‘Gran Turismo’ Movie’s Tragic Real-Life Crash Didn’t Actually Happen That Way

The movie plays fast and loose with the truth when it comes to a fatal 2015 crash at the Nurburgring.

byLewin Day|
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YouTube/Sony Pictures Entertainment


Motorsport is having a mainstream cultural moment right now, and the fact a Gran Turismo movie is screening in cinemas is proof of that. The new film is centered around gamer-turned-driver Jann Mardenborough's road to a racing career, through the GT Academy program. Unfortunately, it's already facing criticism due to its representation of a real-life racing tragedy.

As one of the movie's trailers indicated a few weeks back, Gran Turismo portrays a 2015 crash Mardenborough was involved in at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, during a VLN endurance event. The harrowing incident saw Mardenborough's GT3-class Nissan GT-R suddenly gain air over a crest, before flipping and crashing through trackside fencing. The crash claimed the life of one spectator and injured several others. You can see how it's conveyed in the film in the embedded trailer below, at about the 1:40 mark.

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While we knew the crash was going to be a part of Gran Turismo when that trailer emerged, we didn't precisely know how. Now that early screeners have begun and those who have seen the movie have weighed in, it's clear that the incident is used as a narrative turning point—a wake-up call for Mardenborough to buckle down and get serious, as Kotaku reported this week. The tragedy is followed by him securing a third-place finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, by virtue of his growth through this experience.

Problem is, that's not the way any of it actually happened. Yes, Mardenborough did compete at Le Mans, but he raced to the podium LMP2-category finish alongside his teammates in 2013, two full years before the events at the Nürburgring. The fatal incident couldn't have been any sort of inspiration for him to perform better on track at the 24-hour race.

Nor was the wreck due to Mardenborough's own carelessness. Indeed, it was an accident at the notorious Flugplatz section of the track not dissimilar to Mark Webber's crash in the flipping Mercedes-Benz CLR at Le Mans in 1999, when Webber's prototype also caught air over a crest and was sent flying. If you'd like to watch the actual Nürburgring crash—be advised, it's graphic—you can do so here.

Mardenborough himself wanted to see the crash depicted in the film. "It's my life, it's part of my story," the driver told the Sunday Times in a recent interview. "I made sure all of us that were with the production—the producers, Jason [Hall] the scriptwriter—that that was how it went down. Because it needed to be correct, because somebody lost their life in this accident. And the movie does a great job of that." Perhaps it was a formative moment in Mardenborough's career, though arguably not in the sense it's portrayed in theaters.

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