The real-world application of the new Isle of Man TT game
Video game technology has come on leaps and bounds since the first home consoles of the 1970s, to the point where it can be used as a simulation tool in motorsport. For Isle of Man TT riders, a new title in the Ride on the Edge series looks like it's as close to the real thing as you can get without being there
Virtual simulation isn’t a new concept in motorsport, but it’s one that has gone from being the domain of multi-million-pound space-age Formula 1 team factories a couple of decades ago to something achievable on a £70 game disc you can buy on the high street.
In the last decade or so, the home console racing simulation experience has exploded into new realms. Titles like Grand Turismo, Forza Motorsport and the first two Project CARS games have brought ultra-realistic racing experiences to bedrooms across the globe.
Not only has this allowed fans to get closer to experiencing just what it’s like to actually race on the circuits of the world, it has had practical applications, with numerous drivers making no secret of their love for home sim racing set-ups as part of their real-world preparations.
Motorcycle racing games have tried to mimic this, but the lack of top flight developers taking on the challenge and the limitations of a controller have meant few have really delivered the ultra-realistic feeling of riding a motorcycle from the comfort of your sofa.
However, one title in particular has proven to be a major ally in one racer’s preparations for the real world. In 2017, French developer Kylotonn released TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge.
It marked the first game based on the Isle of Man TT since 2008’s Isle of Man TT: Real Road Racing Championship on the PlayStation 2, and it did something genuinely impressive - it recreated the 37.75-mile course in 1:1 scale, every inch of the track laser-scanned to craft a totally accurate copy.
This proved vital for Davey Todd, who made his TT debut in 2018. Todd clocked countless hours on Ride on the Edge, to the point where just prior to his maiden TT outing he sat second in the world online rankings for the game.
“The first lap I was terrified because I was just nervous - it’s the dangerous TT,” Todd told Autosport during a hand-ons with Ride on the Edge 3 in Milan last month.
Davey Todd prepared for his TT debut in 2018 by playing the first Ride on the Edge game
Photo by: Stephen Davison
“Some guy was in front of me and the bike was leaking oil, and I was really worried that would make my front tyre slippery or something. It was a pretty awful first lap. Even though I knew where I was going, I didn’t trust in that because I’d put all my work in on the game and knew every turn, knew every bump, I knew everything.
“But, before you’ve done it, you can’t say that for sure because you’ve never actually raced there. So, I did the first lap and was pretty nervous about that. And when I completed the first lap, it was like ‘actually, I do know it’. I didn’t trust that I did know it until I completed that first lap. So, then my second lap it all clicked into place. I knew where I was going, I’ve got the confidence now, I’ve done my lap and it was just like on the game.”
Todd got two TTs under his belt before the COVID pandemic hit and forced a two-year hiatus, a disaster for a newcomer in his learning of the Snaefell Mountain Course. Come 2019, he was the face of Ride on the Edge 2 and, when the world went into lockdown in 2020, Todd fired up his PlayStation.
"The first night of practice, I was fastest, and I can only say what’s that down to? It’s keeping on top of that knowledge and playing the game. I didn’t feel like I’d been away" Davey Todd
“I thought in my mind I was going to feel like I would be back to it being my first time there,” he adds when talking about returning to last year’s TT. “And it was for a lot of people who’d been going for longer than that. Honestly, I just played the game a lot during COVID to keep it fresh and I think I’m one of – if not the most recent rider at the TT – so I should have been towards the back. And the first night of practice, I was fastest, and I can only say what’s that down to? It’s keeping on top of that knowledge and playing the game. I didn’t feel like I’d been away.”
Attitudes towards gaming have changed massively since the pandemic. Not only was it seen as a relevant form of home therapy for people struggling during those dark days, the popular Esports scene went to new heights as it proved to be the only sporting competition on offer for many months.
As Autosport reported earlier this year, gaming has even become a useful teaching tool for engineering students at Burnley College. For Todd, his time spent gaming during COVID kept the TT fresh in his mind and ultimately helped him to score his first podium at the event in 2022, when he was third in the Superstock race for Padgetts Honda.
On 11 May 2023, the third instalment in the Ride on the Edge series will release on home consoles and PC. Development has changed hands to RaceWard Studios, part of NACON Studio Milan. Autosport was invited to the studio to try out the game in March and RaceWard has done a stellar job in recreating the TT.
Todd in virtual form in TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3. He thinks the game could make approaching the TT safer for newcomers
Don’t take our word for it, though. Take it from Todd: “The [corner and braking] reference points are all there, the walls are the right colour, the fences and the trees and everything, the road markings even. It’s seriously impressive to see that, to see my reference points in the game and use them. And because I know my gearing pattern, [I know] what gear I’m in for what corner, and then I use that in the game and transfers over. I don’t know how they’ve done that; they’ve done a fantastic job.”
Several PlayStation 2 titles offered riders the chance to at least understand what direction the circuit goes in. But Ride on the Edge 3 has accurately recreated every bump, jump, dip in the road and undulation change on the real course.
Newcomers face a strict learning process to gain entry to the TT, a lot of which involves spending hours and hours circulating the course in a car. That helps get your bearings, but there’s only so much one can learn driving at 30mph on the left-hand side of a public road.
Todd does a lot of work with newcomers and constantly urges them to get the TT game as part of their homework. For him, his TT debut “100%” would have been tougher than what it was without his virtual experience and feels the game “helps you to be much faster as well as safer when you go there as a newcomer”.
“I’ve been involved a lot with newcomers more and more because I’m one of the most recent to the TT,” he notes. “I push it to everybody and say ‘look, this is an awesome tool you have here’. It’s not as easy, especially for some European riders or worldwide riders coming to the TT for the first time and they don’t have the facility… I can just jump on a ferry or jump on a flight and go and do a load of laps around the course. It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot easier than trying to do that from America or Australia. The best and easiest tool that you have is getting the game and playing it.”
Improvements to the game’s handling model has also increased the realism level. Todd says his early experiences of Ride on the Edge 3 at its highest difficulty setting were mostly of crashing – something that left him “with a big smile on my face” because he was being punished for not riding realistically enough.
With just over a month to go until TT 2023 starts, Todd will be looking to build on his podium success from last year and mount a challenge for a first victory.
And, while he has kept bike fit in the British Superbike Championship, having won the National Superstock title in 2022, it will be his fresh relevant knowledge of the TT course from his time spent on the game that should see him hit the ground running again when practice begins at the end of May.
Todd will have spun plenty of Isle of Man laps on the PlayStation prior to his first real one of 2023 at the end of May
Photo by: Tony Goldsmith
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