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Things Heat Up in Oceania as Mercedes's Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) Takes the First Stage!
2020 Series Manufacturer Series - Stage 1 (Oceania)

The first stage of the 2020 Manufacturer Series got underway on April 25th.
Mercedes-Benz's Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) got off to a strong start, showing everyone why he's considered the undisputed king of the Oceania region. His performances in qualifying weren't always up to his usual high standards, however, and this gave others a glimmer of hope. One of them, Ford's veteran driver Wilk (Adam_2167), did particularly well in a straight head-to-head in Round 3, coming out on top with 413 points.

Latkovski also struggled in qualifying for Round 7, allowing Wilk to take pole position. The Mercedes man showed his true colours in the race itself, however, delivering a brilliant tactical drive to finish in first place.

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The final race of Stage 1 featured Gr. 3 cars, and took place at Interlagos.
Lamborghini's Holland (MetalGear9493) took pole position, with Ford's Wilk in second place and Latkovski way back in fifth, once again struggling to make an impact in qualifying.

Holland had opted to start on soft tyres in order to build up a healthy lead, and sure enough a gap soon opened up between him and the chasing pack. Wilk, on the other hand, had started on medium tyres and found himself getting drawn into a tussle for third place.

On the eighth lap, Wilk switched from medium to hard tyres. Unfortunately for him, he timed his reentry onto the track poorly, and got caught up in a clutch of cars that were occupying the medium-ranked places. He decided to switch again on the next lap, this time opting for soft tyres, but by the time the change was completed he had slipped down to 13th place.

The early leader Holland took a pit stop on the ninth lap, and switched from soft to medium tyres.
Latkovski, meanwhile, had climbed steadily from his starting position back in fifth, and when he switched from medium to hard tyres, he reentered the track in third place. He slipped down to sixth on the next lap, when he took another pit stop in order to switch to soft tyres, but he was now well placed to make a push for the front.

By the 17th lap, Holland had built up a 10 second lead over his closest rival, and decided to switch from medium to hard tyres. But there were still three laps to go... Given that most drivers choose to only use their hard tyres for the minimum of one lap, this seemed like a very risky strategy—one that was soon compounded by a stroke of very bad luck as Holland found himself caught up in a group of drivers that were yet to take their second pit stop. Latkovski, picking up the pace on his soft tyres, spotted an opportunity and moved in for the kill.
His moment of glory wouldn't come until the last part of the last lap, but Latkovski got there in the end, overtaking Holland on the inside to complete a stunning comeback victory and sealing the overall stage win in the process.

Despite the heartbreak of finishing in second place in this race, there's no doubt that Holland is a legend of the Gran Turismo scene. What's more, his lengthy tussle with Latkovski on hard tyres was notable for being clean and fair—not something that could always be said of Holland's driving in the past. Here's hoping we have can see many more such epic contests in the stages to come!

Rank Driver DR SR Rd. 1 Rd. 2 Rd. 3 Rd. 4 Rd. 5 Rd. 6 Rd. 7 Rd. 8 Rd. 9 Rd. 10 Total
1 Mercedes-Benz Nik_Makozi S S 338 346 398 327 330 319 421 290 344 417 1236
2 Ford Adam_2167 S S 313 288 413 299 206 235 359 332 314 387 1159
3 Lamborghini MetalGear9493 S S 285 332 292 - - - 405 286 301 402 1139
4 BMW Keeden231 S S 324 272 383 242 310 - 374 274 329 371 1128
5 Toyota sidawg2 A+ S 299 216 337 313 303 331 390 277 215 341 1068
6 Porsche MINT_Matt S S 326 274 256 341 324 - 281 318 288 356 1023
7 Audi emreeree A+ S 204 303 368 266 338 - 312 - 286 203 1018
8 Nissan VLX_GTR S S - 317 322 - 226 270 251 286 258 325 964
9 Ferrari Lion-Face S S 270 258 307 241 258 236 343 250 275 310 960
10 Alfa Romeo AE_McEwen S S - 284 231 331 317 292 266 304 - - 952

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