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Gran Turismo Gamer Becomes Pro Race Driver 249

Posted by samzenpus
from the practice-makes-profession dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Back in 2008, Lucas Ordonez lived what seemed like an ordinary existence. The 22-year-old Spanish student was an avid motorsports fan, but he lacked the suitable investment necessary to become a professional race driver and had virtually given up on racing. Besides, he was already knee-deep in trying to complete a Master of Business Administration (MBA). But it was Ordonez' passion for virtual racing, particularly his love of Gran Turismo, that made him stand out from his peers — both off the track and eventually on it. In just a few months, Ordonez' life was transformed from console dreamer to racing the real thing at a real race track in Europe. And Ordonez managed to do the unthinkable: go from the couch car to the race car, and win."

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Gran Turismo Gamer Becomes Pro Race Driver

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  • Oh God (Score:5, Funny)

    by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:16PM (#30326442) Homepage Journal
    Just what we need - more people thinking that since they can play games they can do it in real life. Hide all the Guitar Hero/Rock Band addicts.
    • Re:Oh God (Score:5, Funny)

      by EkriirkE (1075937) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:21PM (#30326552) Homepage
    • Re:Oh God (Score:5, Funny)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:21PM (#30326556)

      Just what we need - more people thinking that since they can play games they can do it in real life. Hide all the Guitar Hero/Rock Band addicts.

      And keep all the "Phoenix Wright" players off of slashdot.

      "I am not a lawyer, but I've played one on the DS!"

    • Re:Oh God (Score:5, Funny)

      by megamerican (1073936) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:23PM (#30326580)

      Just what we need - more people thinking that since they can play games they can do it in real life. Hide all the Guitar Hero/Rock Band addicts.

      Bill Belichick got his job with the Patriots after showing off his skills at bribing the ref in Mutant League Football.

      Now if only it was legal to kill the quarterback and farting was a 5 yard penalty, then I might watch a game again.

    • It's different (Score:5, Insightful)

      by realmolo (574068) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:24PM (#30326612)

      Driving a car in a videogame and driving a car in real life are very different, but the actual *racing* part is pretty similar. Controlling the car is important, but it's not what wins races. Racing is all about knowing the lines and racing techniques, and a video game can definitely teach you that.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:31PM (#30326726)

        I think about 98% of gamers just had their hopes dashed when they read "fitness" as a requirement.

      • Re:It's different (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Thelasko (1196535) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:45PM (#30326914) Journal

        Racing is all about knowing the lines and racing techniques, and a video game can definitely teach you that.

        Actual F1 teams train their drivers using simulators. [youtube.com] Basically a very expensive version of Gran Turismo.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by stewbacca (1033764)

        More importantly, racing is about car control. A mass-marketed sim like Grand Turismo does not approach the levels of realism required to be an adequate sim for learning this.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jbezorg (1263978)
          You mean I can't actually just keep the throttle wide open and use the handbrake to scoot around corners in a Mclaren F1 just like in Need for Speed??
        • Re:It's different (Score:5, Insightful)

          by frosty_tsm (933163) on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:00PM (#30327160)

          More importantly, racing is about car control. A mass-marketed sim like Grand Turismo does not approach the levels of realism required to be an adequate sim for learning this.

          I think you underestimate the realism of the GT series. While the abstract some of the car characteristics, they do depict the handling of the cars pretty well.

          While not a proof, one of the parts shops hosted a GT tournament for the local autox people. The racers were able to apply what they learned while pushing their cars to the limit back to the video game. I had thought I was good, and then I saw what the others could do.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MikeBabcock (65886)

            What I find more interesting is when one real life race car driver beat all the best GT5 players at a mini tournament playing the game. He knew how to drive well, and that translated properly to the game.

            Watch Tanner Faust [youtube.com] explain how to drift in the game based on his real-world driving experience on Youtube if you like.

