Flying to Seattle for a weekend of exhilarating racing action whilst meeting up with some of the fastest drivers in the world of Forza Motorsport. Visiting the team behind the franchise at Turn 10 Studios and seeing the best of the best compete on the track for two different 2018 ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational Champion titles as both individual and team-based racing is featured in the Forza Racing Championship for the first time. It felt almost surreal, as if I was living the dream – because for this one event, I was.
That’s not to mention all the ForzaRC-branded freebies I was handed, as well an unforgettable evening with the drivers for a dinner at one of the Seattle’s finest restaurants. It sounds like the best kind of weekend for a diehard Forza fan like myself, and that’s simply because it was. Seattle, Washington is the home of Turn 10 Studios, and the Forza Racing Championship is Microsoft’s premier racing esports series played on Forza
Motorsport 7 – the latest entry in the award-winning and critically-acclaimed franchise boasting native 4K visuals and 60fps gameplay with over 700 fully-modelled Forzavista cars and more than 30 unique track locations with dynamic conditions.
Taking the Forza Racing Championship esports series to Seattle makes a lot of sense. With it being the home of Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios, everyone invited to the event had the opportunity to visit the developer and provide their feedback on the future of the Forza Motorsport franchise. The ForzaRC has already hosted events in New York City, China, and Le Mans. Back in April 2017, I attended the ForzaRC New York Invitational, which remains one of my all-time favourite events. It was the first time I met up with the competitive Forza community, and since then, my interest and enthusiasm for Forza esports and professional racing on the game has soared. However, the Pre-Season Invitational Presented by IMSA took it all to an entire new level.
Being located in Ireland, the trip to Seattle was undeniably a long journey to undertake – but it has been absolutely worth it. Having stayed in a hotel nearby Dublin Airport the night before my first flight, it was all quite relaxing and enjoyable leading up to my travels. I caught an early flight to London Heathrow the following morning before later taking a connecting flight to Seattle on Virgin Atlantic. It was my first time flying with Virgin Atlantic, but after experiencing two flights with the Richard Branson-owned company, they’ve become my personal favourite transatlantic airline.
Before the enduring nine-hour flight that was looming, I met up with Tobin ‘Racerz’ Leigh and Steve ‘Super GT’ Alvarez-Brown of F4H Motorsport at London Heathrow. Like myself, Steve had been invited to the event as Media, whilst Tobin was competing at the ForzaRC
Pre-Season Invitational in both the individual races and the team events with fellow drivers Daniel ‘ForceOne’ Nyman and Zachary ‘Venom’ Taylor.
Of course, this weekend went on to be one very exciting for the young trio of F4H drivers, who scored the team
victory after two well-deserved first-place finishes from Racerz backed by consistent performances from his teammates. Not only would they be each taking home an Xbox
One X – the world’s most powerful console, and the system in which Forza Motorsport 7 takes the lead as its showcase title, but they also each received a special golden Xbox One controller as their official trophy. The celebration was one not to be missed, and likely the highlight of the entire trip for the F4H Motorsport team.
With an exciting few days ahead, it was fantastic to catch up with Steve and Tobin at the airport, especially as Tobin anticipated the upcoming weekend of ForzaRC action. It was one packed with surprising results and well-deserved victories, but also one where the Forza community got together once again to celebrate everything that the competitive esports racing community in Forza stands for. After enduring the long-distance flight across the Atlantic, we had finally arrived in Seattle at the Kimpton Alexis Hotel – where all the invited drivers, as well as myself, were staying.
Before heading to my room, I was invited briefly to the Driver’s Lounge where both competitors and Gfinity staff were chilling throughout the event. It was a fun opportunity to introduce myself and see who else had already arrived before heading to my room for another surprise, which was ironically ‘420.’ Lying on my bed inside the room was a huge ForzaRC backpack with IMSA branding to celebrate the Pre-Season Invitational.
