- NATIONS CUP
- The Asia-Oceania Regional Finals to set the Stage for a Miyazono v. Latkovski Rematch!
- 2020 Series Nations Cup - Regional Finals (Asia-Oceania)
After a couple of thrilling championship rounds in the Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) and the Americas regions, it was time for the third and final bracket, the Asia-Oceania Region. Many predicted that this would be the most competitive day of racing as nearly everyone in the field of 16 players had a legitimate shot to take down the ‘World Tour 2020 – Sydney’ Champion Takuma Miyazono of Japan and advance to the 2020 World Finals as the odds-on favourite. As with the EMEA and the Americas, the contestants all participated via video, with 10 drivers from Japan, three from Australia—one being Emily Jones, the first ever female to compete in a regional event—one New Zealander, and two from Hong Kong.
For the 2020 FIA GT Championships, the format was revised to consist of three main regions—Asia-Oceania, Americas and the EMEA—with each one consisting of 16 competitors, made up of the top 12 ranked racers of that region and four additional players who earned their way in by way of the online Extra Stage Time Trial. They competed in three races, with the starting grid for every race determined by a 10-minute qualifying round, and points awarded to the top 10 finishers in each race.
With Takuma Miyazono of Japan already having secured a pass to the World Finals, only three players would advance from Asia-Oceania. (Note: Eight from the EMEA advanced to the World Finals and four from the Americas.) So, the heat was on early as the drivers took to the starting grid for the first race of the day.
As expected, it was not going to be a cakewalk for Japan’s Takuma Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20), who barely beat out fellow countryman Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) to claim pole position for Race 1 at the Red Bull Ring. In this nine-lap contest in Gr.B rally machines, every car was required to run on hard-compound tyres for the entire race (no tyre changes or fuel stops were required). Sitting behind Kokubun’s Peugeot RCZ and Miyazono’s Honda NSX was the Peugeot RCZ of Cody Nikola Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) of Australia and Japan’s Kanata Kawakami (SG_Kawakana) in a Toyota 86. The starting field consisted of only 15 cars because one of the favourites, Tomoaki Yamanaka of Japan, was unable to participate in this first race due to technical issues, despite posting the second best qualifying time.
After the start, the drivers’ exercised caution early as no doubt nerves played a role, but they also wanted to get their tyres to optimal temperatures before making any risky moves. As soon as Lap 2, it was looking like it was going to be a two-horse race as the two front runners began pulling away. Mid-way through the lap, plenty of action was brewing mid-pack as only about a second separated P6 through P11. Australia’s Emily Jones (emreeree) led the way here in her Toyota 86, showing everyone that she had what it takes to mix it up with the boys.
Halfway through the contest, it was Miyazono and Kokubun with a second-and-a-half lead over 3rd-place Latkovski, who had a similar cushion over 4th-place Kawakami, followed by New Zealander Matthew McEwen (AE_McEwen) in a Nissan GT-R.
On Lap 6, McEwen tried to overtake Kawakami, as they lined up side-by-side through the Turn 5 sweeper, but the Japanese driver held steadfastly to his position, shutting the door on the hard-charging Kiwi. Meanwhile, Jones had let two cars through, allowing the Japanese duo of Shunsuke Imamura (DOJO_Racing_Shun) and Takuma Morita (hide250sp) to take over P6 and P7. At the start of Lap 7, Kokubun, who had been glued to the rear bumper of Miyazono’s NSX, started setting him up for a pass, while McEwen did the same to Kawakami.
At the start of Lap 8, it was now or never for Kokubun, who made his move on Turn 2, out-braking Miyazono into the hairpin and getting past him on the inside. Miyazono wasn’t about to let the pass go unanswered as he quickly got his NSX even with Kokubun’s RCZ and reclaimed the lead a corner later.
