My Favourite Game
The racing driver on moving from virtual tracks to the real thing, making games, and achieving his dreams
Nicolas Hamilton is a racing-car driver who currently competes in the British Touring Car Championship. He was the first driver with a disability to compete in the series – he has cerebral palsy – and is the brother of three-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton. While his career is well established now, it all started with videogames.
What game first got you excited?
The one I can remember the most is playing Rock N’ Roll Racing on the Megadrive when I was about five or six. It was my favourite game at the time. I got into the TOCA Race Driver series when I was in my teens, and learned how to use manual gearboxes and all that sort of stuff. I loved the career mode – that was a big thing for me. I got more and more serious, and then one day a demo of GTR dropped through my door and I started my own virtual career using that game.
How did that come about?
The game was just in a paper packet, and I pulled it out and put it in my computer and at the time I only had a joypad, so I just used that. I really enjoyed it, and I got more into it and went out to buy a really cheap steering wheel that I clamped onto my desk. I just spent hours improving my lap times, and then I started researching online racing and whether that was possible. I found a website called racedepartment.com and it opened my eyes to the full-blown world of sim gaming. I contacted one of the team managers, Ollie Wickens, and he was like, ‘We’re looking for drivers.’ So he set up a server and I had to go and set lap times and try to show how good I was. Because I’d only just started, I was pretty terrible, but he ended up really helping me out and taught me all the bits and bobs of how to be fast in online sim gaming. We ended up entering the British championship a couple of years after and I won that one just using buttons, which is crazy. We became good friends, and I helped him get a job in Formula One, and now Ollie is my manager for my real racing career. It’s pretty crazy how the story links up.
How did you manage to make the jump?
My brother suggested that I should try it for real. So I went to a driving school and drove a BMW M3 for the first time. I ended up a second faster than the instructor. We couldn’t really believe it, because of my legs – we didn’t think it would be possible. So we went back a week later to see whether it was a fluke, and I did the same thing again. Three months later I was in the Clio Cup and it developed into a career from there.
And how did you end up working with Slightly Mad on Project Cars?
I always wanted to be a part of developing or creating a game because games were what I lived for at that time. I came up with this idea for a game where you start in karts and work your way up the different categories, and originally it was going to be based on Lewis’s career; you’d have to achieve what Lewis achieved. I only had one industry contact at the time, and that was Codemasters. So I got in touch and pitched my idea, and they said, ‘Have you heard of Project
Cars? We’ll put you in touch…’ So I emailed Slightly Mad Studios and luckily they were looking for someone to help develop the physics modelling and car handling at that time. They asked if I would be part of the team, and I bit their hand off! The rest is history and I’ve been with them for five years now.
You mentioned using a cheap wheel earlier – presumably your home setup has now improved?
“I always wanted to be a part of developing a game because games were what I lived for”
Yeah… right now I have a Playseat Evolution rig, with a Fanatec CSW2 steering wheel and ClubSport V3 pedals. And I use VR a lot – mostly the Rift – too.
And what’s your favourite game?
It’s got to be LA Noire.
We weren’t expecting that.
[Laughs] It’s a game I got absolutely addicted to. I thought the concept of it was fantastic, and the detail in the game… I thought it was so advanced for the time it was released. I was so sad when I completed it, and I really wanted them to bring out a sequel. I rarely play any game other than Project Cars these days – I struggle to find the time to play anything else – but while it’s difficult to choose just one, LA Noire has to be my favourite game of all time.