Inside was a ForzaRC Pre-Season jacket, as well as a ForzaRC t-shirt with the logo on front and Pre-Season Invitational branding labelled sideways on the back. There was also an official ForzaRC snapback, with a basket full of other treats and things we may need throughout the event, including a chocolate bar and hand sanitizer, as well as a ForzaRC mobile battery pack and keyring tag, both branded with the Pre-Season Invitational and IMSA tags. Very cool, but it wouldn’t be all the swag we’d be receiving throughout the event.
That evening involved a private welcome celebration by the hotel lobby where the drivers gathered together to socialize and chat alongside us media folks and the Gfinity team working on the Forza Racing Championship. There were new faces, as well as plenty of well-known ones, but it was a fun evening overall. I also met up with fellow FullThrottle writer Isaac Forcella there, who is my co-partner for ForzaRC coverage.
Friday was an exciting day packed with new surprises, a pre-event briefing for the drivers, and of course, a visit to Turn 10 Studios – the home of the Forza Motorsport franchise. Located in Redmond, Washington, the Turn 10 visit included a short tour of the studio – a new building in which the team moved into last year. It’s next door to Halo developer 343 Industries – another first-party Microsoft studio that I visited in October 2016 to check out Halo Wars 2 early. The Minecraft team is also located within the same vicinity, making this location the home of Microsoft’s biggest first-party Xbox exclusives.
Being at Turn 10 Studios felt surreal – and even that’s an understatement. Despite having seen several photos and videos taken inside the studio before, especially within the main lobby, being there in person felt so different in comparison to shared online media, which don’t do it justice. The atmosphere there felt exciting and welcoming – and that was just inside the front door!
The lobby for Turn 10 Studios features three iconic cars which grab your attention before you’ve even stepped inside – the McLaren P1, the Porsche 919 Hybrid Le Mans race car, and of course, Alan Hartman’s own 2017 Ford GT. Despite the first two being shells, but still looking accurate and absolutely incredible, the Ford GT is very, very real. So much so, we may have heard it
in-action towards the end of our visit.
More on that later, but let’s just say it’s one iconic and absolutely stunning car. You may remember the community helped Alan decide on the final paintjob and spec of his Ford GT, which fans created in Forza Motorsport 6. With the reveal of the legendary exotic supercar alongside Forza Motorsport 6 at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, there’s a lot of history between Microsoft and Ford, so it makes sense for Alan to have been invited to purchase his own Ford GT.
Let’s say all the right choices were made when it comes to the colour scheme. I was genuinely surprised by how staggeringly-good the car looks with the black paint arrangement complimented by the number 2 in a white circle with adorning stripes in homage to the Ford GT40’s unforgettable and historic performance at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. This makes the car not only an acknowledgement of that incredible moment within motorsport, where Ford bagged themselves a 1-2-3 victory with the GT40, but also a celebration.
The Porsche 919 Hybrid was featured inside the Los Angeles Convention Center during E3 2017 to celebrate both the reveal of Forza Motorsport 7 and the ForzaRC Season 3 finals hosted at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that upcoming weekend. The McLaren P1 shell was naturally there as the cover car of Forza Motorsport 5 – the headlining launch title for the Xbox One.
Having a guided tour of Turn 10 was not only exciting, but also fascinating. The team have a massive awards cabinet full of awards from media outlets like IGN and GameSpot, as well as Best of E3 and Gamescom awards. There’s also multiple Racing Game of the Year awards from The Game Awards, as well as limited edition Forza Motorsport consoles and some of the rarest Forza merchandise to be had.
Not only were there signed copies of the first-ever Forza Motorsport for the Original Xbox, but there were also several framed event photos, helmets adorned with Forza Motorsport 7 branding to represent the franchise’s addition of Driver Gear, and scale models of the 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS and the Xbox-branded Ford Falcon Australian Supercar complemented by the Australian-only V8 Supercars Special Edition of Forza Motorsport 6.
Across the other side of this room were framed covers of each entry in the Forza franchise, including both Motorsport and Horizon. These featured the official cover art for each game, as well as the case and disc. These symbolise the colossal amount of Forza titles the team at Turn 10 Studios have been able to produce since the franchise’s inception in 2005.
