The checkered flag had already waved on the New York round of Gran Turismo Sport’s Nations Cup Final. The trophies were awarded, the victor’s national anthem played, and the floor of Times Square’s PlayStation Theater was dusted with confetti, as were most of the competitors themselves. That’s when the real drama started. The winner, Brazillian driver and reigning series champion Igor Fraga, was offering his perspective on some on-track contact between himself and second-place finisher, German Mikail Hizal, who sat to Fraga’s right.
Fraga gave fairly diplomatic answers to the interviewer, and all the while, Hizal smirked and rolled his eyes in exasperation and the audience maintained a quiet chatter. It was the kind of chatter you hear in a room where everyone knows they ought to be quiet but more and more people decide not to be. Then, the questioning turned to Hizal, and the chatter silenced at once. “I want to let you guys know something,” Hizal said, looking to the audience. “I’m always trying to race as clean as possible, like not trying to win something by a dirty move, or something like that.” Hizal went on to describe his view of Fraga’s controversial defensive maneuvers on the track, as spectators sat with their hands covering their mouths, wondering what he’d say next. Fraga had been given a 5-second penalty for lifting off the throttle to trip up his rival in the middle of the track’s fastest corner, when Hizal was following closely. Yet the penalty didn’t change the finishing order, and Hizal made it clear he felt 5 seconds was much too lenient a punishment for a dangerous act that might earn you a race ban in the real world.
The outspoken German ended his account with a comment that elicited the biggest wave of “oohs” yet from the modest, albeit passionate New York crowd. “If this Gran Turismo championship is any more biased, I don’t know.” I can’t speak to what the rest of the audience thought when Hizal said those words, but I experienced a massive case of déjà vu. The exchange recalled Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg lobbing passive-aggressive insults at each other during a tense post-race interview. Suddenly, the fact that it had all happened in the context of a video game couldn’t have mattered less.[…]
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