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Mikail Hizal Takes Home the Coveted "Nations Cup 2019" Title in Dominating Fashion

MONTE CARLO, Monaco (November 24 2019) – The FIA Gran Turismo Championships drew to a close today at the Sporting Monte Carlo Complex in Monaco with the eagerly-anticipated main event of the weekend: the Nations Cup Finals. Without defending champion Igor Fraga of Brazil in the mix, the heavy favorite to take home the coveted FIA GT Trophy—modeled after the sculpture “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” by Umberto Boccioni—was Germany’s Mikail Hizal who had shown remarkable speed all weekend and looked very hard to beat, but Cody Nikola Latkovski of Australia and Takuma Miyazono of Japan were intent on proving the odds-makers wrong.

The general Qualifying session on Friday pared the 36 drivers—hailing from 18 territories/countries—down to 12 finalists. These drivers then began from a clean slate on Sunday, starting with qualifying, followed by four races. With Formula 1 star Max Verstappen in the audience, Hizal sent a strong message to the rest of the group that he brought his A-game by registering the best lap time around Autodromo Nazionale Monza and taking pole for the first race. Miyazono finished right on his tail, with France’s Baptiste Beauvois in 3rd. Latkovski never really established a rhythm for the track and finished 5th. It was now time for the competitors to go wheel-to-wheel and accumulate as many points as possible in the three preliminary races and carry positive momentum to the Grand Final where the finishing points were worth double.

Nations Cup Final, Race 1

It shaped up to be a tense 12-lap battle behind the wheel of the Motul Autech Nissan GT-R Super GT racecars in the first race. The site of the battle was the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, a fast course with minimal passing opportunities. Slip-streaming would be an important strategy here, forcing the leaders to constantly monitor their rear-view mirrors.

After a successful Semi-final round on Friday that saw his main rival eliminated from competition early on (Igor Fraga of Brazil), Mikail Hizal of Germany sat on pole. The use of both medium and hard compound tires were required for this race, and the top four grid positions—Hizal, Baptiste Beauvois of France, Takuma Miyazono of Japan, and Patrik Blazsán of Hungary—chose to start with the softer of the two Michelins, hoping to build up a lead before having to switch to the hard stuff.

When the green flag waved, Hizal broke away from the pack. Beauvois, on the other hand, made an early error and was hit with a 0.5-second penalty, allowing Miyazono to slip into 2nd. Blazsán also got past the Frenchman to take 3rd, while the rest of the field on hard-compound tires dropped back.

As the top-three formation of Hizal, Miyazono, and Blazsán settled into a rhythm, Miyazono was put into the unenviable position of trying to run down Hizal while defending against an aggressive Blazsán from behind. Blazsán constantly feigned passes to keep Miyazono’s eyes off the apex, breaking his concentration and allowing Hizal to gain a few hundredths of a second at each turn.

By Lap 7, having built up a considerable distance, the lead group, with Hizal at the front, all pitted to switch to hard-compound tires. Meanwhile, Coque López of Spain, after a tremendous comeback in the Repechage on Friday, successfully made a daring pass at Turn 1, forcing Jonathan Wong of Hong Kong into the gravel. This allowed Cody Nikola Latkovski of Australia to get past as well.

On Lap 8, Wong and the two Italian drivers, Giorgio Mangano and Salvatore Maraglino got into a three-way battle that moved Maraglino into 7th place. Surprisingly, Rayan Derrouiche of France had fallen to 12th, where he remained due to an assortment of penalties.

With three laps to go, Lap 9 saw Miyazono hounding Hizal with just 0.37 seconds between them. On Lap 10, the Japanese driver attempted to draft Hizal, but the German managed to hold him off. Then, suddenly, Blazsán was on Miyazono’s tail. By the final lap, the three were within spitting distance of each other, and despite Blazsán’s attempts to shake him, Miyazono defended his position and finished in 2nd place. Hizal cruised to a well-earned victory with Beauvois, who made a risky outside move on the last corner of the race (the Parabolica) to steal 3rd place away from the Hungarian. No one knew then that Blazsán would later get payback on the Frenchmen for stealing away the position.

