Of all the current racing games available – or still receiving updates – GT Sport is one I keep going back to.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore the vehicle handling in Assetto Corsa Competizione and the dry-stone wall physics in Forza Horizon 4. I’m several seasons deep into a My Team career in F1 2021 and have become MotoGP 21 world champion.
But here I am, still trying to get to level 50 in a Gran Turismo spin-off.
There are many reasons for this. One is the ranked online Sport mode. Another is the diverse set of cars included that showcases automobile history. But one of the main attractions is the track list.
The circuits in GT Sport, a mixture of real-world and fictional, have a depth to them that’s rarely available elsewhere. There’s a hint of some Sega AM2-esque magic to some of the designs, while in other areas they are super authentic. Quality over quantity is the order of the day.
So here are my top ten tracks in GT Sport. It’s worth bearing in mind that this is all within the context of GT Sport, based upon factors such as accuracy, weather and time of day options and if they are fun to drive within this specific game.
You may disagree, but that’s okay. Simply let us know on social media or in the comments below your favourite Gran Turismo venues.
10 – RED BULL RING
This venue was formerly the Österreichring, which is in PC-simulator Automobilista 2, then shortened and turned into the A1-Ring.
I remember watching Formula 1 in the early 00s around this venue and thinking that it was one of the most boring circuits on the calendar. Turns out I was just wrong. It’s simply satisfying to drive.
GT Sport does a superb job at replicating the harsh kerbs, tree-lined surroundings and is one of the few venues in the game that you can drive during precipitation. The short layout is also included, which works surprisingly well in a shifter kart.
The Red Bull Ring was included via a free update in August 2018 and it’s this specific recreation of the track that makes me realise just how far track recreation in the F1 games needs to improve. You don’t just need to model the kerbing correctly, but the undulations on the main strip of asphalt too.
9 – CIRCUIT DE LA SARTHE
A friend of mine, James, says that Virage d’Arnage on the Circuit de la Sarthe – the famed venue in the city of Le Mans, France – is the worst corner in all of motorsport.
A bold claim, but it’s hard to disagree. It comes after a short straight where judging the right braking point is very difficult unless you have the stopping power of a shotgun. A 90 degree right turn that comes after the fast and flowing Courbe du Golf.
Thankfully, the rest of the circuit is so joyous that I can overlook the worst corner ever to be conceived. Even with the chicanes added to the Mulsanne Straight in 1990, the 24 Hours of Le Mans venue is still one of motorsport’s crown jewels.
This venue is also an example of Polyphony’s Digital’s extraordinarily anal levels of recreation. Pick a time early in the day, like Time Trial at dawn, and the grandstands are almost empty. But select a race in the afternoon and they are packed to the rafters.
8 – DRAGON TRAIL – SEASIDE
This track pre-dates the game’s launch, as it was originally playable in the GT Sport Closed Beta.
Run in its traditional clockwise variation, the first corner is a flat-out kink into a tight left turn, which you can set up a nice overtake through. But the next corner turns right, so if you run wide during your passing manoeuvre, your opponent can get a switchback and re-pass.
The combination of fast, gutsy, corners, elevation changes, useable kerbs and several overtaking opportunities have made Dragon Trail – Seaside an online lobby favourite.
There is one downside to this location, however. A tight, sometimes-flat-but-not-quite-on-worn-rubber, chicane. You will hit the wall head-on and cause a pileup sooner rather than later. It’s like the entire field is racing down a funnel and this is the narrowest part at the bottom. A recipe for disaster.
7 – SUZUKA INTERNATIONAL RACING COURSE
It’s Suzuka and a damn-good model of it. A figure-of-eight layout, little runoff and 130R.
Arguably the most iconic course in Japan, the Honda-owned venue has close ties with the Gran Turismo series, first appearing in 2004. Here, you have the choice of the full circuit, or the shorter East Course the simply includes the first sector.
You will see a perfectly crafted Ferris Wheel, pit garages and the famous cross-over bridge.
The lap begins with the often-frustrating series of medium-speed corners. It’s hard to find a rhythm, but once you do, a zen-like flow will entrap your car. The Degner curves are as unforgiving as ever and the Hairpin entices everyone online to try and ‘do a Kobayashi’.
Unlike Spa – more on that later – Suzuka isn’t in every single racing game, so savour one of the best recreations of it in GT Sport.
6 – ALSACE VILLAGE
The World Rally Championship once held a round in the Alsace region of France and the roads used were instantly forgettable.
Thankfully, the GT Sport track based in the same area isn’t realistic at all!
There are big elevation changes, a giant banked corner and lush surroundings. Sometimes you are reminded that Polyphony Digital was responsible for such greats as Trial Mountain and Deep Forest Raceway. This is one of those moments.
There are multiple occasions where you must work out the right braking point for a corner as you appear over a blind crest. Trail braking is a necessary skill for a quick lap.
Sure, this isn’t a ‘realistic’ venue, but sometimes that’s fun. Its beguiling nature will get under your skin, even if that means several hours of hitting the barrier at first.
5 – GOODWOOD MOTOR CIRCUIT
I know what you’re thinking. You’re about to ask if this is a hillclimb.
The answer is no. That’s the sliver of asphalt outside Goodwood House that is home to the Goodwood Festival of Speed and was in Gran Turismo 6. This is the Goodwood Motor Circuit, which is down the road and was built around an old RAF airfield in 1948.
These days, the track is only used for historic racing such as the Goodwood Revival and Members’ Meeting as it was deemed to be too dangerous for modern events.
I can see why. The speeds are monumental and unlike most airfield-based circuits, there are some elevation changes that, albeit mild, change the weight transfer of your car or make the next braking zone unseen.
