Racing to the Top: Three Time Guinness World Record Holder, Justin Towell

At this year’s Golden Joystick Awards, we caught up with Justin Towell as he attempted to set a new world record for the fastest time on the new India circuit on Codemasters’ F1 2011. With only three attempts allowed, and the entire control system breaking, he managed to beat the 1:21 minute limit set by Guinness World Record by one second.

Hi Justin, can you start by telling us about your previous records?

I have the Guinness World Record for the 360 version on Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Emerald Hill Zone, Act 1, which I did in 21 seconds, beating the previous record by one second – which was set on the same day.

Aww, poor guy.

Yeah [laughs], he’s a nice guy though, James Richards, really nice chap.

And my first world record was on Sega Rally Championship on the Sega Saturn, which I set in, I think, 2008. My boss came in with the Guinness World Record book and said: “Is there anything in here anyone thinks they can beat?” So I had a look, and had a look at Sega Rally and thought: “Yeah, I reckon I could beat that.” It was a really hot time, really hot, but when I started training, I was 5 seconds off the pace, then 4, 3 etc. I got closer, and I thought “I can do this”, so we ended up sending that through video to Guinness World Records, rather than doing it in front of them. So, it was adjudicated by them externally. But it still stands.

Before you were able to set this record, there were some technical problems with the game set-up, did it make you nervous that you had to spend half the day fixing that, rather than training?

Yeah, this morning, I came in and managed to have a good 2 hours playing on the set-up. It was working well, and the pedals were a bit too close and the seat couldn’t be adjusted – but that was ok. 10 minutes before we were meant to be doing it, it all stopped working, the accelerator was jammed on, and I went onto the different machine and that was completely alien. I didn’t know what was going to happen. My nerves were absolutely shot.

Did that make it harder for you, when you actually came to race?

I think it might have helped actually, because my adrenaline was so high, my reactions must have been like a fighter pilot or something [laughs].

In the two hour session before, you actually got a better score.

Yeah, I did, I got into the 1:19’s, which is great. But it doesn’t count, because it has to be done in front of the adjudicator, you have to say “I’m going to break the record”.

How long have you spent training for this?

About a week.

That’s all?

Yeah, well I’ve been playing the game since it came out, I give it 9/10, absolutely love it, Codemasters have done a fantastic job. I think it’s easily better than Gran Turismo 5, easily better than Forza – I haven’t played the new Forza, but it’s better than Forza 3.

So yeah, they said, seeing as the Indian Grand Prix is the next one on the real calendar, and no one’s ever set a lap on it, because it’s brand new, that we should set a record. And the adjudicators deemed that 1:21 is what I needed to beat, which is a harsh time. People on the internet have gone faster, but it has to be adjudicated.

If someone beats it, will you be back?

Yes, absolutely. I encourage it, that’s the whole point of Guinness World Records – it’s for people to challenge, and beat, and then for people to come back and have another go.

What’s next for you?

Probably Sonic Generations, I’ve been perfecting a speed-run. People have managed to get a copy of a sort of hacked modern Green Zone, from the old demo, and there’s some pretty fast speed runs online. But my time is actually faster than those, so that might be next.