Was Gran Turismo’s “Deep Forest Raceway” Inspired by This Abandoned Circuit in Iowa?

“Deep Forest Raceway” has been a popular staple in every major Gran Turismo game released since 1997. It has long been considered and classified as an entirely fictional circuit, created by Kazunori Yamauchi and his team at Polyphony Digital.

That might not be the case, though.

GTPlanet reader Joel Hadar has discovered an abandoned racing circuit deep in the rural Iowa countryside, about 12 miles south of the town of Indianola, that bears a remarkable resemblance to Gran Turismo’s “Deep Forest”.

Known as “Greenwood Roadway”, it was built in 1963 and was used only four years to host various SCCA and club races, before it was eventually closed due to financial and safety issues. In the 50 years since, it has been mostly forgotten and reclaimed by mother nature.

It can be found here on Google Maps, and, thankfully, there are a few tributes to the old circuit around the Internet by Chuck Brandt and GreenwoodRoadway.com. Joel also provided GTPlanet with dozens of photographs from his visit to the circuit, which can be seen in the gallery below.

Though Greenwood is obviously not an exact replica of Deep Forest (the real circuit is 3 miles in length, and the virtual is 2.2 miles), they share some uncanny characteristics. As noted by Joel in his blog post:

What can’t be seen from the maps is the identical nature of the topography of the two tracks. Driving on both tracks, the rise and fall of the circuit is virtually identical. The two highest points on both are at the end of the back straight (in the tunnels on Deep Forest Raceway) or at the ninety degree bends in the middle section, and the lowest two points are at the start of the back straight and at the hairpin at the end of the main straight.

The original Greenwood pit location is slightly different than the virtual track. But again, in about the right place and even on the right side of the track. The sensation, though, of driving the real track is eerily reminiscent of driving the virtual track simply because the rise and fall of the two layouts is so close to identical.

Fortunately, several car clubs have been granted access to the circuit in recent times, and some participants have filmed their drive around the circuit.

Note the direction of the circuit appears to be the “reverse” configuration of Deep Forest, which can be seen in the second video of Gran Turismo 5 for comparison.

Was Polyphony Digital’s Deep Forest inspired by Greenwood? How could a Japanese video game studio even be aware such an obscure circuit, of almost no historical significance, located over 6,000 miles away, existed at all?

We may never know, but Deep Forest was actually the first circuit which came to series creator Kazunori Yamauchi’s mind when we asked him at GamesCom 2010 which fictional Gran Turismo circuit he would most like to see brought to life:

Given the time, money, space and resources, which fantasy Gran Turismo track would you create in the real world? Kazunori was visibly awed by this question and spent nearly a minute thinking of an answer. “Deep Forest”, he said.

This may finally be his chance  – or the chance of some other wealthy fan of the series – to restore a fascinating old race track to its former glory, while bringing a significant piece of the Gran Turismo series to life.

Once again, all thanks to Joel Hadar for the photos and this fascinating discovery!

For more, check out this gallery by Chuck and Duncan Brandt, which includes a map showing where each image was captured along the circuit.

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Comments (154)

  1. SRinc

    By far, Deep Forest Raceway has been my favorite Gran Turismo series racetrack with Tokyo R246 a near second. This possible real life version is rather interesting. I personally would like to see the track for myself and give it a spin. Though I am a converted FORZA fan (since GT4, FM3), Deep Forest was A. my GT test course, and B. holds thousands of great memories! All in all, this was a great find, kudos!!

  2. Teal

    In a word Yes.

    They say imitation is the best form of flattery. So, if it could, an old Iowa race track should be flattered.
    Some on the internet are claiming a popular video racing game is based on an old race track near Indianola.
    Gran Turismo is a popular racing simulator game which, according to Sony Entertainment, has sold 50-million units. A game this popular has its own web community and of late, discussion has come up on one of their most popular tracks, Deep Forest Raceway. It’s a track that has been featured in all the Gran Turismo editions since 1997.
    On the game, the track is described as being fictional but was it really patterned after an obscure former race track near Indianola called Greenwood Raceway?
    The old raceway is now used to train heavy equipment operators.
    “There’s a lot of buzz out there, we’ve had a lot of people wanting to stop in.”
    Bob Herndon of Iowa Operating Engineers Training Center took Channel 13’s Roger Riley on a tour of the old track.
    According to the Warren County Historical Society, the aging circuit started operating in 1963. The track was open for three or four years, “Caroll Shelby came down here and raced his high horse power Mustangs. And that’s what eventually led to the down fall of the tack. The high horsepower cars tore up the track.”
    Newspaper accounts say the track ran out of money and closed but 50 years on, people are still interested in it. Various groups have driven on tours over the road, but due to liability, racing is out of the question.
    Even if people wanted to buy the track, the engineer group has no plans to sell.
    So, is the Gran Turismo game patterned after Greenwood?
    It would seem the answer could be a “yes” according to Herndon, “Six years back, we had a couple of gentlemen come out here and they were interested in the old track and they wandered round with their GPS and marked it out and everything. They told us they were going to create a video game out of it.”
    The game’s makers 6,000 miles away in Japan haven’t offered an official answer as to whether the track was designed after a little-known rural Iowan setting.
    The Iowa Operating Engineers say they won’t be staging any races although they do hope to preserve the old track roadway, as they use it to get around their property.
    The fictional and real track can be compared below.


