OverTake presents our Heroes of the Month for June: 93-year-old Ryuji Urabe and his grandson Kotaro Yamamoto.
Photo credit: Kotaro Yamamoto
A silver Mazda is dashing through the circuits in Forza. The driving style seems clean and experienced considering this is the first time the driver ever played a racing game. Behind the steering wheel and clutch sits Ryuji Urabe: a 93-year-old gamer grandfather.
Mr. Urabe used to work as a a taxi driver in Tōkyō, and then followed with a long career as a dump truck driver. His life revolved around operating cars but due to his old age, he voluntarily turned in his licence. Thanks to his grandson Kotaro Yamamoto, he is now back behind the steering wheel exploring the world of sim racing.
A grandfather discovers the world of gaming
Video game and racing enthusiast Kotaro bought himself a steering wheel last December. When he finally received it, he thought about how his grandfather might have fun driving with virtual cars as well. The 93-year-old was not experienced with playing games but agreed nonetheless. One of videos on their YouTube channel shows the grandpa driving for the very first time. It seems like he was hooked right from the off: he performed incredibly well in his first test drive, and a lot of videos of the adorable man happily driving other cars and games followed.
Now you might be wondering, what racing games does Mr. Urabe enjoy? Well, he mostly opts for Assetto Corsa and Forza Motorsport 7. Kotaro explained to us that the biggest attraction for them in Assetto Corsa is the realistic behaviour of the car and the physics. For Forza, the beautiful scenery and the abundance of car models is what enticed them. There are actually not only old and new supercars available, but also a few Mazda RX7 SA22Cs – an important car in the grandfather’s life.
Finally driving his favourite car again after 30 years
This model is Mr. Urabe’s favourite car. He owned one himself for a few years and this was the vehicle he loved driving the most. Naturally, was extremely happy when he could race around with the Mazda again in the virtual world. Forza even offers the same silver paint job that his car had. Most impressively, he turns off the auto transmission mode in-game, as well as the default traction control and the anti-lock brake system. To make the feeling as close to the actual vehicle as possible, he also has a real clutch to drive with. His grandson explained to us that while his Ojiisan might be old and his mind a little bit slower, all the movements required to operate a car are still engrained in his body.
Kotaro himself also likes Japanese sport cars, but he is mostly interested in European Supercars, especially in Ferrari and Lamborghini. One day, he would like to drive with his grandfather in a supercar. The 93-year-old surely wouldn’t mind, as there are also videos where the he is tearing up the road with a Lamborghini. He prefers circuits with lots of straights and gentle curves, whereas Kotaro prefers the Nürburgring and the Suzuka Circuit.
Japanese drivers are their idols
The two are both also interested in motorsports, especially the Super GT series and the The Nürburgring 24 Hours, as those events are quite popular in Japan. They are big fans of the ‘drift king’ Keiichi Tsuchiya, as well as Nissan driver Motoharu Kurosawa. Those two racers might not actively compete anymore, but Kotaro explains he is still fascinated by the beautiful driving scenes they provided.
He is also a fan of the late Ayrton Senna. The legend tragically died before the grandson was born, but he highlighted a video where the Brazilian icon was testing the NSX development vehicle at the Suzuka Circuit.
Recharging batteries before the next virtual race
What are our two heroes doing if they’re not cruising around the virtual streets? Mr. Urabe enjoys spending his time at home, watching some old movies. His grandson on the other hand prefers to go to the gym or for a walk to get fit. He also listens to a lot of music during his activities, especially from Western artists. His current favourites are Michael Jackson and Elton John.
But of course their favourite activity is to dash along the virtual roads. We hope to see more content coming on their YouTube channel and that Mr. Urabe has fun exploring more cars and games!
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Are there any personalities in esports racing you would like to nominate for the next edition of Hero of the Month? Tell us on Twitter at @overtake_gg or in the comments down below!