How many of us have fond memories of sitting with our parents and playing racing games as a kid, one day hoping to become a pro racer? Most likely a lot, but few have taken it quite as far as Barrett Rolph. A lifelong gamer and racing enthusiast, Barrett took this skill and dedication behind the wheel and turned that into a finalist appearance on Spike TV’s GT Academy, and is now on his way to becoming the pro racer we all once dreamed of.
GT Academy, if you’re unaware, is a yearly show currently running on Spike TV and online hosted by Dhani Jones (yeah, that Dhani Jones), which takes the top Grand Turismo players in the world and gives them a chance to win a real sponsorship deal with Nissan racing. Barrett participated in season three, making it all the way to the finals at the legendary Silverstone. See what it was like from his point of view, or a few inches above his point of view at least, with this great first-person video of him racing around Silverstone during his time on GT Academy.
Since his time on the show, Barrett has smartly rode this notoriety of appearing in the final round and used it to further his budding professional racing career. With the help of a GoFundMe campaign, he is attempting to raise the $40,000 entry fee to enter the Skip Barber Formula 2000, where the winner will receive an additional $200,000 sponsorship deal to move up to the USF2000. The biggest contributors to the campaign will even earn a spot as a sponsor decal on the open-wheeled vehicle when he reaches the goal and can officially enter the series of races.
Thanks to a heads up from Brad McClaren, we were able to ask a few questions to get to know Barrett as he begins to take that leap to the next level.
MOARGeek: Did you grow up playing racing video games as a kid? (If so, which one was your first and your favorite(s)?)
Barrett Rolph: Yes I always had at least one racing game growing up. The earliest I can remember is probably Andretti Racing for PS1. I have fond memories of my dad teaching me the proper racing lines playing that game. My favorite growing up has to be Gran Turismo 3 for PS2. The graphics were groundbreaking at the time, and it was the first game I had a proper force feedback wheel for. That was when it became a training tool for me, not just a game.
MG: Which game do you think is the most accurate as compared to racing in a real car?
BR: So far for me it’s iRacing. They have a very good physics model based off real data, and the tracks are laser scanned for completey accuracy. It’s also constatntly being updated and improved, so you know it’s the most up to date training tool available.
MG: What is the biggest challenge when you make the jump from video games/simulations to the real thing?
BR: G-forces and sense of speed. It’s very physical behind the wheel at the limit. Simulators can’t really replicate sense of speed, and it definitley takes overcoming some metnal barriers to keep your foot down at higher speeds.
MG: How did you discover GT Academy?
BR: When the program first launched in Europe I was a member of GTPlanet.net and found out right away. When they announced that they would be expanding it to the US, I made it my mission to make it to Silverstone. GT Academy isn’t just a reality show, it’s an innovative driver discovery and development program that has proven its methods by creating race and championship winning drivers. So win or lose I knew it was the best shot at breaking into professional motorports.
MG: Did GT Academy change your outlook on racing and your career in general?
BR: Yes and no. My outlook on racing hasn’t really changed, I’ve always wanted to be a professional racing driver and I grew up around racing. It defintely gave me a new outlook on my career. GT Academy gave me a lot of insight on what it takes to launch and maintain a career in professioanl motorsports.
MR: What’s the plan moving forward for Barrett Rolph racing?
BR: The plan for Barrett Rolph Racing is to build marketing partnerships using my GT Academy credentials to launch my professional racing career. I’m aiming to step into the Skip Barber open wheel series, a great starting point for both drivers and sponsors with an opportunity for a $200,000 scholarship to move up the racing ladder.
If you wish to support Barrett and his amazing story all the way to the top, be sure to follow him on Facebook, Google+, and of course his GoFundMe page. We here at MORGeek wish him and his team all the luck in the world and can’t wait to see where he goes next!