  3. TakumiFuji01

    I feel like this track resembled a bit of a course called Ebisu Circuit, mostly the East Circuit especially for the 1st Corner.

  4. IceMan PJN

    Having a track map that only vaguely resembles that of another circuit doesn’t mean that one is in any way inspired by another. This is a case of people doing what they always do and look for connections that aren’t there. They see shapes in clouds, ghost faces in smudges on a window pane, and they see similarities in two totally unrelated tracks. When people say they recreated such-and-such circuit in Course Maker, they didn’t, because looking somewhat similar at the most rudimentary level isn’t the same as a recreation or even being all that similar. In all probability, nobody at PD has ever seen or heard of that circuit before.

    1. Reality_SG

      Your example of seeing shapes in clouds is very appropriate. With sufficient imagination and tries at course generation, it is possible to generate Nurburgring Nordschleife. :)

  5. MiuraSV777

    I honestly would rather have that track over the deep forest raceway… Look it up on youtube to see videos of people driving around it, its a nice track

  6. smskeeter23

    From now on any pictures from Deep Forest that I post to my Flickr account will be geotagged with this track lol!

    Awesome find and I agree this cannot be a coincedence.

  7. pinoyboiii408

    Wow ! an abandon circuit , it would be nice if they could restore it and add some grandstands, asphalt , curbs , and etc to make it look like a circuit track .

  8. ridgback

    That’s really too close for comfort isn’t it? It has got to be one of the greatest coincidences of all time if it didn’t provide some inspiration.

    Makes me want to get on Google Earth and hunt for more abandoned circuits.

  9. JeremiahTB

    GTPlanet should host a track day there. Get the GT Academy involved to help cover costs and liability. Give the Nissan off-road vehicles some work too.

    1. MiuraSV777

      Well, the people who “work” there make you go a small speed limit, so try to preserve the track, (which has definately seen its days) so not much racing will go on there

    1. Jar31Lar

      Quebec St, near 160th Ave.. But, here is geographical location “Latitude: 41.2547173 Longitude: -93.4957693”

  10. JohnBM01

    If I could see an original track brought to life, my answer (without hesitation) is Grand Valley Speedway. I always considered Grand Valley Speedway the signature race track of Gran Turismo, so I was surprised to read Kazunori Yamauchi chose Deep Forest over Grand Valley. I sure want to know what Polyphony Digital had on Greenwood Raceway if indeed it inspired the creation of Deep Forest Raceway. VERY interesting find by this person to talk about this Iowa course.

    By the way, I’d prefer to see Deep Forest return to its sunset setting and with lots more trees (to go back to being a forest). Heck, even make it a night course with plenty of flood lights to light up the way! This is a VERY interesting article.

  11. Amac500

    Wow, the website is fantastic, there are picture of the old Shleby King Cobra and Chevrolet Cheetah! I spent a while researching the Cheetah a few months ago. It was designed by Bill Thompson and was suppose to be Chevy’s answer to the Shelby Cobra. The car was incredibly light weight and its unique shape came from the cockpit being moved back in order to make it mid-engined. I believe there were 39 of them made, if I remember correctly. They didn’t make them for too long and we never got to see the car developed to its full potential because the program was canned following a fire at the factory. It’s a really cool car and there are a fare number of kit versions of it, but the originals are very rare. Some great heritage going on there!

  12. Tatsuo76

    As much as I like this and find it inspirational (old abandoned circuit deep in the forest gets rediscovered), I fail to see any kind of real resemblance between these two tracks.
    Again, great story though. They could make a movie along the lines of “field of dreams”:)

    1. 0ldman279


      Of all the shapes, turns, elevations, straights, curves, you see no resemblance?

      This looks like someone recreated it from memory rather than studied and recreated.

      Not that it matters one way or another. I doubt anyone would try to get anything out of Polyphony digital or Sony on an abandoned race track.