Rank Driver Time
1 Mikail Hizal TRL_LIGHTNING 20:07.771
2 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 +00.352
3 Baptiste Beauvois Veloce_TsuTsu +01.129
4 Patrik Blazsán Williams_Fuvaros +01.142
5 Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi +03.166
6 Coque López Williams_Coque14 +06.490
7 Salvatore Maraglino JIM_Pirata666_ +10.739
8 Daniel Solis CAR_Lamb +13.997
9 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio +14.257
10 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR +14.959
11 Jonathan Wong CAR_Saika +15.290
12 Rayan Derrouiche Veloce_Miura +15.345

Nations Cup Final, Race 2

Consistency was the name of the game in the second race of the Nations Cup Finals. Taking place at the historic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps under wet conditions, the competitors played it safe in their Dallara SF19 Super Formula Toyotas. The extremely powerful open-wheel race machines, capable of 542 horsepower in regular driving, were equipped with a passing mode that squeezed 80 more horses out of the turbocharged Toyota engines, but no one dared to put it to use on the slippery road surface.

Starting in pole position, Germany’s Mikail Hizal was able to once again pull away from the crowd from the get-go. With no one blocking his path and, perhaps more importantly, no rain spray obscuring his view, Hizal drove like a man possessed, quickly and consistently working his way through the 8-lap race, reaching speeds of 300 km/h on the front straight despite the downpour.

By the final couple of laps on the race, he was a good five seconds ahead of 2nd-place Takuma Miyazono of Japan. It would have been easy for Hizal to back off, as traction of the potent SF19 race cars were balanced on a knife’s edge in the wet, but he continued to charge hard, increasing his lead with each lap.

Miyazono maintained P2 throughout the race, with Baptiste Beauvois of France running a solid 3rd. Hungarian Patrik Blazsán followed in 4th place, while crowd favorite Cody Nikola Latkovski of Australia held onto 5th. With the hazardous conditions, the drivers all exercised extreme caution as the second round of the Nations Cup World Final did nothing but cement the points standings of all the drivers.

Rank Driver Time
1 Mikail Hizal TRL_LIGHTNING 18:34.974
2 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 +06.228
3 Baptiste Beauvois Veloce_TsuTsu +07.678
4 Patrik Blazsán Williams_Fuvaros +09.121
5 Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi +11.197
6 Coque López Williams_Coque14 +13.479
7 Salvatore Maraglino JIM_Pirata666_ +15.956
8 Daniel Solis CAR_Lamb +18.278
9 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR +19.490
10 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio +22.458
11 Jonathan Wong CAR_Saika +23.829
12 Rayan Derrouiche Veloce_Miura +24.910

Nations Cup Final, Race 3

The penultimate Nations Cup contest for 2019 saw non-stop action at the Circuit de la Sarthe, home to the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fittingly, the chariot of the race was the Mazda LM55 Gran Turismo, a concept inspired by the Hiroshima marque’s famous real-life 1991 victory at the same venue, as the 787B remains the only rotary-powered car ever to win the grueling enduro.

The third race of the 2019 Nations Cup Final required both medium- and hard-compound tires and one fuel stop over the six-lap battle. Everyone started on hard-compound tires except Hungary’s Patrik Blazsán, who hoped to gain position early on during the others’ pit stops. As soon as the green flag dropped, it was non-stop action as Takuma Miyazono of Japan passed overall leader Mikail Hizal of Germany in the first series of corners. It wouldn’t last for long, though, as Hizal got him right back using the slipstream on the high-speed Mulsanne Straight.

