Top ten fake and fictional racing drivers from gaming history


Posted on

| Written by

Today is April Fools’ Day – a peculiar holiday of sorts where professional publications are permitted by tradition to run silly, stupid and scarcely believable stories for their own entertainment.

There will be no such foolery on RaceFans this April Fools’ Day. However, it did get us thinking about what our favourite fake and fictional drivers from the world of gaming were – especially as there are so many choices out there.

Naturally, filtering them down into a top ten means there will be many, many favourites who will miss out. So if you’re a big fan of Captain Falcon, a dedicated follower of Devon Butler or cheered on Klonoa during the fluffy Namco mascot’s battle for the 1999 Moto GP championship against Mick Doohan, prepare to be disappointed.

10. Valentin Manzi – Grid Legends – 2022

There are so many memorable characters from the history of the Grid series spanning two decades. From Ryan McKane and James Randall in the original Race Driver: Grid to Cesar Maques in the sequel, Codemasters’ series is perhaps the first that comes to mind when thinking of story modes in racing games.

Grid Legends brought back the narrative element to the series in a major way, with live action actors bringing a cast of new characters to life. From Yume Tanaka and Lara Carvalho to Nathan McKane, the nephew of Ryan and main player rival character. But it’s the charismatic Valentin Manzi – played by Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa – who’s the standout.

Like a cross between Daniel Ricciardo and Michael McIntyre, Manzi might not be everyone’s cup of tea – but at least he’s memorable.

9. Shinji Yazaki – Ridge Racer Type 4 – 1999

Explaining why Ridge Racer Type 4 is one of the best racing games on the original PlayStation and perhaps one of the greatest arcade racers ever made would be an article in itself. Oozing with style, fun, incredibly replayable gameplay and an all-time great soundtrack – just ask rapper JPEGMAFIA – the game has a tactile ‘flavour’ to it no other game has had before or since.

But like Grid Legends, the fourth Ridge Racer title put a cast of colour characters and a story at the very heart of the game.The Japanese team Pac Racing Club were one of four teams the player could choose to compete in the fictional Real Racing Roots ’99 championship with. As team principal, Yazaki would drive the story onwards through face-to-face conversations with the player after every race.

Grumpy, cynical and just plain rude at times, Yazaki mellows out over the course of the game. As a former racing driver himself who retired early, you eventually learn the reason for why he hung up his helmet so soon and what made him such a grouch to begin with. Namco, please remaster or remake this game.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

8. Sierra Knox – Hitman 2 – 2018

Sierra Knox

The talented driver of the Kronstadt team that just so happens to be owned by her father, Robert Knox, Sierra Knox races her team’s prototype in the Innovation Race – an endurance event held around a Miami street circuit.

Knox may be a good racer on track, but she’s a terrible person off it. So much so, that she has a contract out on her life with the International Contracts Agency, becoming a target of Agent 47 in an early level of the second game in the excellent World of Assassination trilogy.

The level takes place entirely within the paddock and surrounding fan area of the fictional Miami circuit, with various hints and pieces of information to learn about the Knox’s and their terrible business dealings along the way. If you wait long enough in the level, she eventually wins the race itself – proving her prowess as a racing driver…

7. Dover Monster – EA Sports’ NASCAR series – 2004-08

Dover Motor Speedway is affectionately referred to as ‘the Monster Mile’. The relatively high banked one mile oval is one of the most popular and challenging tracks on the NASCAR schedule and also features a massive monument of Miles the Monster hoisting a defenceless stock car high into the air. Because, why not?

EA’s NASCAR games in the mid-2000s had their faults, but they definitely had some creative elements to them too. One of these was the ability to unlock Miles the Monster as an actual in-game driver, complete with its own car and paint scheme to race as. Imaging unlocking the ability to race as the giant bull at the Red Bull Ring in the F1 game or the huge spider sculpture at Barber Motorsports Park in an IndyCar game and you have the right idea. That is, if you can picture an official IndyCar game coming out at all

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

6. Create-a-Wrestler – WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role – 2000

Can you name every ex-Formula 1 driver ever to have competed in WWE? No, you can’t. Because there haven’t been any.