        • Re:It's different (Score:5, Interesting)

          by sleeping143 (1523137) on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:02PM (#30327190)
          Gran Turismo is actually quite a good simulator. It might not be quite as accurate as the simulators Ferrari and McLaren use to keep their F1 drivers in form, but it really doesn't have to be. With the use of a force-feedback steering wheel, you can get very close to experiencing the real performance of a huge selection of cars in GT. The biggest difference, to me, between GT and actual racing is the level of exertion required. I get physically tired on track before I get mentally exhausted, but in GT4 I don't have to strain against cornering, braking, and acceleration force.
        • Re:It's different (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:07PM (#30327262)

          In many ways, the parts lacking in realism make the game harder then real life. Standard gamepad controllers don't have nearly the range of motion of an actual wheel, and smoothly applying acceleration through a corner is almost impossible. While that much can be fixed by buying a good racing wheel and pedal setup, there are more fundamental limitations, too. It important to be able to feel how the car responds via g-forces, and until somebody invents artificial gravity, it's simply impossible to simulate this except through very crude methods. The effect becomes more dramatic as the car's performance goes up. Shutting off one of your senses is bound to have an affect.

          On the plus side for games (that is, things that increase your times over the real world), the simulation will remove any fear you might have from smashing into a wall. This is probably the main reason why game times tend to be higher than real world times around the same track.

          The best way to think about Gran Turismo compared to real racing is to consider a similar but different type of racing, much like difference between a track day car and a go kart. Go karts need many of the same skills, but they're not exactly alike. That hasn't stopped F1 teams from recruiting promising young go kart drivers before they're even old enough to have a license. The differences can be smoothed out later with training.

          • by Burning1 (204959)

            On the plus side for games (that is, things that increase your times over the real world), the simulation will remove any fear you might have from smashing into a wall. This is probably the main reason why game times tend to be higher than real world times around the same track.

            I'm going to say it's because games (even simulators) tend to stupify the simulation for exactly the reasons you describe. In real life, the behavior of the vehicle can tell me a lot about what it is or isn't doing. Without that feed

        • Re:It's different (Score:4, Informative)

          by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Friday December 04, 2009 @03:25PM (#30328296) Homepage Journal

          You haven't actually done your research obviously. Several drivers have in fact used the Gran Turismo for car control. There's an interesting interview with one driver who said he's used Gran Turismo to practice certain tricky corners before getting to a track because wrecking the car in the game is a lot more forgiving than doing it in real life.

          Gran Turismo has the graphics mapped down to the location of the markings on the asphalt and the positions of the trees from the real tracks. The tracks aren't flat either, they have bumps and unevenness from the mapping of the real asphalt. While the game doesn't map a few interesting bits like tire wear over time or vehicle weight changes from fuel usage, it is in fact very very accurate.

          In fact, most people I know who enjoy Gran Turismo, including myself, have a hard time explaining why to our gamer friends who insist "its not fun" because its too realistic.

      • Driving a car in a videogame and driving a car in real life are very different, but the actual *racing* part is pretty similar. Controlling the car is important, but it's not what wins races. Racing is all about knowing the lines and racing techniques, and a video game can definitely teach you that.

        You have vastly overcomplicated what it takes to be a winning race car driver. Source. [theonion.com]

      • Re:It's different (Score:4, Interesting)

        by parcel (145162) on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:04PM (#30327206)

        Driving a car in a videogame and driving a car in real life are very different, but the actual *racing* part is pretty similar. Controlling the car is important, but it's not what wins races. Racing is all about knowing the lines and racing techniques, and a video game can definitely teach you that.

        I think, at least to an extent, it helps with actual driving too. I've sunk at least a hundred hours into every GT game since GT1 (before I even had a learner's permit). On three occasions I've had to make emergency reactions while driving in real life where - I don't know quite how to put it into words - everything just felt smooth and practiced.

        Two things especially, scaling reaction to speed of travel and turning into a fishtail, are things that I think feel natural from all the time in GT. I just fortunately haven't had many "practice" opportunities in real life, so I figure I must have learned from the games.