  13. Amac500

    How cool would it be if Gran Turismo had dedicated “Heritage Circuits”? I mean run down old tracks like this would require no licencing. They could add versions of old track layouts like this and either keep the environment as it originally was, which would be sweet, or make it as it would be if it was around today. I wish GT would remove the tunnels and reshape Deep Forrest to make it Greenwood Roadway! Kind of makes me wonder though if tracks like Hidden Valley and Trial Mountain could be old, decommissioned race tracks as well. I wonder how Kaz or whatever guy from PD came across Greenwood, because there is no doubt it was based off this tracks, but there must be a great story behind it!

  14. Blood*Specter

    That course would have a way higher average speed obtainable than Deep Forest. I actually like it.

    1. Johan

      I think old Fuji have a layout similar to High Speed Ring. Not identical, but looked at as an outline from above the similarity is striking.

    2. Amac500

      The original Fuji was similar to high speed ring, and Monza use to have a high banked oval that joined the road course and you would run a road course and an oval lap to comprise 1 lap. I think High Speed Ring was probably inspired by those 2 old tracks, but also the Avus Ring.

  15. dixonbaps

    Great find. Does anyone have any photo’s of PD’s old PS1 graphics team measuring the track?

  16. hobanator24

    Waay off topic: Doesn’t this Chevrolet SS reveal trailer almost look like GT5 graphics?
    On Topic: This track is actually very cool. I’ve visited it & while you don’t feel like you’re driving on Deep Forest, you understand the similarities much better than the pictures show.

    1. eran0004

      @ SS reveal trailer: It doesn’t look like the PD style, I got more of a Forza impression from watching it. It’s probably neither though, just some ad bureau making an animation.

  17. Tweetman_277

    For me, this has always been one of the most challenging circuits in Gran Turismo, with so much to be learned about any car by its reaction to the rising and falling track…
    I’m so amazed to see something so very similar appear in real life…

  18. Blessorship

    Thanks for your research and sharing it with us Joel Hadar. Truly amazing. Im on the side of this being too much of a coincidence to be true. Hopefully if it is truly inspired by Greenwood it won’t be legal troubles for PD or SCE.

    1. HarVee

      I doubt there would be any legal trouble over this. The two circuits may have similarities, but they’re not exactly %100 identical.

    1. Amac500

      Or PD could change the layout of Deep Forrest and remove the tunnels to make Greenwood Roadway. Nostalgia guaranteed! It would be cool if some organization came together to restore old run down race tracks like this.

  19. liQster

    Interesting Post. I wonder if it is really connected somehow… Anyway, someone go and build Deep Forest RL there please :)

  20. ara

    This is like saying Mr. Yamauchi bears a an uncanny/eerie/striking resemblence to Jesus because their faces have the same general shape and have peaks and valleys in roughly the same places.

  21. dadadoo2

    Real Life GT? This makes my spine tingle. Cheap, amateur racing league held here and funded by the GTPlanet community? Yes please!

    1. UrieHusky

      No thanks, I like my suspension and life to stay intact. That road is in worse condition than the driveway at my parents farm =/

  22. SVT Cobra GT

    Surely that track could be restored to a better state where it can be used more often! It’s a shame to see its been unused for over 40 years.

    1. Rushton1996

      yea, but its also kind of cool to see there are tracks like this, which are like old ruins because it gives you a sense of history

    2. Amac500

      It would be cool if old tracks like this were restored in a historic way so that all the stands and pits and stuff were original. The world needs a couple of old tracks like that, it would be great for historic car shows or races!

  23. braunracing88

    The resemblance is quite uncanny if I must say so. Greenwood looks like a spectacular circuit. Are there any plans to revive it?

  24. marktyper

    I’m having goosebumps while comparing the actual map compare to the virtual GT map . Knowing that what we thought a virtual map was inspired by an abandoned circuit in the states… Just wow…

    1. KFM

      I feel the same way. It’d be a pretty big coincidence if they were that close without DFR being inspired by this track.

  25. hans54green

    Check out the old photos at greenwoodroadway.com; Porsche 906, Chapparal 2B, some pretty hot cars back in the day!

    Now if only we had another old SCCA course, like BIR. A .9 mile straightaway going into a banked corner with the Chapparal sounds fun… ;)

  26. eran0004

    The overall shape is close to Deep Forest, but the actual layout and individual corners looks more like Suzuka to me. If you mirror the layout, and then mirror some of the corners it will be roughly similar to Suzuka. Given that Suzuka was built in 1962 (and that it didn’t have that last chicane until 1983) this track looks very much inspired by Suzuka.