A peculiar option for create-a-wrestler
But back in 2000, Japanese developers Yuke’s dared to dream. They saw no reason why a former F1 driver couldn’t fly off the top rope in the squared circle. They believed someone with a superlicence should be able to give Steve Blackman a Stone Cold Stunner. They said ‘yes, a world drivers’ champion could also become a WWF champion’.

In the sequel to their very successful first SmackDown game on the original PlayStation, Yuke’s gave players the opportunity to set the background of their created wrestler as an ‘ex-F1 racer’. Although it made zero material difference to the ability or character of the wrestler, it was a quirky little feature in a game series that will forever be remembered for quirky little features.

5. Lukas Weber – F1 2019 – 2019

The most recent official F1 game, F1 23, saw the latest chapter in the Braking Point story mode that was introduced two years before in F1 21. But while fictional F1 drivers Aiden Jackson, Casper Akkerman and Callie Mayer were introduced in the Braking Point mode, Devon Butler’s first appearance in the F1 game was back in 2019 – along with a certain Lukas Weber.

As a way to introduce Formula 2 into the series, Codemasters invented two drivers to appear as characters in career mode. Butler was the stereotypical villain rival character, while Weber was the more amicable, approachable character who just so happened to be the player’s F2 team mate.

Why does Weber get a place on the list when the more memorable Butler doesn’t? Especially when Weber retired from racing to become a reporter in the first Braking Point chapter? Because Weber’s AI was notoriously overpowered, to the point where he would regularly dominate career modes, becoming the best driver in the game by far. For that reason, he has to earn a spot on this list above all the other original Codemasters characters.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

4. Fred Jones – Papyrus NASCAR series – 1994-2003

Every simracing enthusiast owes a major debt of gratitude to Papyrus – the legendary developers behind many of the most outstanding sims of the nineties and early 2000s. From their IndyCar Racing series to Grand Prix Legends, their truly ground-breaking titles are still enjoyed by dedicated fans today.

Even two decades after they closed up, Papyrus’s NASCAR Racing series remains unmatched by any dedicated NASCAR games that have followed since. Their original driver, Fred Jones, and his iconic Star Spangled Banner paint scheme sporting the Papyrus logo has become a symbol of this great racing franchise – especially this version from the final, and best, title, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season.

As the default livery for the player, everyone who has fired up NR2003 will have been greeted by the number 86 car and will likely hold a soft spot for its original driver, Fred Jones. Although he never existed in the real world, he could even rival Chase Elliott for NASCAR’s most popular driver. And he absolutely has no idea what a kilometre is.

3. John Newhouse / Williams Numberone – Various – 1996-1998

If you’ve played Grand Prix 3, Grand Prix Manager 2 or Formula 1 ’97, you’ll no doubt remember seeing an unfamiliar name alongside Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Williams and you enjoyed those incredible games. And if you bought the lamentable Formula 1 ’98 for the PlayStation, you’ll also have spotted ‘Driverone Williams’ in the game at some point in the 10 minutes you’ll have played before ejecting the disc from your console forever.

Although everyone knows that John Newhouse was just a stand in for the 1997 world champion due to complex licensing issues, it’s far more enjoyable to just pretend that he is an entirely different person altogether in the unique parallel universe of the game world to the real unnamed individual.

What drove the Williams team to hire “The Canadian” – as Murray Walker would refer to him – with no notable racing history to speak of? Was he able to take the world title in the FW19 in 1997 and do a better job of defending that championship the following year than the team’s two actual drivers? If the games at the time were anything to go by, the answer would be almost certainly ‘yes’.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2. A. Asselin – Super Monaco GP – 1989

Before force feedback steering wheels, VR headsets or even 3D polygons, even 16-bit graphics were considered cutting-edge in racing games. And when it came to a Formula 1 style experience for home consoles, the port of Sega’s arcade game Super Monaco GP was as good as it got.

Appearing on all of Sega’s platforms at the time – the Mega Drive (Genesis), Master System and the portable Game Gear – Super Monaco GP’s 16-bit Mega Drive version is the most fondly remembered. Featuring a championship mode, players would race all the tracks from the 1989 season, starting off with the ‘Minarae’ team – a pretty obvious nod to Minardi.