        I use a wheel & pedals instead of a controller, too, which maybe helps the simulation value.

      • by GreatDrok (684119)

        "Racing is all about knowing the lines and racing techniques, and a video game can definitely teach you that."

        Indeed. I'm too old and fat to fit into a real racing car but back when I got my PS2 I had the logitech wheel set up (playing with a joy pad doesn't really do it for me) and ran GT3 on my projection screen. Got pretty good too.

        A little later, my wife bought me a track day as a birthday present and they took us out in MG-Fs with an instructor to show us the lines. I already knew how to read the ro

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Why not? They use flight simulators to train pilots. This is the same basic idea. There is no question learning course layouts via GT would be very helpful if you were placed on the physical track you've lapped many times virtually. I've tackled the virtual Nürburgring [wikipedia.org] enough times that I would be able to put in decent hot laps on a first visit much quicker than someone who didn't have much experience on the track layout from a video game and had to tread more carefully.

      The main thing is to build up

      • Flight simulators are used to train pilots on how to handle situations as they arise, or to learn the location of the many and complex controls. They are used to train pilots on the complex requirements of air traffic control, communications, and regulations. Most racing sims skip all this stuff because the very long boring days of registering a race team, putting the cars through inspection and hanging around the paddock for hours on end are not very interesting in a video game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MattGWU (86623)

      Second Life architects!

      "The winning design was eventually built in Chicago. The 200x400 meter building was 32 meters tall, had three levels, no windows (a bold choice!), no visible internal load-bearing structure, and no stairs because winning architect HeyBaby4U Lauterbrunnen decided 'they take up too many prims, and really, you just fly up anyway, so who cares?' A rotating 10x10x10 cube, which glows day and night while hovering over the building announced to the world that 'VIP Strip Club and Mall and E

      • and, one would hope, good damage modeling!

        Until recently, Gran Turismo had no damage modeling at all, and even GT5 is rumored to only have a simple and incomplete system. That's a downside of using real cars: makers really don't like if you show their product damaged. If you use fictional cars, a la FlatOut or Daytona USA, you can annihilate them as much as you want.

    • Even worse, he wasn't even investing his time in a serious racing sim. There are plenty of sims out there that can prepare you with a solid understanding of racing physics that transfer to the real world. None of them, however, run on consoles.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hatta (162192)

      Wow, I guess Jack Thompson was right after all.

    • by The Moof (859402)
      The difference being that Gran Turismo (I don't remember if it was 1 or 2) came with an additional manual describing real driving techniques actual race driving. I've never opened a GH/RB box and found a "Learn How to Play Guitar" book.
      • by Bakkster (1529253)

        I've never opened a GH/RB box and found a "Learn How to Play Guitar" book.

        But there were 'here are proper drum/vocal techniques' tutorials.

    • You haven't played GT have you? Its not a game as much as its a simulator.

      Airline pilots learn how to fly real planes in "video games" too for that matter.

  • First... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:17PM (#30326462)
    ...Place!

    Congrats to the kid. The best I ever did was become a plumber.
  • SCCA champions, too (Score:3, Informative)

    by notgm (1069012) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:22PM (#30326574)

    I happen to know for a fact that the current SCCA prosolo and solo2 national champion has played GT extensively as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ThogScully (589935)

      And I came in last and nearly last, respectively, in both competitions. Having never played GT, now I know why. ;-)
      -N (#28 FSP)

    • That's kind of like saying "I know some NFL guys who play Madden"...doesn't mean Madden is very realistic, only that people in an industry like playing games associated with their chosen professions.

    • I happen to know for a fact that the current SCCA prosolo and solo2 national champion has played GT extensively as well.

      Maybe because they enjoy car games. Playing Gran Turismo doesn't do jack shit to make you a better driver. It won't make you a better racer, either, since you're not racing against anyone else who actually knows how to drive/race, and racing isn't just about driving. It's about preparation, conditions, your competitors.

