So why is Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi so thrilled that Sebastian Vettel snatched the F1 championship away from Fernando Alonso? Because the German driver just happens to be one of the main drawcards in the just-launched Gran Turismo 5.

That’s right, Red Bull pilot Vettel appears as an instructor in the new game explaining the finer points of racing. Having this year’s F1 champ in the game certainly adds an amount of reality to the virtual world that is Gran Turismo. And Yamauchi is all smiles.

But he was also a rather happy racer – in the real world – when we joined him for a world exclusive behind the wheel of a Lexus IS-F race car at this year’s Nürburgring 24-hour race. As part of the World Car Awards team, Yamauchi’s co-drivers were ex-Indy racer Hideshi Matsuda and yours truly in a stock IS-F that had been specially prepared for racing at the ‘Ring.

Apart from wider-than-stock slick tyres, a roll-cage, a revised rear suspension set-up and high-performance brake pads, the only modifications made to the IS-F were the addition of a heavy-duty transmission oil cooler to keep that eight-speed flappy-paddle gearbox in check and an ex-F1 rear wing for greater downforce in the high-speed corners. Toyota engineers had also replaced the bonnet, boot and doors with fibreglass parts dropping the car’s kerb weight by around 200kgs.