This hall also featured a full motion sim-rig with Forza Motorsport 7 on an Xbox One X Project Scorpio development kit on a large display, similar to the one I played at E3 2017. There’s a few of these sim-rigs located across the studio, and all of them look awesome. If there’s something I really appreciated about Turn 10 – including in both the main halls and development offices – it’s that there a lot of open-space, allowing for plenty of guest visitors, team social gatherings, and of course, fresh air without it all feeling cramped.
The studio walls also feature plenty of artwork and official screenshots for Forza titles, including those from the more recent entries in the series. One of these also boasts various engine pipes, which are taken from cars used to help create the audio effects and engine notes you hear from all your favourite vehicles in Forza. Some doors inside the building also feature various Forza posters, whilst the offices and meeting rooms are often named after various Forza codenames, including ‘Anthem’ for Forza Horizon 2 and ‘Opus’ for Forza Horizon 3.
Each desk within Turn 10 also has its own Xbox One console, ensuring each employee at the studio has plenty of time with the latest Forza titles. Some of the larger offices are also decked out in even more Forza gear. It’s truly something to appreciate, especially if you’re a hardcore Forza fan like myself. Naturally, there’s also plenty of development kits across the building, which is no real surprise, however it’s always a treat to see the Project Scorpio Development Kit again given how different and unique it looks in comparison to retail Xbox One X hardware.
Whilst the tour was incredibly fun and something I’m so ecstatic to have done, there was one main purpose from our visit – and that was a roundtable discussion with the folks from Turn 10 Studios about the future of the Forza Motorsport franchise and esports racing. Whilst I can’t discuss the exact specifics of this, I can say it was an insightful conversation between us – the Forza community – and the leaders of the Forza franchise, including Studio Head Alan Hartman, Creative Director Dan Greenawalt, Multiplayer Design Director Elliott Lyons, and Esports Director Jennifer Yi.
After this discussion, I felt extremely positive and excited for the future of the Forza franchise, as did everyone else I asked. Before the serious talk, however, it was time for cake. Yep, we were eating a ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational cake that Turn 10 had baked especially for our visit. It was a chocolate cake, and with Tobin ‘Racerz’ Leigh being the youngest ForzaRC driver in attendance, he had the honour of cutting the first slice – and it tasted fantastic! There were also plenty of fizzy drinks like Mountain Dew on offer to quench any thirst we may have had.
I have to mention, I never thought I’d be saying I ate a ForzaRC-branded cake with the competitive Forza community and the franchise’s leading directors during a visit to Turn 10 Studios. This was definitely one of my many highlights from the trip to Seattle, and it’s something I always find amusing whenever I think back to it. Once the roundtable discussion was over, we made our way back down to the lobby as we said farewell to the team and headed back onto our shuttle.
Once everyone was onboard and ready to leave – Alan Hartman came back out, and asked us if we’d like to see him start up his Ford GT. With that, we all rushed off the shuttle and headed back into the studio as we gathered around the car with our phones and cameras ready to record it all. Hartman asked Aurélien ‘Laige’ Mallet of G2 Esports – the recently-established competitive racing team from McLaren’s F1 driver Fernando Alonso, if he wanted to sit inside the vehicle. After spending a few moments in the car, Laige swapped the driver’s seat with Alan so he could start up Ford’s latest V6-powered beast – and engage it into its dedicated track mode, in which the exotic supercar lowers its suspension as the rear wing prominently adjusts outwards.
I had never heard how the Ford GT sounded before in reality. Despite having seen the car at various events and shows, and of course driving it for hundreds of miles in Forza and watching it in-action in popular automotive shows like Top Gear and The Grand Tour, it was an awe-inspiring moment and a real pleasure to finally stand right up close to the 2017 Ford GT and hear how wonderful the car sounds when the engine is revved. It was a spectacular moment, and one of those that celebrates what Forza is about – car culture, community, and racing. With the 2017 Ford GT being my current all-time favourite car, it was an absolute privilege to be so close to it and hear its 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine roar.
5:00AM. There was no sleeping in on the day of the 2018 ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational. This was it, the moment we had all been waiting for. This is when the drivers would finally hit the track in the first official ForzaRC esports event played on Forza Motorsport 7. This is the kick-off to a season of competitive racing action. This was the showcase of what to expect from the best of the best – Forza’s fastest drivers, in 2018.
