The Grandfather of Racing Games

The Grandfather of Racing Games

Four decades ago, Atari's Gran Trak 10 introduced racing in a whole new light.

Back in 1974, coin-op machines were still very primitive. Pong clones were absolutely huge, and Breakout wouldn't yet be a fixture in arcades for another couple of years. Yet between Pong and Breakout came a game with a level of sophistication previously unseen in arcades – Atari's Gran Trak 10.

Featuring a complete, overhead-viewed, single-screen racetrack, and a car that was capable of full 360-degree movement, the objective was simple – drive around the track as quickly as possible, earning points by going as far as possible within the time limit. What made the machine particularly notable was the fact that it was the first arcade game to feature a gear shifter – four speed, no less – plus a steering wheel, accelerator and brake. It really was a true racing game in every sense of the word.

This overhead-viewed racing format would become a staple for Atari over the next decade or so, and the company would go on to iterate a variety of versions of the machine, including Gran Trak 20 and Sprint 2 (two-player variants), Sprint 4 (a four-player version), and, a decade later, Championship Sprint – a full-color version of the game.

Something rather interesting at a time when pirates were making and selling their own versions of coin-ops was that when Atari assigned a part number to the custom-designed ROMs for the game, they deliberately named it after a Texas Instruments commercial Arithmetic Logic Unit so that if someone tried to create their own version of the game, they'd order the wrong part and it wouldn't work. Smart thinking!

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