The two cars stayed all but stuck to each other until Turn 2 of the next and final lap. Once again, Kokubun took the inside line in nearly an exact replay of the previous pass; however, this time Miyazono’s NSX drifted a tad wide through Turn 3, allowing Kokubun to get even with him. The RCZ and NSX remained side-by-side through the next few turns with neither driver giving an inch, but Kokubun seemed to have wanted it more, squeezing ahead through the final corner of the race. His masterful display of driving earned him the Race 1 win, sending a clear message to Miyazono that he was coming for his World Tour crown. In his usual consistent display of driving, Latkovski took 3rd, while McEwen and Kawakami, 4th and 5th respectively, rounded out the top 5.
|1||Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi||13:59.344|
|2||Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20||+00.258|
|3||Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi||+02.020|
|4||Matthew McEwen AE_McEwen||+05.682|
|5||Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana||+05.828|
|6||Shunsuke Imamura DOJO_Racing_shun||+06.593|
|7||Takuma Morita hide250sp||+06.863|
|8||Emily Jones emreeree||+07.527|
|9||Shogo Yoshida gilles_honda_v12||+07.761|
|10||Soma Iseri Arrow71sr||+07.907|
|11||Yuhki Araki DW-yuhki02||+09.528|
|12||Tatsuya Sugawara blackbeauty-79||+14.061|
|13||Dylan Lindgren dylanlindgren||+14.468|
|14||Jonathan Wong saika159-||+14.898|
|15||Calvin Tong JinKYOSUKE||+19.681|
|16||Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38||DNS|
The second race of the day was a seven-lap sprint around the challenging Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit in Gr.3 race cars (again on hard-compound tyres for the entire race). As described before, the grid position for every contest was determined by a separate 10-minute qualifying session, so every driver started with a clean slate, including Tomoaki Yamanaka of Japan, who resolved his technical problems and qualified 7th. At the top of the grid were the familiar names of Ryota Kokubun (Japan) and his Chevrolet Corvette sitting on pole, Cody Nikola Latkovski (Australia) in the No. 2 spot with his Volkswagen GTI VGT and Japan’s Takuma Miyazono (Aston Martin V12 Vantage) starting 3rd.
Kokubun seemed intent on running away from the pack early, opening up a lead of more than a second on 2nd-place Latkovski halfway through the first lap. Also charging hard was the Hyundai Genesis of Shunsuke Imamura (Japan) who passed the Dodger Viper SRT of Matthew McEwen (New Zealand) to claim 4th place.
The start of Lap 2 saw Miyazono draft Latkovski’s GTI VGT on the front straight, successfully getting past him to take 2nd place. The defending champion evidently had payback on his mind as he set his sights on Kokubun’s Corvette. With the cars reaching 280 km/h on the straights, Latkovski struggled with the handling of his Volkswagen GTI VGT through the twisty mountain section of the track as Imamura and McEwen closed the gap between themselves and the Australian.
At the halfway point of the race, Kokubun was flying, building up a 1.6-second gap between he and Miyazono, who in turn had built up a 1.0-second cushion over 3rd-place Latkovski.
On Lap 4, Yamanaka navigated his Lexus RC F past McEwen for 5th place, only to lose the position back to the Dodge Viper on the back straight. This battle allowed Shogo Yoshida’s Volkswagen Beetle (Japan) and fellow countryman Kanata Kawakami’s Jaguar F-Type to catch up to them, creating a four-car skirmish for P5.
With only three drivers (plus Miyazono) allowed to advance to the World Finals, every position, every point, was vital, and it was clear that the drivers were aware of what was at stake.
Through Lap 6, Imamura did his best to pressure Latkovski into making a mistake by sticking his Genesis to the back of the Volkswagen’s rear bumper, but the Aussie remained cool under pressure, keeping his car on the racing line and not letting the Japanese driver get the best of him. Imamura went for it all on the final lap, briefly getting past Latkovski on the straight, but his Hyundai Genesis carried too much speed into the following corner and went off the racetrack. Fortunately for Imamura, he was able to gather the car up and return to the track without losing a position, but his hopes of finishing in 3rd place were all but dashed.