      I have friends who are driving instructors for car clubs and the

      • by ID000001 (753578)
        That is really untrue. Numbers of racer have made improvement in real life racing skill due to playing video games. The one I remember was when GT2 first came out, a couple of pro racer took a shot at it in Laguna Seca. They notices their mistake a little easier due to replay and new preceptive. And made improvement in real life from those video game experience

        Can't find the references right now, but I can tell you stimulation will definitely help. Saying they don't do jack shit because they are missing
  • by Drethon (1445051) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:23PM (#30326602)
    Like you hear sometimes from NASCAR, I worked on the race car of a guy who uses Papyrus Nascar Racing 2003 to practice running at Berlin Raceway. He says the ARCA (or was it ASA?) mod cars have a very similar feel to driving a Sportsman at the track.

    Wouldn't want to jump straigt into a racecar after driving games in arcade mode though...
  • This has inspired me to follow through on my love of Modern Warfare into becoming a world class mercenary. I will then follow up with my love of WOW to a career as a successful blood elf. The future looks bright, and I look forward to proving myself right to so many people who told me my "hobbies" would never do me any good.
  • So if I want a job with NASA I just need to get really good at Eve?

    • by skine (1524819)

      So if I want a job with NASA I just need to get really good at Eve?

      Is Eve a simulation for aerospace engineering or scientific testing?

      • by shogun (657)

        Actually I thought it was a simulation of a free market economy. Maybe its better training for Wall Street (pirates and all).

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chris Mattern (191822)

      Yeah, I hear NASA has a real need for tritanium miners.

  • Racing Simulators (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jzarling (600712) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:43PM (#30326870)
    There are a number of racing simulators out there that (if the promo copy id to be believed) are supposed to help you with your skills.
    I have thought about giving http://www.iracing.com/ [iracing.com] a try, but just haven't had the time off lately to justify getting a membership.
  • They called me the Pong-master back in the day. See you at Wimbledon and then GET OFF MY LAWN!
  • by dzfoo (772245) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:48PM (#30326958)

    >> but he lacked the suitable investment necessary to become a professional race driver and had virtually given up on racing

    Actually, it seems that he had physically given up, and virtually taken up racing.

            -dZ.

  • by germansausage (682057) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:51PM (#30327010)
    No, not the one where some guy sneers "Why don't you man up and get a real guitar instead of playing with a plastic toy."

    I actually did start learning to play a real guitar after playing guitar hero. What inspired me was not the thought that a real guitar would be cool (I already knew that). What I learned from guitar hero was that even though I sucked horribly at it at first, after about three months of playing just about every night for a half hour, I was starting to get reasonably good at it. I am now practicing every night on a real guitar. I still suck horribly at it, but I now have the hope that with steady practice I will improve.
    • I still suck horribly at it, but I now have the hope that with steady practice I will improve.

      Powercords and palm mutes make everything sound better.
      Anywhoo-what type of setup do you have?
      Always perfered humbucker pickups the most.
      Miss my Ibanez, ;_;

      • Right now, my sister's samick dreadnought acoustic. With the action so high I can stick a cigarrete under the strings at the 5th fret (well, almost). But under the Christmas tree is going to be a metallic red HHS Strat. "It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine."
  • my son did this... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spywhere (824072) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:52PM (#30327042)
    ...with an M1A1 Abrahms tank. He was a hard-core FPS gamer, and he joined the Army at 18. They tested him to see what his skills were, which included a turn in the Army's tank simulator.
    As he tells it, he was in there a long time -- much longer than the recruits ahead of him had been. When he came out, the room was full of people, including officers, who were all staring at him.
    He asked, "What's everybody looking at?
    Someone replied, "A tanker, son... you just beat the highest score on that thing."