France’s Baptiste Beauvois dove in at the end of the straight, passing both Hizal and Miyazono, but Hizal had the better line and speed exiting the corner and regained the lead. Miyazono and Beauvois then battled for P2, when the Japanese driver got a bit too aggressive and pushed the Frenchman off the track, The result was a devastating four-second penalty that ultimately sent Miyazono to the very back of the pack. It was a mistake that he would not recover from. All this gave Australia’s Cody Nikola Latkovski the opening to grab 2nd place…and all this went down on the very first lap.

On Lap 2, underdog Coque López of Spain, whose new haircut was the talk of the town, charged to 2nd place from his P6 starting position. At the end of the lap, everyone but Blazsán pitted to switch to medium-compound tires. Unfortunately, the Hungarian’s strategy to stay out longer didn’t pay off, as he was unable to gain enough of a lead. After switching to the hard-compound rubber, he emerged out of the pits in a disappointing 4th place.

Meanwhile, a penalty incurred by López allowed Latkovski to get by on the Mulsanne Straight, giving him back 2nd place. In the final lap, Latkovski and López went wheel-to-wheel, swapping positions a few times, allowing Hizal to go unperturbed to the finish line.

With his third win in three races, the German had all but claimed the World Title. Miyazono showed a tenacious fighting spirit by clawing his way up the field to finish in 7th, thus, holding on to his 2nd-place standing. By edging out Beauvois, Latkovski kept his 3rd-place position, while López finished next in 5th. And with that, the stage was set for the Grand Final.

Rank Driver Time
1 Mikail Hizal TRL_LIGHTNING 19:05.831
2 Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi +05.974
3 Coque López Williams_Coque14 +07.130
4 Rayan Derrouiche Veloce_Miura +07.681
5 Baptiste Beauvois Veloce_TsuTsu +08.323
6 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio +08.935
7 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 +11.034
8 Daniel Solis CAR_Lamb +12.161
9 Jonathan Wong CAR_Saika +13.788
10 Patrik Blazsán Williams_Fuvaros +15.730
11 Salvatore Maraglino JIM_Pirata666_ +17.833
12 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR +20.489

Nations Cup, Grand Final

The venue for the final race of the 2019 FIA GT Championships was the Autodromo de Interlagos in Brazil, with the drivers behind the wheel of the Red Bull X2019 Competition machine in a 22-lap showdown to determine the World Finals 2019 champion. Unlike the first three races, the drivers were required to use all three compound tires for a minimum of six laps, meaning at least two pit stops were required. Most of those in the top spots opted to start the race with the medium-compound Michelins, that is, except pole-sitter Hizal, who went with the softs. It was clear that he wanted to run away from the pack early and build enough of a lead to take him to the finish line.

The green flag dropped as Hizal led the pack through the first corner. Daniel Solis of the U.S., whose brilliant showings thus far was arguably the biggest surprise of the weekend, didn’t waste time making his move, as he took advantage of his soft-compound tires and worked his way up from P8 to 3rd place in the span of three laps. By Lap 4, Hizal’s plan was working perfectly as he had already built up a four-second lead on the rest of the field.

The following few laps saw plenty of hard racing as the cars reached 300 km/h on both the front and rear straights. Baptiste Beauvois (France) and Takuma Miyazono (Japan) overtook Spain’s Coque López to claim 4th and 5th place respectively, while Solis was tracking down Cody Nikola Latkovski for 2nd place.

Lap 8 saw most of the mid-pack runners make their first pit stop, but Hizal and Solis stayed out, wanting to get as many laps as possible with the fast soft-compound tires, which were roughly a second a lap quicker than the mediums. Latkovski opted to save his softs for the end, while Miyazono and Beauvois went all in, hoping to run down Hizal, who dove into the pits the following lap, going to the medium-compound tires.

Two laps later, Beauvois, on the faster tires, reeled in Solis, who had switched to mediums, and passed him through the high-speed Arquibancada corner. Miyazono, intent on somehow making it onto the World Finals podium, followed suit, out-braking Solis into Turn 4 and taking the third position, up four spots from where he started. Meanwhile, Latkovski was falling fast on the hard-compound tires, ultimately dropping to 7th place.