By selecting your rival, you had the opportunity to replace them if you could beat them in back-to-back races, gradually moving you up the grid as a result. The ultimate challenge would be to join the top-ranked ‘Madonna’ team by beating their top French driver ‘A. Asselin’ whose car just happens looks an awful lot like a late eighties McLaren. This alternative Alain Prost is just like the real driver himself – top five of all time and not number five.

1. Carlos Sanchez – Formula One Grand Prix – 1991

When it comes to Formula 1 games, the name ‘Geoff Crammond’ is held in reverence like no other. But chances are that if you’ve read this far, you hardly need telling about that.

Although Grand Prix 2, 3 and 4 were all officially-licensed F1 games – featuring official teams, drivers and circuits from the 1994, 1998 and 2001 seasons respectively – the original game in the series was not. As such, like Super Monaco GP, all the names of altered with subtle hints as to who they represent. And at the ‘McPherson’ team, you’d find driver number one – world champion Carlos Sanchez.

Today that name would run the risk of being confused with that of the most recent grand prix winner. But as Grand Prix was based on the 1991 championship, Carlos Sanchez represented the then-reigning two-times world champion Ayrton Senna – as could be seen by Sanchez just so happening to use a near-identical helmet design. In a year that saw Senna’s biggest championship victory margin of the three he won with seven wins from 16 rounds, it’s hardly surprising that Sanchez is the driver to beat in this game.

A legendary driver for a legendary game – it’s no wonder Carlos Sanchez is the best fake racing driver in gaming history.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

F1 top tens

Read more top tens

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

38 comments on “Top ten fake and fictional racing drivers from gaming history”

  1. Too bad you’re limiting this to video games. Michel Vaillant should be top of any fictional F1 driver list IMO.

    1. Cole Trickle would be my #1 outside of gaming. Rubbin’s racing. Oh tied with Takumi actually.

    2. notagrumpyfan
      1st April 2024, 14:03

      Michel Vaillant

      My choice as well.
      Does this count?

    3. Michel Vaillant, Skid Solo and Brad Foreman (of Roaring Wheels) for comic book racers.
      Pete Aron, J.P. Sarti, Scott Stoddard, Nino Barlini, Frank Capua, Michael Delaney, Erich Stahler for the movies.
      And fo course Mark Plourde as the greatest of them all!

  2. I was getting Sanchez confused with Sainz even back then. Very confusing trying to figure out why the guy from the F1 game was winning rally championships.

    Awesome article, didn’t know most of these, love the WWE game one! I wonder if one day an F1 drivers brand will have the star power to enter the squared circle.

  3. There may never have been an ex-F1 driver in WWE, but Bob “Hardcore” Holly was a stock car racing driver for a time. I believe he ran in a WWF (as it then was) branded car for a while – and one of his early gimmicks was a race car mechanic.

    1. As Thurmann “Sparky” Plugg.

  4. Funnily enough, the Carlos Sainz expy in the recently released New Star GP (fantastic game btw) is called Carlos Sanchez.

    My favourite fake driver name from a game is definitely Motorsport Manager calling the Lando Norris stand-in Chuck Calrissian.

    1. Oo New Star GP looks great, but what’s with that price? Crazy for what it is. Keen to check it out on special.

  5. CD (@clipperdael)
    1st April 2024, 9:51

    As a young simracer in Europe who picked up Nascar Racing 3 on a whim but with no exposure to the actual series it took me quite a while to realise that Fred Jones wasn’t a real person. I think he had the #83 though back then.
    I also thought that Steve Park of all people was the best driver on the grid because he had the #1 and I figured he must be the reigning champ.

    On the other hand I was convinced that Bristol was some kind of bonus fantasy arena because surely a thing like that couldn’t possibly exist in real life.

    Also, a shoutout to Grand Prix Circuits’ Travis Daye and Don Matrelli.