In the final chicane, there’s a nasty little bump that causes all sorts of arm wrestling for the uninitiated and I swear that no one, ever, has successfully managed to negotiate turn one without running wide. Where on earth is the apex?!
A real pig, but when you get a lap right, preferably in a classic Mini or Renault Gordini, the satisfaction is off the happiness charts.
Plus, look at the chequered flag waiver, period-dressed marshals, planes and retro-inspired pitlane. The attention to detail is finder than a diamond-encrusted Rolex. It feels like nothing else in contemporary video games. I can smell the cigar smoke from here.
4 – CIRCUIT DE SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS
I can hear you crying right now. “Spa, this far down the list?!”
But I bet you’ve lost count of how many laps you’ve done around the Ardennes Mountain region by now. Undoubtedly one of the all-time greatest venues, but I’m just a bit bored of it, okay?
Complaints on a postcard labelled ‘John Munro, Traxion, Scotland’ please…
The representation of the fabled Belgian classic is millimetre perfect, with a detailed pitlane, acres of trees and bollards. Lots of floppy bollards. As the venue is known for unpredictable weather conditions, it’s one of the select tracks available with optional moisture too.
The game initially launched without this track, but thanks to the free version 1.47 update in October 2019, the current Gran Turismo title was finally bestowed with Stavelot’s best track. The same update also added a diesel Mazda Demio. Trust me when I say the two don’t work in harmony.
3 – MOUNT PANORAMA CIRCUIT
Do not call it Bathurst. That’s a mistake. I’m a pedant, so while it may be known as ‘Bathurst’, the track is called Mount Panorama Circuit which is in Bathurst. Forget being precise with Spa’s corner names, can we get a t-shist made with “I think you’ll find it’s called Mount Panorama”. Adenoidal sound required.
I struggle to make a single lap of the circuit without brushing the wall, so I have no idea how Supercar drivers do 1000kms in V8-powered touring cars.
If you could place the Macau or Monaco street circuits on top of a mountain, with narrow confines combined with Mount Everest-like inclines, you would end up with something like Mount Panorama.
A lap here is bookended by two long straights, but even they aren’t straightforward. Mountain Straight has a giant dip halfway down, while Conrod straight also undulates, culminating in the fastest corner in Australia – The Chase.
Let me put it to you this way. Turn 18 is called Forrest’s Elbow, so-called because someone called Jack Forrest fell from his bike and scraped away his elbow. It doesn’t get more Australian than that.
2 – NÜRBURGRING NORDSCHLEIFE
I remember a time when having the Nordschleife in a video game was a novelty. Project Gotham Racing 2 in my mind was the first to capture the essence of the venue, but the first time I got to ‘properly’ experience The Green Hell was Gran Turismo 4. At last, here was a version that felt right.
GT Sport continues this fine tradition, with one of the most accurate recreations in all of gaming and sims. The one in Assettto Corsa runs it very close, but I think the track representation in GT Sport just edges it thanks to the breath-taking sunsets and detailed surroundings.
Gran Turismo games are full of tiny little details that aren’t necessary but add up to a greater sense of occasion, such as the Nürburg Castle illuminated at night.
Each speck of this haloed turf is highly accurate with bumps, dips, camber changes and graffiti to match. Pflanzgarten is a heart-in-the-mouth moment and the uphill blast through Kesselchen is a series of challenging corners, not a straight. As it should be.
You’ve played it in countless racing titles, but if you’ve not tried it in this game in the mist of dawn, or dark of night, then you’ve not properly experienced it.
1 – AUTODROME LAGO MAGGIORE
Repeat after me. ‘Outo-drome-a Laaago Mage-or-i’ in the most flamboyant false Italian accent you can possibly attempt. Thanks to a friend of mine saying it in this way – he’s Scottish by the way, so imagine some sort of weird Scottish/Italian hybrid accent – the name of this track is firmly implanted at the forefront of my mind.
Just like the country itself, this circuit is filled with pizzaz. There’s a deceptively tight first corner where the braking zone always seems to sneak up on you. Turn three is quick but is immediately followed by a slower right-hander, so you either need to compromise the corner before or take an unorthodox tight line into it.
The track then gradually gets quicker, like a ball of string unravelling. There’s a flowing sequence of high-speed corners in the middle of the lap that is perfectly judged to just be flat should you be on fresh tyres. This leads onto the quickest part of the circuit, the back straight.
Straight it may be, but flat it almost certainly isn’t. There’s a giant dip down analogous to going down the Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and then you’re into an uphill braking zone for a giant, sweeping, right-hander with massive positive camber.
Like playing golf, you can never get the perfect performance through this corner. Try as you might, each time you can go a little bit quicker than you anticipate, right up until you drop two wheels into the bunker and it sucks you in. A great place for overtaking, the steepness also creates a real ‘wow’ moment in VR.
The flowing lines, ebbs and flows and breath-taking mountainous scenery that stretches way beyond turn five are the truffle pesto atop a fresh bowl of bucatini.
AND ONE THAT ISN’T GREAT – FISHERMAN’S RANCH
Who in their right mind thought that a 4-mile stretch of winding, repetitive, dirt track filled with unforgiving solid barriers was a good idea in a game where gravel isn’t the core competence? No thanks, this one never gets picked when a lobby track vote happens. Never.
Imagine the video game equivalent of indigestion and you’re pretty much there.
That’s it for our list of best GT Sport tracks – but remember, this is just one person’s opinion. Honourable shoutouts to Tsukuba, Monza and Interlagos too. Please let us know in the comments below your favourite track in Gran Turismo history and we’ll be back with more GT opinions very soon.