    For his expertise, he was rewarded with an all-expense-paid trip to Baghdad in 2003...
    • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:32PM (#30327574) Homepage Journal

      As he tells it, he was in there a long time -- much longer than the recruits ahead of him had been. When he came out, the room was full of people, including officers, who were all staring at him.
      He asked, "What's everybody looking at?
      Someone replied, "The Buggers, son... you just wiped out the Buggers."

    • this means nothing (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana (662181)

      The US Armed forces have a history of loving "war games" and they're largely dog and pony shows. In more than one case, the US forces playing the "enemy" side, if they defeated the "friendly" side, had their capabilities reduced and the game re-run until the friendly side won. In one case, they finally had to strip the enemy commander of his radio communications. So he used runners- civil war technology. He still won.

      The fact that the "simulator" actually had a high score leads me to strongly believe

      • The more driven you seem to be, the less they have to grease the wheels to get you to sign up.

        Tell me about it. A close friend's nephew was infatuated with a sergeant's daughter. His own father is a reasonably senior engineer who builds aircraft engines, so they are solidly upper-middle class with no fiscal need to sign up like most do. He dropped out of college to join the army as a grunt. He didn't even ask for any of the signing bonuses available to him - worth up to $30K.
        Why? Because the girl cheated on him and, though he's not able to admit it to anyone, he needed to 'win her back.'

      • by adamchou (993073)

        Video games have high scores. Simulators are there to provide an environment for evaluation (usually by a very experienced human, not a computer.)

        How can you evaluate someone if you don't have a base set of marks to compare them to? Translating how well someone does on certain exercises into numbers is a score and it would definitely be required if the Army wants to separate the men from the boys. Its even more important for training programs if they want to see how their recruits are improving or not.

      • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday December 04, 2009 @03:31PM (#30328394)

        In more than one case, the US forces playing the "enemy" side, if they defeated the "friendly" side, had their capabilities reduced and the game re-run until the friendly side won.

        Absolutely false. Read up on the "Red Flag" exercises. The "enemy" is an elite unit whose *only* duty is to perform as the enemy in these exercises. They almost always win, since this is all they do. This is expected, and desired, as it's expected that the training unit will learn much more from having the crap beat out of it.

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:39PM (#30327674)
      That's very similar to the story of how I was chosen to become a futuristic super-soldier fighting off an alien invasion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rally2xs (1093023)

      >For his expertise, he was rewarded with an all-expense-paid trip to Baghdad in 2003...

      And in his tank, it goes something like this:

      "Yea tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil...
      for I am the biggest, badest, mother******er in the valley..."

  • Me too!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:31PM (#30327562) Journal
    This totally reminds me of the time I was recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada!
  • It is important to note that the skills (ie: muscle memory) involved in gaming are different from real life. Getting good at Guitar hero just means you have the skill for strumming/timing along with pressing 4 buttons. The muscle memory and training to go from 4 buttons to a real guitar is very different.

    That said, some skills can transfer (especially conceptual skills). For instance, last winter I was trying to get up an icy hill that curves. Halfway up the car in front of me stalled and veered off to the

    • by Langfat (953252)

      It is important to note that the skills (ie: muscle memory) involved in gaming are different from real life. Getting good at Guitar hero just means you have the skill for strumming/timing along with pressing 4 buttons. The muscle memory and training to go from 4 buttons to a real guitar is very different.

      Pfff, you're obviously still on MEDIUM. I've graduated to ALL FIVE buttons which I'm told is EXACTLY like playing a REAL GUITAR.

  • Not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by genner (694963) on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:35PM (#30327622)
    Half the racers in the BMW CCCA own a PS3 loaded with Grand Turismo.
  • Racing is very physically demanding.

    So if you're 275 pounds and keep a bag of Doritos next to your PS3, probably *not* gonna go pro.

    Also, he was pursuing an MBA. So he's pretty intelligent, and knows how to accomplish something. So if your PS3 is in a room in your parents' house, or if you go home and get your game on when your manager at McDonald's tells you it's okay to leave, you're probably not going pro either.