    1. You made me smile.

      I played Nascar butdon’t remember Fred Jones…

  6. Does anybody remember Driver Williams from N64 F-1 World Grand Prix?

    1. And the Silver and Gold drivers

  7. A great article on a day when seemingly everywhere is filled with tiresome repetitive bilge, top work!

    Slightly disappointed not to see Hugh Jengine or Gloria Slap from Revs, but understandable given that Geoff was too lazy to draw any graphics to represent them…

  8. I would’ve never expected to see JPEGMAFIA being mentioned in a piece you wrote, Will. So, much respect for that.

    While we’re on the subject of Ridge Racer, that mascot lady they used to have starred in a spin-off of her own titled R: Racing Evolution. She went from being an ambulance driver for an injured racing driver to a genuine one of her own like a reverse Bernd Mayländer.
    I remember you then had to race a bunch of other GT1 and Super GT cars with a souped up Fiat 500, which was essentially that game’s hero car. Shame the rest of the game doesn’t exactly live up to that premise.

    Too bad we’re limiting ourselves to just video games, as even if we never actually got to see her racing, Sailor Uranus would’ve been my top pick

  9. Great article. My mind instantly sprang to John Newhouse, I don’t recall seeing the ‘know your role’ option, which considering it doesn’t just say ‘racing driver’ but actually ‘F1’ in a time where Bernie was very litigious / precious over his IP could be a little brave from Yuke’s considering there is very little pay off. Maybe thats why they did it, or hoping Bernie assumed video games were a niche of two people in a bedroom somewhere.

    I like the Sierra Know one also, again I don’t associate Hitman with motor racing, but its one of the many great levels over the series.

    Also this;

    And if you bought the lamentable Formula 1 ’98 for the PlayStation, you’ll also have spotted ‘Driverone Williams’ in the game at some point in the 10 minutes you’ll have played before ejecting the disc from your console forever.

    As a kid I couldn’t understand how 98′ could be worse than 97′, I just assumed all video games, technology, music, everything was on constant trajectory of improvement. Thats what Crammond did, surely the people who made it knew it was terrible? My dad tried to explain different developers to me to no avail.

    It would have been easy to do a typical April 1st article, but this brought more smiles and memories.

    1. I like the Sierra Know one also, again I don’t associate Hitman with motor racing, but its one of the many great levels over the series.

      There is a challenge in said level to shoot the driver on track. Though probably unrelated, in the Eddie Irvine: The Inside Track documentary, there’s a bit about a rather distasteful affair in which his management received a somewhat confused letter from a self described fan who offered to help Irvine win the 1999 title by shooting one of Häkkinen’s tyres. Truth sometimes really is stranger than fiction, I guess.

  10. MS-DOS classic Grand Prix Circuit by Accolade featured a host of fictional drivers. Travis Daye, Bruno Gourdo, and Don Matrelli to name a few. The latter is a nod to the studio founder and owner – now infamous Don Mattrick. Never managed to find out whether the other drivers referenced names of the developers or were just pulled out of a hat.

  11. I was expecting to see Supercars 2 on the Amiga on the list, featuring such gems as Nigel Mainsail, T. Hairy Bootson and Ayrton Sendup.

    1. I was just about to make that comment before I saw yours! I’ve always remembered Ayrton Sendup and Nigel Mainsail, what great names. I think there was Gerhard Burger too.

    2. They were in some other race game I played – not on an Amiga – along with Derek Werek and Riccardo Pastry.

      Pastry seems to have been handed down a generation or two as a nickname for Oscar.

  12. I remember being confused by Williams’ wrong driver in GP2. Good times.

    Also had an unlicensed ‘Monaco Grand Prix Racing Simulation 2’ back in 1998, which was ‘recommended by Kai Ebel’ the German RTL commentator. None of the cars were real, but they did have a 1950s car and track in there as well! Looking at some screenshots now, it seems like their cleverly named Team 1 was led by T. Walker and driver D. Hugues, which I imagine was a reference to Tom Walkinshaw and Damon Hill, as the Team 1 supposedly had its first race in 1978, as did Arrows, and not a single win, as did Arrows.

    1. Mónaco gp2 replicated the 1997 season. All the stats from the teams were real, also the intials of the drivers. Team 2 was Williams, Team 3 Ferrari, Team 4 Benetton and so on.

      The scenario challenges were accurate as well. A bit like the challenges in F1 Grand Prix for Nintendo 64. For example you had to battle an exhaust issue with Panis in the Prost (Team 7) at Melbourne to finish 5th.

  13. Chris Horton
    1st April 2024, 13:00

    I stumbled across ‘the Canadian’ in F1 World Grand Prix on N64.