    1. leeson

      I ran out of mirrors. How many did you have to use? Doesn’t look anything like Suzuka to me, but like I said, I ran out of mirrors.

  27. GMHV8

    Did they abandon the track after realizing they have to turn right as well as left? :)

    Just kidding! But what an interesting read though! Perhaps it was their inspiration, also I love abandoned race tracks there’s something very nostalgic about them. I can’t help but think of what used to happen and how alive it would have been. :)

  28. HuskyGT

    Very surprising and amazing find. Remember the thread which mentioned which of the Original GT circuits could be doable in real life? If I’m not mistaken, Deep Forest was one of the favorite candidates. Would love to see this track brought back.

    Awesome finding. There are too many things in common to be a simple coincidence.

  29. L8 Apex

    Wow, this place is in much the same shape VIR was before it was reopened and modernized. It would be so cool if this place met a similar fate; “country club race tracks” (e.g. VIR, Monticello, etc.) are pretty hot right now.

  30. LeftyWright69

    I’ll do the plan generation for free if someone wants to kick down the cash to bring her back to life :)

  31. Pit Crew

    I gotta say, when you compare the realworld map & Deep forest , it seems to resemble a Track Edit. Its humble beginnings, i gotta give it to Kaz and his Forward thinking vision.

    I really didnt think he was that “into” that kind of American race history like that, but no mistaking Deep forest was inspired by Greenwood Roadway.

    Gonna see if any old footage of those scca races there are floatin about.

    1. Pit Crew

      Of the Ten “YouTube” videos, The one simply titled Greenwood Roadway was my fave. Very nostalgic. Recognized the “63 Z06” Race car from the game right away.

  32. Peelster1

    Sure, the two tracks are similar to each other. I don’t think that Deep Forest Raceway is based off of Greenwood Roadway in the least. I highly doubt that Kaz based one of the Gran Turismo Original tracks off of some track that isn’t very well known. Come on people, the circuit was only used from 1963 to 1966. It was out of use way before the PlayStation was created! I can see that High Speed Ring being PD’s version of Fuji, but Fuji is well known and Greenwood Roadway isn’t.

    Yes, the two tracks are similar. However, it’s highly unlikely that Deep Forest Raceway is based off of Greenwood Roadway. I bet you anything that PD hadn’t even heard of it. Before NASCAR was introduced into GT5, Kaz didn’t know very much about it. So I doubt he even knew about a track in Iowa that was only used for four years.

  33. Dudleynascar

    That would be a great track to run the Ford SVT Raptor on. Thats about the best vehicle to use to go anywhere near fast on it.

  34. Rich S

    That’s funny, I’ve done some bicycle racing in Iowa, its a pretty desolate place that has some interesting places none the less….like a cobbled street that coined the steepest/crookedest street in America.

  35. Landlord14

    Too bad it is covered in snow right now, might make the 2 hour trip to see it this summer.

    Interestingly enough, Indianola is fairly near Knoxville Raceway, The Sprint Car Capital of the World, and near the Iowa Speedway where they host NASCAR Nationwide, Camping World Trucks, and IndyCar Series.

    Never thought I would see “Iowa” and “Gran Turismo” in the same sentence.

  36. Whodoyouthink

    ABANDONED circuit?! Who would do such a thing?!

    I know, I know, the owner(s) must have went bankrupt or something, and it has yet to be used since.

  37. Jared93

    It’s awesome that he made the effort to explore and share his findings, but why is his virtual lap so bad? Lol

  38. karelpipa

    I think it is pretty obvious. They copied this old circuit :)

    The funny thing is that i’ve always though that they lined up Deep Forest After clenched Fist. :))

  39. Pit Crew

    Jordan shakes left, shakes right then drives to the middle and SCORES again with another great find. :cheers: :)

  40. Crispy9001

    Midfield Raceway would make an awesome real-life circuit. And so would Red Rock and Grindewald from GT2. Deep Forest and Trial Mountain are must-have circuits, too, of course. The resemblance between Deep Forest and the real-life Greenwood is scary…

  41. FireEmblem10

    Not a fan of Deep Forest at the time, but… this is actually an interesting find and an interesting read. Kinda makes me wish I had the money to refurbish it and go racing.

  42. sangdude82

    Since we are talking about an American track, it would be nice if PD puts all the major race tracks from America such as Virginia International Raceway, Road America, Road Atlanta, Sebring International Raceway, Infineon Raceway and so on.

    1. TeamCZRRacing

      Circuit of the Americas, anyone? :) Seriously though, I drove that track in Simraceway. Pretty freaking amazing track, especially with the first turn being at the top of a hill.