  • The first thing I thought: "Gran Turismo" gamer becomes "Pro Race Driver [wikipedia.org]". TOCA Race Driver (formerly known as Pro Race Driver in US) is a series of games that is a direct competitor of the Gran Turismo.
  • Hold on... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cf18 (943501)
    Would this also give some ammo to folks who link criminals to violence games?
  • I played Milton Bradley's "Operation" as a kid and now I'm a surgeon??? BFD.

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I do believe alot of you are just wanting to rant and not actually thinking about the article before you post. Yes yes I know you want to sound all suavely sarcastically intelligent and like a world experinced person in your comments but your not.

    The article nor does the guy say "I became a professional race driver by only play gran turismo, it taught me how to race like a pro and until I played the game Ive never even seen a car before".

    All the article is saying is he loved professional racing so much and

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Friday December 04, 2009 @03:09PM (#30328062)

    I realize Sony loves gushing over Gran Turismo's purported realism, especially considering how long it's taking to get the game to market. But pretty much any good racing game will produce the same results. I recall reading a few years back about how Formula 1 drivers would sometimes play some F1 game, I forget which one, to better familiarize themselves with the courses.

    And for a game trumpeted as the "real" driving simulator it's quite a number of quirks in it's physics engine. Well, judging from GT5 Prologue which fundamentally feels like the previous games in the series. And based on gameplay videos GT5 doesn't look like it will be all that different. This means collisions will still be poorly handled, cars will be incapable of going airborne. Suspension and handling never felt all that convincing either. In professional mode, with all the assists turned off it's always felt like the cars are all driving around on winter tires. And then to compensate for the quirks they have to do things like add these obnoxious time penalties.

    I had the opportunity to play Forza 3 recently and found that game to provide a far more fulfilling and convincing driving experience. But the game I've played in recent years that I've found to be most true to life is Live for Speed. Those guys have even managed to account for tire flex, which is really cool. The things that hurt that game are the lack of real, compelling cars and the somewhat outdated graphics. Nevertheless, if I were going to recommend a game that would provide the most authentic driving experience, that would be the one.

    GT5 certainly does have the nicest graphics, and the largest lineup of cars. Although there are some very glaring omissions like Porsche. It's inexcusable that other developers can manage to get Porsches in their game but a developer with the weight of Sony behind them is incapable of doing the same.

    I have no patience whatsoever for arcade racers so GT5 still appeals to me from that standpoint. Unfortunately, I suspect the bulk of the time was spent rendering the several dozen Daihatsu's in painstaking detail as opposed to making real improvements to the physics engine. Even vehicle damage seems to consist of nothing more than bumpers falling off and doors unrealistically flying open. But unfortunately I don't think the payoff is going to justify the excessive amount of time spent developing the game. It would probably make more sense to tout the game as an automotive encyclopedia.

    Ultimately, I don't doubt at all that any good, realistic game provides some level of benefit in the real world. I would definitely exclude most of EA's racing games from that list. And this isn't a guarantee at all. There's a lot that requires experience in a real car. And there are plenty of kids out there for whom driving games have been no help at all.

  • by hesaigo999ca (786966) on Friday December 04, 2009 @03:24PM (#30328270) Homepage Journal

    The army and navy proved this fact already, they use video games as teaching tools, for helping in the development of their soldiers.
    Too much money would be spent on tactical environments that duplicate the battle field, never mind also the fact their can always be accidents in training exercises, so they prefer to stimulate the nervous system to these types of situations through virtual means.

    The next step to this military style tactic, is to include visors and command gloves that are able to actually help the user with the scenario. If he is about to whip out a hand grenade and say throw it improperly, which in a game is always done by the machine representing the gamer...then glove would capture slight hand movements that could falter the throw, hence make the grenade land a little too close and blow everybody up..."sort of thing"

    I am glad he was given a chance to drive even though he had no real background or experience, it shows there are a few people out there that are capable of seeing talent through other means then on the job training.

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