Volkswagen Magazine

Life

That bloke only wants to play.

Volkswagen shatters the boundaries between cyberspace and reality with its “GTI Roadster, Vision Gran Turismo”. At Wörthersee, the company presented the fastest GTI of all time.

Text Sabrina Künz
Photos Sammy Hart

At Wörthersee, it’s a beautiful sunny day. A cheerful mood prevails amongst the fans, press and VIPs who have gathered at Volkswagen to wait for the press conference. Only a small group at the edge shows any signs of growing tension. They have been working towards this moment for months. Now it is here, and the doors are open.

Nothing less than a dual world premiere is being unveiled: the GTI Roadster, Vision Gran Turismo. Created for the virtual racetrack, built for the road. A frenzy of camera flashes illuminates the sports car. Designers Malte Hammerbeck and Domen Rucigaj seem to stop breathing for a time. The tension is almost unbearable. How will the audience react to the roadster? Then the enthusiastic cheering begins.

The men behind the machine (left to right): Domen Rucigaj, Guillermo Mignot and Malte Hammerbeck.

The adventure began with an in-house competition a few months ago. Volkswagen Head Designer Klaus Bischoff invited his team of designers to come up with the ultimate sports car for PlayStation’s Gran Turismo 6 (GT6) game series. No holds barred. No limits. In other words, every designer’s dream come true. Normally Volkswagen pays close attention to giving customers a realistic preview of what could go into serial production in future, especially when it comes to show-car concepts. Excessive exaggeration or wild ideas are not permitted. In this contest, however, the designers were encouraged to pack into their proposals everything that they had always wanted to see in their ideal car. The more extreme, the better. The results were evaluated by Klaus Bischoff in concert with Kazunori Yamauchi, Senior Vice President at Sony Computer Entertainment. The creator of the Gran Turismo series is one of Japan’s most important connoisseurs of cars, and himself the owner of a Volkswagen.

The two concepts by exterior designers Hammerbeck and Rucigaj came out ahead in the end. They in turn found the perfect interior design partner in Guillermo Mignot. As the GTI was planned as an open roadster, interior and exterior design had to mesh even more powerfully. The next sensational bit of news was revealed after the project began: the virtual sports car was going to become reality, built for the Wörthersee festival, the biggest and most important GTI fan event. A gargantuan undertaking.

Designer Domen Rucigaj’s sketches of the GTI Roadster.

Gran Turismo is one of the leading car racing games on the market. The word “game”, however, hardly does the thing justice. The subtitle of the GT series, “The Real Driving Simulator”, reveals what is really at stake here: providing players with a realistic racing experience. The Volkswagen team soon learned what that meant in terms of the car’s construction. Rucigaj: “Sony makes extremely realistic simulations. You can’t just say the car has 2,000 hp. They want to know every detail and technical feature. ‘Where is the engine? What does it weigh? What kind of chassis? What type of transmission?’ Afterwards the car performs exactly as we built it.” The programmers incorporate all the technical details, so the virtual model includes all the driving characteristics the car on the road would have. In other words, it’s not enough to draw a race car that looks cool and sporty. If the technology isn’t just right or the design impedes the aerodynamics, then the performance is less than it should be. Game over.

Designers and engineers worked full steam on the car together for six months. That’s an absolutely record-breaking time, especially as there is no established routine for a project like this. Volkswagen has years of experience to fall back on in normal car production, such as how and in which order to run processes. This vehicle’s dual production mode across two worlds demanded special care and creativity. When a detail in the virtual model changed, the show car had to be adapted 1:1. Moreover, there is the time difference between Japan and Germany. The strictly confidential car data could only be sent through a secure connection with a separate password. Other decisions were required much earlier than is customary. Hammerbeck: “We had to coordinate with Sony on the colour early in the process and send selected colour samples to Japan so that the car looked perfect in the game.” The final result is Gran Turismo Red, a new iteration of the classic GTI colour Tornado Red. The team felt that it was important to base the car’s creation on its original GTI “genes”. Hammerbeck: “We used and enhanced a lot of original elements. The chosen colour is a nod to the first GTI. It is dynamic, sexy and powerful.”

Perfection down to the smallest detail: the designers and engineers hammered out all the technical features.

The team has created a sports car with character and extreme features, such as the flat cut of the windscreen and the prominent fixed rear wing. Rucigaj: “Lots of people play with the PlayStation who are not necessarily GTI or car freaks in general. Our challenge was to make the GTI and Volkswagen fans happy on the one hand, and on the other to have PlayStation gamers say “Wow! I just have to play with that car.’”
They certainly solved that task masterfully. At the Wörthersee event fans crowd around the GTI Roadster to get a better look. The design team’s initial tension has given way to exuberance. They are relaxed now as they talk shop with Kazunori Yamauchi and his Japanese colleagues about the show car and test the virtual Roadster version on the PlayStation together. Everyone is enthusiastic about the collaboration. Hammerbeck: “We connect through our shared love for detail. Both companies are perfectionists. It’s very possible that the cooperation will be expanded.” Stay tuned.

Gran Turismo 6 players experience the Roadster against a scenic backdrop.