  43. waddy2001

    Fascinating! Reminds me of the time I was searching Google Earth for the Mosport track just outside of Toronto and came across the remnants of an old course nearby. Can’t find it now or I’d post a pic of it. Deep Forest is one of my favourites.

  44. mistamontiel

    Oh my god screw overrated assed Deep Forest

    Trial Mountain all the way.. and of course the Clubman night tracks.. say why haven’t they brought back the lengthy Clubman course ? I only remember it in GT1 and boom gone forever

    1. Peelster1

      Clubman night track? The only track that was at night time that had Clubman in it’s name was Clubman Stage Route 5, and that’s in GT5. The longer version of that is Special Stage Route 5, which is also in GT5. Perhaps you mean Special Stage Route 11? That was in the original GT and it was also in GT3. I can’t think of a single track that was in the first GT and only the first GT.

  45. DigitalBaka

    If I win the lottery or come into loads of money I will but land in Hawaii and create Cape Ring. :D

    This is quite the interesting find. I wonder if someone in the GT community would consider getting a project together to revive this track…?

  46. MeanElf

    Nice article and coincidence. To those suggesting Sony buy it and restore this for PD – it might take quite a bit of money. Okay, you could make a rally course for a lot less but I think it’d be in the region of a hundred million to get a racetrack operational.

    I like the suggestions of a historic version (far cheaper to do it virtually) :)

  47. HarVee

    Would be cool if someone were to come along and redevelop this track with modern amenities. This track has the potential to become a very well designed course, when you think about it.

  48. infamousphil

    lGreat find indeed! I’ve always known Kaz as an automotive historian, since GT’s inception. ‘Encyclopedic’ (in his own words), a library of automobile and circuit… It’s quite possible that all of GT’s “original” circuits could be based on some obscure locale. I honestly thought the Mach 5 would be included after it was featured in Road&Track Magazine. Instead we got the X1 ;(

    Anyone, other than myself, wonder if GT2’s Red Rock could’ve been imagined by Kaz on a visit to Sedona, AZ?

  49. dsgerbc

    First thought – wow, awesome news.
    Second cynical thought: someone’s getting fired for representing an old circuit as their own work; and someone (PD/Sony) is getting sued for 15 years of licensing fees, lol.

  50. gumbidave

    I always thought Deep Forest was based on the old osterreichring.
    Not an exact copy, but to give a similar ‘feel’.

    1. GRAFX21

      that good old track is asking for a Subaru WRX to rush through it…lol. I can imagine it now. haha

  51. turbogeit

    Very unlikely.
    On the contrary, take a trackmap of the original Zandvoort-track and put it in front of a mirror.
    You’ll see the similarity.

  52. xR3

    It would make a lot of sence in my eyes anyway, track looks the same (roughly), same shape (roughly), the name of the track on GT makes sence if it is based on the greenwood roadway :)

  53. Rorofox

    This could even be a nice unpaved challenge. Grow a few more midsized trees in certain outsides of certain turns as markers, carve some bank into some of the turns, some rails in spots, spectator vantage points, and keep the path decent. None of the trees are detrimental to the drive, so leave them unless they’re to a point they’re a risk to fall onto the course.

    I know a couple friends who’ll want to give this old place a few runs, and probably will if they can help it…

  54. SpecMiata-JSW

    Please pleas someone buy and restore this circuit. Some investors did just that to VIR and its been a huge success ever since.

  55. TokoTurismo

    Imagine if Deep Forest Raceway looked just like Greenwood, being abandoned after GT5 in GT6 for us to freely race on. That’ll show the track had aged through GT1 to GT6. :) Deep Forest must have been based on this track, I’ll be cool if it was added in GT6 though. *.*

    If not:

    Deep Forest Raceway (Modern)

    Deep Forest Raceway (Abandoned)

    1. Fisha695

      That’s one of the cool things I’ve always liked about the High Speed Ring is how it basically evolved over the years just like a real track would/could, whereas it seems like most of the other fictional tracks stayed mainly the same.

      Expanding on your idea of Modern & Abandoned, what about Modern & Historic instead?

  56. hobanator24

    Well didn’t Kaz say in an interview that almost all of the fictional tracks were inspired by real world locations?

  57. OwensRacing

    The Greenwood track needs resurrected by PD and Sony or someone. That is a cool looking circuit.

    Love the article and really sparks the imagination wondering if it was the inspiration. If so that really adds depth to the games creations.

  58. Wallbreaker

    Wow, that’s simply amazing. One of the tracks I grew up with throughout the whole GT history could be recreated in the real world, just that thought makes me go crazy xD

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