There may have been no cash prizes on the line, but there was pride and glory. The sense of accomplishment and victory. This was the moment for each of the 18 invited drivers to show what they were made of. There was a lot of excitement that morning. It was incredibly difficult to predict what would happen. A new game, a new console, and an offline event. Anything could happen, and anyone could have been crowned Seattle's ForzaRC 2018 Pre-Season Champion.
With the 2018 ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational divided into two distinct competitions with the individual and team-based races, there were plenty of chances for drivers to showcase the racing talent and driving skill they have – and that’s exactly what they did. Once we arrived at the broadcast studio, checked in and received our ForzaRC badges, we were able to visit the Driver’s Lounge to hang out with the competitors. Everyone appeared calm, but the nerves and levels of excitement were likely building up on the inside as the adrenaline rush began to flow.
The Individual Race competition was the first to commence at 10:00AM after the non-broadcasted qualifying session. The racing begun with a serious crash impacting ‘bbb0x’ on Sebring during the fourth lap of the first event – impacting multiple other drivers, whilst Laige took pole position for the opening two races of the invitational. F4H Racerz came out on top in the third event, before TX3 Lightning took the crown in the fourth and final event. As the races progressed and we watched the livestream feed in the Driver’s Lounge, there were plenty of tense moments, surprising results, and lots of overall excitement – and even laughing.
The ForzaRC is a serious competition, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun one either. The sense of community is always strong with the competitive Forza fanbase. There was also plenty of eating involved, as one of the event sponsors Bubba Burger showed up – and after trying one, I have to say they’re extremely tasty. I was genuinely surprised by how good they were, and the drivers seemed to really enjoy them as well. Nothing like a good burger – and one that’s also a ForzaRC sponsor.
After a solid performance on the track throughout the individual races, it was a clear victory for G2’s Aurélien ‘Laige’ Mallet, followed by consistent and all-around excellent performances from Season 3 winner Michael Thomas ‘RoadRunner’ Coyne of Alien Motorsport and Taylor ‘Lightning’ Stomski of Virtual Drivers by TX3. Before they took the podium, we were asked to join the celebrations by standing behind it for a quick introduction from ForzaRC Presenter Shannon McIntosh.
We then moved behind the cameras as the three drivers were introduced one by one to stand on the podium with their new Xbox One X consoles and celebratory controllers. This was a moment of applause, celebration, and of course, photos – as the winning drivers basked in their glory after their incredible performance on the track.
Whilst the Individual Race events were a spectacle of their own – delivering close neck-to-neck racing action with plenty of excitement, the Team Races were the real star of the show. Never have I felt more engaged and engrossed within a Forza esports event. This was a true racing spectacle, and the improved Spectator
Mode in Forza Motorsport 7 – which was rebuilt entirely from the ground up for the game – really shone here. The level of teamplay and efficiently fused with the right car and track combinations that were on showcase is everything I want to see more of from the Forza Racing Championship moving forward.
Like the Individual Races, the Team Races deployed a regular qualifying grid for the first two races, followed by a reverse grid for the final two events. These races were some of the most exciting and thrilling I’ve watched in Forza Motorsport – and they were dominantly led by one team, F4H Motorsport. The American drivers ForceOne and Venom teamed up with Racerz from Britain for the ultimate Forza team trio. From the beginning to end, it was clear F4H were unstoppable with this new team-based tournament format.
Whether it was finishing milliseconds apart from each other or Racerz taking that podium first-place finish in the final two races, F4H had the winning spot firmly gripped into their hands before the competition had even begun. It was clear from speaking to both Racerz and ForceOne in a recent feature
story that they were aiming for the top result in this invitational event, and that’s exactly what they did. F4H are a team made up of some of the best drivers in Forza and this really showed throughout the team events.