When the chequered flag dropped, it was Kokubun who crossed the finish line first, putting in another brilliant performance, outpacing 2nd-place Miyazono through the entire race. In 3rd place was Latkovski followed by Imamura in 4th.
|1||Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi||14:20.105|
|2||Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20||+01.779|
|3||Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi||+04.723|
|4||Shunsuke Imamura DOJO_Racing_shun||+07.583|
|5||Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38||+07.859|
|6||Matthew McEwen AE_McEwen||+08.311|
|7||Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana||+08.498|
|8||Shogo Yoshida gilles_honda_v12||+08.653|
|9||Yuhki Araki DW-yuhki02||+09.769|
|10||Emily Jones emreeree||+15.670|
|11||Jonathan Wong saika159-||+16.000|
|12||Soma Iseri Arrow71sr||+16.055|
|13||Takuma Morita hide250sp||+18.592|
|14||Dylan Lindgren dylanlindgren||+20.876|
|15||Tatsuya Sugawara blackbeauty-79||+34.247|
|16||Calvin Tong JinKYOSUKE||+42.365|
Although Ryota Kokubun of Japan was going into the Grand Final with the maximum 24 points, as we’ve seen in the previous regions’ championship, no lead is ever safe because the last race of the day awarded double points. Taking pole position for this all-important 27-lap race around Fuji International Speedway was Ryota Kokubun of Japan, followed by a trio of his countrymen: Takuma Miyazono, Tomoaki Yamanaka, and Shogo Yoshida. As with the other Grand Final races, the featured car here was the potent Red Bull X2019 Competition. And unlike the first two races of the day, the drivers were required to run at least one lap each with the soft-, medium-, and hard-compound tyres, while also needing to refuel, meaning pit strategy would play a vital role in the outcome.
Before the rolling start, Kokubun had already created intrigue opting to go with the medium-compound tyres, while Miyazono, Yamanaka, and Yoshida began on the softs. And when the race started, Miyazono and Yamanaka immediately attacked Kokubun, as they went three-wide through the first corner. Yamanaka came out of the corner first, followed by Kokubun and Miyazono. By missing the first race and scoring only six points in the second, Yamanaka needed a good finish to have any chance of going to the World Finals, so he was racing with desperation, and it showed. Meanwhile, Cody Nikola Latkovski of Australia and Matthew McEwen of New Zealand stayed on Yoshida’s tail, looking to break up the all-Japan top four. At the start of Lap 2, Miyazono overtook Kokubun for 2nd place, while half the field—those that started on the hard-compound Michelins—pitted, fulfilling their required stints on the slowest tyres. Of the top nine cars, only two—Kokubun and Latkovski—remained on medium-compound tyres, while the rest ran on the softs.
Lap 4 saw Kokubun, being hindered by the slower tyres, give his position away to Yoshida, then to McEwen who passed the Japanese points leader at 300 km/h on the front straight to claim 4th place. After dropping to 7th place, Latkovski finally had enough of the mediums and dove into the pits to take on the softs, returning to the track in 9th place. Two laps later, Emily Jones of Australia, also running the soft Michelins, flew past Kokubun for 6th place.
On Lap 6, Kokubun finally came in, but he surprised everyone by not changing to the softs, but going with the hard-compound tyres, planning to finish the last twenty laps on the soft-compound rubber. It was a daring strategy, but would it be the right one? He returned to the track in 9th place, just behind Latkovski, who was being held up by Hong Kong driver Calvin Tong.
Second-place runner Miyazono made his first pit stop on Lap 9, taking on soft-compound tyres yet again, leaving the two slower ones for later. He returned to the track in 4th place, behind McEwen and Yoshida. A lap later, race-leader Yamanaka pitted, also opting for the softs; however, he was unable to return to the track in front of Miyazono, and with McEwen also pitting, it was Miyazono-Yamanaka running one-two. After a quick reshuffle of the running order, McEwen, now on the hard-compound tyres, found himself in 4th place while Latkovski fought his way to 5th. At the halfway point of the race, it was Miyazono, Yamanaka, Yoshida, McEwen, and Latkovski, in that order.
Then disaster struck McEwen when he was assessed a 2.0-second penalty at the end of Lap 13 for ignoring pit-lane lines, dropping him one position to 8th place. While he served his penalty, Emily Jones, showing her mad skills by hounding her countryman Latkovski, looked to claim 4th place. Meanwhile, the two Japanese drivers, Miyazono and Yamanaka, had opened up a gap of nearly 4.0-seconds over 3rd-place Yoshida.
