clubman.” So I think the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo would go very well with a wild circuit like the Nordschleife, and of course it should go very well with very traditional tracks like Brands Hatch. MS: Did you run into any unexpected freedoms or limitations when designing the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo?
CW: The car should match reality. Engineered in a way that it kind of makes people dream that it could be a possibility. I know we could have taken the decision to not do it in this way, but on the other hand this game is so realistic and all the guys who are driving cars in Gran Turismo 6 are car enthusiasts. They put a lot of effort in making a real racecar in that sense.
MS: Very cool. As a follow up to that question of categorisation, it is on the one hand a Group C racing car, sporty, athletic and aggressive. Yet it’s also still quintessentially a MINI Clubman. Which features would you say ensure it’s an elegant, street legal MINI Clubman and which features tie it to the motorsport world of Gran Turismo?
CW: Proportions are very important in keeping the MINI Clubman figure. The rear view is kind of exaggerated to the max, though. We have a new transition from the hood to the roof, using just one surface. The whole car looks like overlapping shells. Three separate layers overlap at different seams, which is pretty new. This is for both a sculptured aesthetic and for aerodynamic power. It’s really muscular, however the details are kind of modern. It’s about bringing racing to life.
MS: What’s more important about these shells, the sculpted aesthetic or aerodynamics and performance?
CW: It is very much motivated by aerodynamics. If you have a hard defined axis, for example at the rear, then aerodynamics become very good, the air stream is cut in a defined way. All the features are functional, they are implemented to increase aerodynamics of course, to make it compact, faster. They have reasons to be there. However aerodynamic forms are often beautiful, so the performance driven approach is specifically what creates the sleek energetic look.
MS: Kazunori, do you foresee a future where car designs may be regularly tested in simulated worlds like Gran Turismo, where it becomes the first testing ground for a new vision of mobility?
KY: The great thing about simulators is that you can test your ideas immediately. For example, you’ve thought of a new torque vectoring drive system. Or you’ve come up with a completely new driver aid system that no one’s thought of before. In cases like this, Gran Turismo is the optimum test platform. MS: Christopher, is there one particular feature of this car you were most excited about?
CW: Yes, there is actually more than one, but I wanted to point out the headlights. They are segmented into four separate parts to create a look inspired from race cars of the 50’s or 60’s, including classic Mini like the Morris Mini Cooper S that won in Monte Carlo. Even as late as the 80’s racecars still used to put criss-crossed strips of tape on the headlamps in case they broke, to prevent the shattered glass from covering the track. So the MINI Clubman Vision Gran Turismo shows a combination of both the latest technology and this kind of historical detail. Another favourite feature of mine is the snapback double door. It’s very exciting for me, as well as the integration of the taillight and the whole set up in general of the rear.
MS: How do you think this unique design experience will affect your future work and potentially the design of future MINI?
CW: I think it’s always great to have projects that are in that sense free, where we can dream and try things out that you can’t in other projects. Every project we’re doing here is kind of influencing others. Of course our design process is partially virtual and we are always starting virtual, but at a certain point it becomes reality and this car proves that you could do it totally virtual yet also make it so realistic in terms of both design and hardware. The whole team was excited to develop it further. We are excited to hear the feedback, see what the community says. And we’re looking forward to driving it in Gran Turismo 6. That’s something special. Cars are made for moving and not just looking at.