Canada’s top Gran Turismo players share their experiences at World Series 2023

Edmonton's Mark Pinnell, Vancouver's Ethan Lim and Chatham, Ontario's Trent Jeffrey came together to represent Canada on the world GT stage

Gran Turismo World Series Nations Cup 2023

Last weekend, PlayStation held its latest Gran Turismo World Series Showdown in Amsterdam.

The two-day Gran Turismo 7 event featured a Manufacturers Cup, in which players raced for different automakers, and a Nations Cup, featuring 12 teams each representing their own country. For Canadians, the latter competition was particularly noteworthy, as we had three homegrown racers playing for us. Canada ultimately came 8th in a heated 30-lap race.

Ahead of the Finals, though, MobileSyrup caught up with Team Canada to get a bit more insight into what it’s like to be a pro GT racer. First, that meant learning a bit more about each Canadian racer.

Gran Turismo World Series Team Canada

The veteran on the team was Edmonton’s Mark Pinnell, who’s been competing in Gran Turismo tournaments for over a decade and is even the only Canadian to make it into the GT Academy. Running from 2008 to 2016, the Nissan and Sony-funded program helped GT players hone their skills to become real racecar drivers.

Next up is Ethan Lim, a Vancouverite who started his GT journey during the COVID-19 pandemic and most recently took part in last year’s GT World Series in Monaco. (He also took part in this year’s GT ProAm tournament alongside me, and you can read about that here.)

Finally, there’s Chatham, Ontario’s Trent Jeffrey, whose first-ever live pro gaming event is the Amsterdam World Series. Outside of GT, he plays drums in a band.

Image credit: Gran Turismo World Series

This year, the Nations Cup’s new three-person team format marks a shift from lone racers playing on behalf of their country. Pinnell admitted that the change adds a little more pressure compared to what he’s used to. “I don’t let my result bother me,” he says of racing alone. “And now that me messing it up can screw it up for two other people, there’s kind of that added pressure. But other than that, I think it’s a lot more fun.”

“It just requires a lot more coordination,” adds Jeffrey.

“It’s a lot of team building basically as a skill that you develop with other people in your country,” notes Lim. “So there’s a lot of organization and trying to represent the country as best as possible with two extra [racers.] It’s nice to have some help, people you can talk to and get some references from as well.”

Another element that took some getting used to was the return to the live event format. Pinnell jokes that this was just “another day at the office” for him, but it was understandably a little different for his younger teammates.

“With a live audience, it’s a whole different feeling than just playing at home when we were online qualifying to get here in the first place. With so many eyes watching you, it’s really nerve-wracking,” admits Lim. “At my first event last year [in Monaco], I was just having panic attacks. And I’m still having that feeling essentially going into this. But it’s just a whole different animal, really. But it’s just a really great experience no matter what. I believe just getting into the right mindset before driving just really helps the entire team morale.”

For Jeffrey, it’s the feeling of coming from small-town Ontario to the world stage in Amsterdam that’s a bit surreal. “It’s very, very different to growing up in like a kind of smaller town,” he says. “Nothing like this ever happens. And not a ton of people are part of something this big […] It’s racing against the best in the world with the best in the world, right?”

What’s also likely to make a change in the whole professional Gran Turismo pro racing scene is Sony Pictures’ upcoming film of the same name. Directed by South African-Canadian filmmaker Neill Blomkamp (District 9), Gran Turismo is based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, GT Academy’s youngest graduate who ended up placing third at the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Gran Turismo movie Jann

Archie Madekwe as Jann Mardenborough in the Gran Turismo film. (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Naturally, the film has the potential to introduce many more people to the world of Gran Turismo and its esports. With that in mind, what does Team Canada hope general audiences take away from the big-screen adaptation?

“I’m really hoping they’ll bring GT Academy back,” admits Pinnell. “Hopefully the movie will create enough hype. It’s so much fun.”

“I believe the interest in motorsports will definitely be higher. F1 is already super popular with their Netflix Drive to Survive series and there’s been plenty of people who’ve never actually been interested in anything related to cars, racing or anything like that, they now religiously watch F1 every time it’s on,” says Lim. “Gran Turismo has been around for a long time, so they already have an established fan base. And to pair up a true story with an actual real-life racing school back in Gran Turismo 5 many years ago, it’s certainly going to draw the previous audience that was part of Gran Turismo already, as well as new people to maybe pick up a copy of this game and have a try.”

“I think the movie is just gonna open up people’s eyes to how there’s another avenue to get into motorsports. Usually, you have to pay a lot to get into karting or lower motorsports to build your way up to the top and stuff like that,” adds Jeffrey. “But we’ve seen in the last couple of years, the rise of some esports drivers getting in the ring with Nascar, GT racing, and even a lot Formula One drivers do sim racing like this.”

The team will next take part in the Gran Turismo World Series Finals in Barcelona from December 1st to 3rd. The Gran Turismo film, meanwhile, is now playing in early screenings in select theatres before a wide release on August 25th.

Header image credit: Gran Turismo World Series