I don’t know about you, but when I play racing games—which I do quite often—I’m quite particular about which camera angle I use. It’s almost exclusively the “front bumper cam” these days; after several years using the in-car view (where offered), I’ve found I’m just that bit faster without peering through a simulated windshield.
I’ve never been able to come to grips with the “over the shoulder” external view, where a camera is above and behind your car—it just feels so unnatural, especially if I’m using a steering wheel and pedals. So I’d probably have fared pretty badly in this challenge between a professional drift racer and a prolific gamer, organized by Castrol and .
A brief disclaimer: yes, at the end of the day this stunt is an advert for Castrol’s products and the latest game, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. It involved Luke Woodham, a pro drift racer who competes in Europe, and Theo Thomas, a gamer with a sizable following on YouTube. They competed to see who could set a faster time in a point-to-point race across a dirt road in the desert, using identical Ford Mustangs. But there was a catch—all the windows on the cars were blacked out.
To see where they were going, they had to rely on a camera mounted above and behind the Mustang, replicating that particular gaming POV. Bonkers, eh?
I interviewed the pair late last week to find out how it all went. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the video above. (And I’d like to apologize for my sound quality; it was a bit rushed on my end, and I didn’t have time to record my audio locally.)
First off, hats off to you both. I can’t imagine how much harder it was to drive a real car like that. So my first question for both of you is, when you play racing games, do you use a wheel or the controller?
Luke Woodham: For me, obviously coming from a racing background, I prefer to use the wheel. Which kind of makes it all realistic, yeah, that’s my point of view. I don’t know, Theo, what do you do?
Theo Thomas: So with me I mix between both, ’cause I make a lot of videos on the games. It’s easier to just use a controller than to set up the whole wheel setup, but when I’m playing and I’m trying to beat lap times, it’s the hood view with the wheel. And then, if I’m playing around, it’s just the controller.
How much practice did you guys get in the car before going for your actual run?
Luke Woodham: To be honest, it was pretty much straight in. I was that confident in getting in the car and using the system I had in the car with the camera behind, the screen in front of us; it was that realistic. You know I could take it out onto the street, and everyday driving wouldn’t be an issue with it. It was that realistic, so for me it was straight into the driving.
Theo Thomas: Yeah, it was pretty straightforward. I drive a similar car myself—similar-size engine, similar-size car—so jumping into it, it felt as it should, but with that game view it was a little bit scarier.
Luke, as a professional drift racer I imagine you’re probably used to looking out the side window for about half of the time you’re competing, but how did you find the challenge of driving a car just using an external camera?
Luke Woodham: You hit the point very well there: we do look out the side windows the whole time pretty much when we’re driving. I was actually saying, when I started driving the car, that you could actually incorporate the video system on the car to maybe, when we are competing, having it so you can just have a quick glance at the camera, ’cause it picks up so much. It’s kind of a wider view; you could actually use it, and it could work out really well.
So for me, it was fantastic. Everything worked out brilliantly. I’m very confident in driving a car with the camera setup on it, and it was so just realistic, it was unbelievable.
Theo, is it fair to say that your driving skills are more honed in the digital world? And if so, was this the most challenging thing you’ve had to do in a real car?
Theo Thomas: Most of my experience is just basically playing games, but I have been driving for a little while. I’ve not done anything kind of like track racing or anything like Luke does, so it was probably scarier for me. But it was so much fun to do it.
Did you find that the physical feedback you get through the seat of your pants as the car’s moving around actually helped you?
Theo Thomas: Oh yeah. It helped a lot, I mean, what I’ve been playing with recently, I’ve been toying with a lot of things with virtual reality, and I’ve had the experience of being in a motion rig that moves as you hit a bump in the track or something, and I’ve found that my driving’s actually better when I have things like that. So it was similar to that really, except if I did crash, I would crash.
Last question: are there any other thoughts you guys had about the experience that you might want to share with our audience?
Luke Woodham: Just if you could race a race series with actually using what Castrol Edge did with the video system in the car, that’d be a fantastic idea. I was thinking that on the day when I was driving it, that maybe we could have a full-on race series where all the cars are blacked out and you just do it off the screen. I would be the first person to sign up for it. It was brilliant, and it’s so much fun creating the project and working with Castrol Edge like we did.