Dunedin video game racer heads for Asia

Dunedin man Simon Bishop (28) is screeching into world video game stardom. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Dunedin man Simon Bishop (28) is screeching into world video game stardom. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Simon Bishop’s "crappy" Toyota is miles away from the virtual supercars he is manoeuvering into the heights of the video game motorsport world.

At the weekend, the Dunedin man secured his place in the Asia-Oceania championships for Gran Turismo Sport and will head to Asia early next month.

He finished best in New Zealand and 11th overall in the regional qualifiers, which he has been racing in for the last three months.

If he makes the top 10 next month he will travel to the world championships, which are likely to be held in Monaco.

He is one of four New Zealanders who made the regional championships.

Just as in real car racing, there are teams and endorsements.

Mr Bishop just signed with the eSports and Cars team, headed by former Nissan Motorsport boss Darren Cox.

The team will pay his way to either Tokyo or Hong Kong where the competition will be held, and provide gear and training.

Mr Bishop said the world of "esport" was growing hugely.

The winner of last year’s inaugural world championship, Britain’s Brendon Leigh, is now a tester for Mercedes F1, racing simulators fulltime.

"A year ago he was just a guy sitting on a couch."

The Gran Turismo competitions are endorsed by world motorsport governing body the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.

The growth opened the motorsport world up to people who could not afford to race professionally, he said.

"I’d need $100,000 a year, whereas for playing online all you need is a $400 steering wheel and a $400 PS4 [Play Station 4]."

Mr Bishop played different versions of the game since he was 11.

"That’s how I learned to drive."

Now he practises several hours every day.

On the road he drives a "really crappy" 1993 Toyota Starlet.

"I think I’m a good driver, but so does everyone. I’m not very good at parking, but there’s no parking in Gran Turismo."

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

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