When you are a legend in the making - such as Ayrton Senna - powered by a Japanese company - i.e. Honda - and a Japanese entertainment company - SEGA, that is - wants to exploit your ventures, why wouldn't you want a say in it? Like designing your own race tracks.Screw Gran Turismo, screw Hermann Tilke. You need a fast track made by the best driver ever lived. There's no physics involved, though, but hey - it's the early 90s.
SEGA was the king of the arcades and Senna was the emperor of race tracks.
In the earlier days of computing there wasn't too much to do to make something feel realistic - such as a simulator -, and no one took entertainment business too seriously to throw hardware at it, hence marketing departments solved the problem attaching attractive names to the products of the respective companies they represent.
Too many sports games came out with the generic title "John Doe's Representative Sport". It would be interesting to find out how much actual input these people had in developing said games, but let's not get ahead.
It may not look much, but in 1979 "Monaco GP" by SEGA was the game to hit the arcades for. Following the same gameplay as handheld games offer, you only had to dodge slower cars. The weather was occasionally changing, going from daylight to night and back, the game ran on a cycle. Never stopped, you just had to race as hard on the straight road as you could before your time ran out. Since the original cabinet did not use a CPU, it couldn't be ported, nevertheless it was cloned for the C64 as "Le Mans" and for the Atari 2600 by Activision as "Enduro" - now with a chase view instead an overhead one.
[*NOTE: If you think you were convinced by this lady from SEGA to give a try to "Monaco GP", I suggest you reconsider your decision by looking at this magnificent one for "Enduro": a Datsun 280ZX AND a Lancia Stratos on the same poster? Too good to be true.]
Two sequels later, Super Monaco GP landed. Even today, I regard it as the only F1-based game that best captured the era it was born in. One track around a circuit that does not follow the same line as the Monaco street circuit, but reproduces the vibe of its atmosphere perfectly.
Its MegaDrive/Genesis home port were massive successes, too. The graphics weren't as spectacular as in with the original arcade machines, but it featured tracks enough for a whole season. I only experienced the Commodore 64 version - which was quite awful, but who cared when you had Grand Prix Circuit?
The sequel to this (only available as home versions) now had Ayrton Senna to its title, claiming having serious input from the world champion.
Indeed, a virtual, 16-bit Senna guides you through the basics of race driving and there is also a game mode, titled "Senna GP", which is the same gameplay as the arcade prequel to this game, only you have three tracks to choose from.
The first track is a digital 'replica' of Ayrton's own go kart track in Brazil that he designed.
The other two tracks are apparently completely thought up, nevertheless they are claimed to be designed by the man himself for this game.
Thinking about it, it is actually quite rad to race on a circuit Senna has designed, even if it's only virtual and mad for an arcade game over two decades ago.
A year after the game came out, SEGA became one of the sponsors to the Williams F1 team.
And not only that, SEGA was the title sponsor to the famous European Grand Prix in 1993, where Senna showed the finest of his racing talent.
Here's a great home video of the Friday practice session:
Which current or former racing driver would you ask to design a race track?
All images are of Creative Commons licence