Lap 16 saw a devastating blow delivered to Latkovski’s championship hopes when he was assessed a couple of penalties for ignoring lines in pit lane. All he could do now was run as clean and fast as he could, and pray he finished with enough points to advance to the World Finals.
Miyazono decided to fulfil his stint on the hard-compound Michelins on Lap 19, handing the race lead to Yamanaka. If Yamanaka could somehow hold on and stay in front of the rest of the pack, he would advance to the World Finals with points to spare, but there was still plenty of racing left. The following lap, Yamanaka came in, opting for the mediums, while Miyazono also came in to take on the mediums, hoping to go the rest of the way on them.
On Lap 21, Emily Jones briefly took the lead of the race. While she still had a pit stop remaining, the fact that she held the lead proved to all that a woman can mix it up with the men in the FIA GT Championships. Unfortunately, a penalty to Jones handed the lead to Yoshida, and two laps later, Latkovski passed her for 6th place, which proved to be a very important move for him as a 6th-place finish would earn him a ticket to the World Finals.
After race leaders Yamanaka and Yoshida made their final pit stops for tyres and fuel, they returned to the track behind Miyazono. Then, out of nowhere appeared Kokubun, who ate up Yoshida on the straight to claim 3rd place. But no one would catch Miyazono in this race: He crossed the finish line first, showcasing his usual brilliant display of driving and pit strategy. Although he didn’t need to score a single point to qualify for the World Finals, he ended up winning the regional title anyways, showing that true competitors never take a day off. Coming in 2nd place was Yamanaka, who miraculously qualified for the world title with 20 points after only participating in two of the three races. Third place went to Kokubun completing an all-Japan podium. As for Latkovski, who finished a disappointing 6th, he managed to squeeze his way into the World Finals with 20 overall points.
After the race, Miyazono said: “To tell you the truth, I didn’t know if I could win today, but I’m relieved now that it’s over. Although I did have an automatic qualification to the World Finals, I felt if I was going to enter the regional competition, I needed to win, not only because it was a matter of pride, but because the points going into the World Finals mattered as well.”
|1||Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20||38:09.504|
|2||Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38||+05.525|
|3||Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi||+05.758|
|4||Shogo Yoshida gilles_honda_v12||+06.688|
|5||Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana||+14.023|
|6||Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi||+15.258|
|7||Emily Jones emreeree||+18.010|
|8||Takuma Morita hide250sp||+19.811|
|9||Jonathan Wong saika159-||+20.064|
|10||Matthew McEwen AE_McEwen||+20.798|
|11||Dylan Lindgren dylanlindgren||+23.987|
|12||Yuhki Araki DW-yuhki02||+24.374|
|13||Shunsuke Imamura DOJO_Racing_shun||+40.292|
|14||Tatsuya Sugawara blackbeauty-79||+55.262|
|15||Soma Iseri Arrow71sr||+1:01.911|
|16||Calvin Tong JinKYOSUKE||+1:04.995|
2020 Series Nations Cup - Regional Finals (Asia-Oceania) Results
|Rank||Driver||Race 1||Race 2||Grand Final||Total Points|
|1||Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20||10||10||24||44|
|2||Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi||12||12||16||40|
|3||Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38||0||6||20||26|
|3||Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi||8||8||10||26|
|5||Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana||6||4||12||22|
|6||Shogo Yoshida gilles_honda_v12||2||3||14||19|
|7||Matthew McEwen AE_McEwen||7||5||2||14|
|8||Emily Jones emreeree||3||1||8||12|
|8||Shunsuke Imamura DOJO_Racing_shun||5||7||0||12|
|10||Takuma Morita hide250sp||4||0||6||10|
|11||Jonathan Wong saika159-||0||0||4||4|
|12||Yuhki Araki DW-yuhki02||0||2||0||2|
|13||Soma Iseri Arrow71sr||1||0||0||1|
|14||Dylan Lindgren dylanlindgren||0||0||0||0|
|14||Tatsuya Sugawara blackbeauty-79||0||0||0||0|
|14||Calvin Tong JinKYOSUKE||0||0||0||0|