As I watched the Team Races, I felt a sense of excitement and adrenaline-rush, especially as F4H’s victory begun to solidify itself, but also a sense of worry as anything could still have happened. Alien Motorsport, Japspeed Racing, and Virtual Drivers from TX3 were all competing in the team events, and with three of the best members from each team featured for a total of 12 drivers on the grid – not to mention the fact each driver had to use a different car from a selection of three vehicles from within the same Forza division, anything could’ve happened. That’s the most exciting feature of real-world motorsport – nothing is certain, the entire race could still change, and this fully applies to the Forza Racing Championship.
The introduction of team-based competition is an exciting aspect to ForzaRC, and it’s something we hope to see a lot more of moving forward. The adrenaline-pumping racing action led to some of the best competition to be had on Forza Motorsport, and everyone in both the Driver’s Lounge and the venue itself were glued to the screens located all over the studio facility. Turn 10 and Gfinity staff were in fill attendance, including Studio Head Alan Hartman – and it was clear from his face how much he enjoyed the racing, and how proud he was of the ForzaRC team for putting together such a spectacular event.
Not only did the production value see a significant increase for the 2018 Pre-Season Invitational, but the casting also improved and felt more natural, engaging, and insightful. Joining YMTV’s Alie 'Yachts' Tacq and esports commentator Scott Cole was YMTV’s Aaron 'Mellish' Martin for deeper race analysis, as well as broadcast motorsport journalist and the voice of IMSA Radio himself – John Hindhaugh. I was thoroughly surprised by how enthusiastic and insightful Hindhaugh was during the races he casted. This only added to the immersion of the racing and made them feel even more exciting to watch. He brought his love of IMSA and motorsport to the world of Forza – and the event benefitted massively from his core passion for it all.
In fact, even outside of the races he casted, Hindhaugh had his eyes glued to the screen, providing insight to us nearby during the races as we watched them together. He was just as engaged into the action, and even spoke about the incredible growth of racing esports to us as we spectated the event on-screen. It was a real moment to appreciate, and it goes to show how IMSA really goes hand-in-hand with the Forza franchise. Talk about the perfect partnership for the Forza Racing Championship.
Not only did we have the incredible insight and enthusiasm of John Hindhaugh, but we also had an interview with David Kolkmann, fresh off a run from the 12 Hours of Sebring with the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT3 R GTD parked by the casters desk in the studio straight from the track. To add to the realism of it all, the car wasn’t even cleaned – meaning all the scuff marks with the dirt and scrapes all over the car from the Sebring race were still present, highlighting the overall grittiness and violence of motorsport – something Forza Motorsport 7 also emphasizes in its gameplay.
The livestream also featured other interviews too, including those with the drivers who were performing well on the track or had surprise finishes, as well as one with Ben Williams – the vice president of The Online Racing Association, or TORA as it’s more commonly known as by the community. Being one of the most respected, popular, and premier competitive racing organizations within the Forza Motorsport community, events hosted by TORA feature some of the fastest and most skilled players in the game – and result in some excellent viewing for broadcasted events.
As the team events concluded after some spectacular races that were a pure joy to watch, the ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational saw one last podium celebration – this time for the drivers of F4H Motorsport. The team had performed incredibly well, and I think even exceeded their own expectations. After telling me about their
disappointments in the Season 3 finals at the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans, I don’t think the team would've felt anything close to that for their invitational victory. The practise paid off for F4H – and the success was led by one of Forza’s youngest drivers in Tobin ‘Racerz’ Leigh.
The celebration for this one saw us behind the podium as the F4H trio walked out to stand atop of it and bask in their success and glory. It was a real exciting moment for everyone as we celebrated and applauded their racing victory. Like the driver champions in the individual races, they also won brand-new Xbox One X consoles and each received a golden controller. Following the congratulations towards the drivers from Turn 10’s Community Manager Brian Ekberg, we had the chance to snap a few photos with the three F4H drivers as they proudly held up their trophies in recognition of their success and victory on the track.
With that, the livestream officially concluded, and the events team began to take apart the studio. It was an opportunity to explore where the drivers competed – and despite them no longer being there as they celebrated their accomplishments in their dedicated lounge and around the podium, there was still a tense and competitive atmosphere around each of the stations used by the players. The room was also adorned in ForzaRC-branding, including some neat lighting effects prominently displaying Forza and ForzaRC logos on the wall.