Many of the drivers made their final pit stops on Lap 13, and those who saved their soft tires for this last stint didn’t waste any time getting to work. Jonathan Wong of Hong Kong passed Solis to take 5th while Latkovski blew past Miyazono and Beauvois to grab P2. The question was: Did the Australian have enough laps remaining to track down Hizal, who, by this time, had opened up an eight-second lead?

Miyazono was holding on for dear life, as a 3rd-place finish would guarantee him a spot on not just the race podium but the World Finals podium, but his strategy of going with the hard-compound tires last seemed to be backfiring as Beauvois, who would also grab the Finals podium with a 3rd-place finish, sneaked by the Japanese driver on the last lap. Then, out of nowhere came Hungary’s Patrik Blazsán on the soft-compound Michelins, who sneaked past the Frenchman through Turn 9, dropping Beauvois to 4th place and knocking him off the podium, handing that honor to Miyazono. Blazsán had exacted his revenge from the first race of the day. (Perhaps Miyazono should treat the Hungarian driver to a sushi dinner after that tremendous gift.)

But the real story here was Hizal, who absolutely dominated the World Finals, leading nearly every lap and scoring 66 points, the maximum possible, and a 18-point cushion over 2nd-place finisher Latkovski, who, despite not being at his sharpest, showed why he is considered one of the elites of virtual racing.

The always-cool Hizal said after claiming the Nations Cup Trophy: “Honestly, I feel relieved because this is potentially my last World Finals. Just in case I can’t return because of my studies, I wanted to give it my best this year. I was very anxious today, not wanting to make any mistakes, but things went really well. I just can’t believe it. This was the main goal for me this year, and now that I’ve achieved it, I’m so happy.”

Runner-up Latkovski followed with: “I’m very happy with the result. My qualifying didn’t go as I wanted to, but I played it safe and played it smart. I feel like I made all the right moves and I made them clean, which was the important thing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch Mik (Hizal), but this was his year. I’ve been racing with him since 2013, and this is an amazing guy and an amazing driver. I’m honoured to be his friend.”

The last spot on the podium was taken by Miyazono, who said after the race: “I’m very happy that I am here on this stage now, but I’m disappointed at what happened on the Sarthe course where I ruined my chances. I still think I need to be quicker to be successful, and I need to learn when to pull back and when to attack during a battle. For next year, I will work on these things and come back a better racer.”

Rank Driver Time
1 Mikail Hizal TRL_LIGHTNING 29:20.343
2 Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi +04.862
3 Patrik Blazsán Williams_Fuvaros +10.328
4 Baptiste Beauvois Veloce_TsuTsu +10.442
5 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 +13.322
6 Rayan Derrouiche Veloce_Miura +17.022
7 Jonathan Wong CAR_Saika +17.054
8 Salvatore Maraglino JIM_Pirata666_ +17.421
9 Coque López Williams_Coque14 +19.450
10 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio +21.728
11 Daniel Solis CAR_Lamb +24.017
12 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR +31.824
Rank Driver Semi-Final Race 1 Race 2 Race 3 Grand Final Total Points
1 Mikail Hizal TRL_LIGHTNING 6 12 12 12 24 66
2 Cody Nikola Latkovski Nik_Makozi 6 6 6 10 20 48
3 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 6 10 10 4 12 42
4 Baptiste Beauvois Veloce_TsuTsu 5 8 8 6 14 41
5 Patrik Blazsán Williams_Fuvaros 4 7 7 1 16 35
6 Coque López Williams_Coque14 1 5 5 8 4 23
7 Rayan Derrouiche Veloce_Miura 4 0 0 7 10 21
8 Salvatore Maraglino JIM_Pirata666_ 2 4 4 0 6 16
9 Jonathan Wong CAR_Saika 5 0 0 2 8 15
10 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio 5 2 1 5 2 15
11 Daniel Solis CAR_Lamb 3 3 3 3 0 12
12 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR 4 1 2 0 0 7
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