    Silhouette only, Canadian flag behind him, his name only described as ‘Williams Driver’ and this was mysteriously, editable.

    My last encounter with him was as he came barreling down the inside of me at Dry Sack, barged me clean off the road.

  14. Jonathan Parkin
    1st April 2024, 13:03

    I was stoked to see Lukas Weber on the list, as I have become a bit of a Braking Point fan

    I do think Devon did get some character development in the last game though. His advice to Aiden; ‘Drive the car you’re in’, could be applied to real-life F1 drivers

  15. Go back even earlier (1985) and Geoff Crammond’s “Revs” for the BBC Micro had its own fun list of fake drivers:

    Max Throttle
    Johnny Turbo
    Davey Rocket
    Gloria Slap
    Hugh Jengine
    Desmond Dash
    Percy Veer
    Gary Clipper
    Willy Swerve
    Sid Spoiler
    Billy Bumper
    Slim Chance
    Harry Fume
    Dan Dipstick
    Wilma Cargo
    Miles Behind
    Roland Slide
    Rick Shaw
    Peter Out
    Dummy Driver

  16. Chris Bradshaw
    1st April 2024, 16:22

    GP2Joey deserves an honourable mention. 1991 World Champion and all.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      3rd April 2024, 20:47

      I’m a GP2Joey fan too, for that matter

      We must include Friedrich Bang, by the way

  17. Saw the headline, knew the #1… The article did not disappoint

    Although I figured Jenny Taylia would have made the list…

  18. Pedro Henrique Fernandes Carneiro
    1st April 2024, 18:33

    How about Super Monaco Gp ,with G. Ceara ,or F1 World GP 1 and 2 for N64 with “Driver Williams”

  19. ToadStool. Hands down. Cole Trickle – best movie, & Fujiwara in an animated feature. Maybe the drift-king (Tsuchiya) for racing celebrity/option video.

  20. I luv chicken
    1st April 2024, 20:43

    Best name ever— Goggles Paisano. A.k.a. Fred Flintstone. ( I refuse to be limited ).

  21. The Dolphins
    1st April 2024, 20:52

    I agree with the #1 in the list, Carlos Sanchez; mainly the nostalgia factor.

  22. Awesome article. My personal choice would be Sofia Martinez from FlatOut 2. She was ruthless!

  23. iRacing gave a name to it’s safety car driver last update, as Fred. People in the forums made the connection that Fred is Fred Jones from the Papyrus era.

  24. The names from Sega’s first Motorsport Manager coupled with the ones they mean to purport

    Rick de Graaf/Max Verstappen
    Harry Chapman/Lewis Hamilton
    Maria Gonzalez/Sergio Perez
    Lucia Flores/Carlos Sainz
    Javier Vazquez/Fernando Alonso
    Alejandro Moreno/Esteban Ocon
    Zoe Sharp/Daniel Ricciardo
    Aki Lipponen/Valteri Bottas
    Wolfgang Schmidt/Nico Hulkenberg
    Samuel Blanc/Kevin Magnussen
    Nina Holtz/Nico Rosberg
    Dieter Wexler/Sebastian Vettel
    Nilo Saarinen/Kimi Raikonen
    Nicolai Surikov/Daniil Kvyat
    Ana Oliviera/Felipe Massa
    Jenny North/Jenson Button
    Siri Lundqvist/Marcus Ericsson
    Esteban Ribeiro/Felipe Nasr

    and the teams:

    Rossini/Scuderia Ferrari
    Panther/Red Bull
    Van Dort/Force India
    Rezzato Corsa/Toro Rosso

  25. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    3rd April 2024, 10:59

    You’re missing the best name in the whole game, the hotshot Kitano junior driver from the feeder series, Chuck Calrissian!

  26. José Lopes da Silva
    3rd April 2024, 20:54

    It’s a pity that a Spanish name was given to Senna; I never liked that name because of that. Doesn’t make sense. Like, instead of Robert Davies, calling Mansell “Robert O’Reilly”.

    Same happened with Pedro Matos Chaves, which was given a Spanish “Fernandez”.

    Aside from that, the Sanchez choice makes total sense. I suppose Helmut Becker should have been a little better in the game, as he was in real life.

Comments are closed.