Nearby, I also had a look at the casters desk, and this opportunity included a few snaps of the #73 Porsche GT3 R GTD parked nearby – highlighting the car’s imperfections and the overall fierceness of motorsport. It was nice to see the car straight from the 12 Hours of Sebring up, close, and personal, and I even saw it being lifted back onto its truck before being returned to its team home with Park Place Motorsports.
Before leaving, however, it was also an opportunity to congratulate the casters, presenters, and the overall team on the show, and of course, the drivers for putting on this unmissable racing spectacle. The 2018 ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational will be an unforgettable one in Forza, and it makes me incredibly excited to see the remainder of this year’s racing action once the 2018
season officially begins on April 2nd.
As well as its competitive aspect, the ForzaRC is also a social event. This is where the drivers and leading community members can engage with one another. We’ve all raced with each other, we’ve also spoken to each other, but the ForzaRC allows us to put a face on the Gamertag of our friends in the Forza community. I don’t think there’s another community out there that’s as close as Forza. Everyone knows each other, especially in the competitive side of community, and it means when we meet up at these events, it’s as if we’ve always known each other – and perhaps that’s because we have.
Not only did we have the pre-event gathering at the Kimpton Alexis Hotel, but there was also a dinner with the drivers on the Friday evening after our visit to Turn 10 Studios. It was the day before the 2018 ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational, but that didn’t stop anyone from having an enjoyable night. We ate in one of the fanciest restaurants in Seattle with various types of pasta being served. It was a fun and exciting night, and it allowed us to spend time with the drivers without the worry, stress, or pressure of their upcoming event.
One of the biggest reasons to love offline-hosted ForzaRC events is because of how it allows the community to get together – to meet each other in-person, and put their skills on show. For Callum ‘Europa’ Rodgers of AMS Motorsport, it was his first offline event – and a unique experience for the driver, but for the likes of JSR’s Rossi, Commando and Craviator, TX3’s Lightning and HardBR, as well as Harmonic, bbb0x and THR Ne, it was their latest one in a series of events as they battled it out for the podium positions.
Overall, the ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational has been unforgettable. It was full of new experiences, memories, and friends. Not to mention the excellent racing and the visit to Turn 10 Studios. It has surpassed the New York Invitational as my personal favourite event yet, and as ForzaRC continues to increase in both popularity and production value, this will likely change as different ForzaRC events occur in the future.
I’m incredibly thankful to Microsoft, Turn 10 Studios, and Gfinity for having myself and ForzaRC coverage co-partner Isaac in Seattle for the event. It’s one we definitely won’t be forgetting about anytime soon, especially with all the new ForzaRC-branded goodies we received during it all. Not only did we get everything mentioned earlier, but there were also posters featuring the official Pre-Season Invitational keyart once the racing was done and dusted – including one for each of us signed by the Turn 10 Studios team, as well as a smaller ForzaRC-branded bag including a brand-new RIG600 Gaming Headset.
Isaac also received all the same swag, and it’s safe to say some very organizational packing was required to ensure it all reached our homes safe and sound.
The ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational has set the stage for the 2018 season of racing action on Forza Motorsport 7. It was a strong and exciting comeback for the Forza Racing Championship, and the overall experience is one I’ll never forget. The unpredictability of motorsport is what continues to make the ForzaRC such an enjoyable viewing spectacle, and this event was by far their best one yet.
However, with this year’s season kicking off on April 2nd with upcoming bi-weekly broadcasts and two offline-hosted events to wrap up each series of the 2018 season later in the year – including one in Seattle and another in Mexico City, followed by the Forza Racing World Championship hosted in London this October, there’s plenty of racing to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.
The Forza Racing Championship is back, and it’ll require patience, skill, and dedication to reach the top of the leaderboard. Will a new champion be crowned victorious this year, will it be the comeback of a familiar face – or will we see some new names in the competitive scene? Who knows, but what we do know is that a Forza World Champion will be crowned this October, and the prospect of that is one which leaves me extremely excited and enthusiastic for the year ahead.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.