- Victory for Japan! Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) Brings the Nations Cup Asia/Oceania Championship Crown Home to Japan!
- The "FIA Gran Turismo Championship 2018 Nations Cup" Asia/Oceania Regional Final
The final race, Race 3, was run on the Fuji International Speedway, with the competitors driving Gr.1 cars. Before the race began, Hong Kong’s Jonathan Wong sat at the top of the points rankings, but the title was still up for grabs because the points were doubled for this stage.
The race started with points leader Jonathan Wong (saika159-) driving a 919 Hybrid in the lead. The 3rd-place starter, Japanese Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) in a TS050 Hybrid, used the full potential of the hybrid’s accelerating power to overtake 2nd-place starter Tomoaki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) racing an LM55 VGT Gr.1. Lacking a hybrid system, yamado_racing38 got off to a slow start and struggled early on.
His problems were compounded further when he received a 3-second time penalty after contact with Japan's Yuki Shirakawa (yukiku) [R18] on the approach of the first corner.
The drama continued.
Perhaps fatigued by the consecutive races, saika159- made a driver error as he came upon Turn 1, going into a half spin after clipping the curb on the outside. This allowed Akagi_1942mi to easily grab the lead.
On the front straight of Lap 2, yamado_racing38 slowed down to for his penalty and was passed by Japan's Shogo Yoshida (gilles_honda_v12) driving an SRT Tomahawk VGT Gr.1, falling to 4th place.
Although experiencing some problems at the very beginning of the race, Australia's Cody Nikola Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) racing a Hyundai N2025 VGT Gr.1 made his way up the grid to 5th place on Lap 2.
On the front straight of Lap 3, yamado_racing38 drafted his opponent to take back 3rd place.
On the next lap, Akagi_1942mi, who had chosen Medium-compound tires to start the race, was pressured saika159-, who ran on Soft-compound tires, and relinquished the lead to the Hong Kong driver at Turn 1.
On Lap 5, the three front runners entered the pits. saika159- switched to Medium-compound, Akagi_1942mi went for the Hard-compound rubber, and yamado_racing38 chose Medium.
gilles_honda_v12 found himself in the lead, but dropped to 5th place after he pitted on Lap 8.
On this lap, Akagi_1942mi, driving on Hard-compound tires passed saika159- on Mediums, swapping the running order once again.
On Lap 11, saika159- and yamado_racing38 both made their final pit stop, changing to Hard-compound tires.
On the next lap, the race leader, Akagi_1942mi made his final pit stop and changed to Soft-compound rubber, but there were still seven laps left in the race. Would he be able to conserve the grip on his tires for that long of a distance? Even commentator YAM expressed his doubts on this racing strategy.
He was caught by Latkovsky (Nik_Makozi) driving a Hyundai N2025 VGT Gr.1 after leaving the pits and the gap between the top four cars shrank considerably.
But Akagi_1942mi took advantage of the high level of grip provided by the Soft-compound tires and retook the lead through the Dunlop Curve. He then began pulling away from the pack.
yamado_racing38 also entered the fray, joining the front runners, after overtaking saika159- on the front straight of Lap 14 to take 2nd place.
All the while, Akagi_1942mi increased his lead.
Despite concerns about running an extended stint on the soft tires, Akagi_1942mi was able to kept a quick but steady pace, conserving the grip on his tires. Thanks to this strategy, he took the checkered flag.
By winning this final race, Japan’s Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) became the very first Nations Cup Asia/Oceania Champion. There was no stopping this super rookie who had never competed in an officially-sanctioned race before. We are sure he will continue to exhibit his incredible skill in the World Finals.
Tomoaki Yamanaka’s penalty on the first lap haunted him to the very end, but he was able to hang on to 2nd place on the points rankings. Although he is a 20-year veteran of Gran Turismo, he has never won a tournament. Now with the biggest title just ahead of him, it will be interesting to see if he can make his dream a reality.
Jonathan Wong (saika159-) took 3rd after taking on the best Japan had to offer. Entertaining the crowd in the interviews between races by even speaking Japanese, he has unquestionably gained new fans during these finals.
Asia/Oceania Championship 1st Place Winner: Japan, Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi)
Although I started from 3rd, I was able to use the acceleration of the hybrid to move up to 2nd on the first corner. After that it was a close race with Wong for a long time, but we went into the pits at the same time. Wong had chosen the strategy of using up his softer tires first, so my strategy was to use hard ones, to just keep up with him even if I was at a slight disadvantage on grip.
"As a result, I was able to keep myself inside the slip stream and stay right behind Wong even though I was on hard tires. I switched to my final set, the soft tires, once my hard tires had reached the limit of their performance, but I think a lot of people thought I had made the switch too early.
"Personally I just wanted to break away from the pack as soon as possible so I decided to make the switch early. Luckily, everything went as I had planned, after I broke away from the melee I was able to run at my own pace so I was able to keep the pace up for the entire time even on soft tires and turn it into a winning result."
Resolution for the World Finals
"The world championship is a big challenge; however, I want to enter the final with pride as the Asia/Oceania Regional Champion and give it my absolute best.
Asia/Oceania Championship 2nd Place: Japan, Tomoaki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38)
At the very start of the race, Kokubun’s TS050 just tore away with its hybrid power and left me powerless as he pulled away. And then I was given a penalty after I hit Shirakawa when I changed my line. Luckily only one car passed me when I was fulfilling the penalty.
"A fierce battle had broken out at the front, so I was able to slowly creep up behind them. In the second half of the race, as Latkovsky, who is undefeated in Australia, joined the competition at the front, I was able to corner Wong who was running in 2nd and overtake him on the front straight. After that I tried to catch up to Kokubun, but he was using his soft tires very well over a long distance, and he just pulled further and further ahead.
"It was a tough race but because the points for Race 3 were so high even 2nd place was extremely valuable, and I was able to finish 2nd in the overall rankings. As soon as the race was over I went over to Shirakawa and apologized for the bump on Lap 1. I was surprised at what a gentleman he was though. He had every right to be angry at me, but instead he congratulated me on my 2nd-place finish.
"Shirakawa was a good rival, and we both shared ups and downs together at this real-world event."
Resolution for the World Finals
"My love for cars, my love for racing, my decision to study cars, my choice of career. Gran Turismo was the inspiration for all these things. Gran Turismo is just an irreplaceable part of my life. This battle to decide the best in the world, my discovery of Gran Turismo, the people I’ve met through Gran Turismo, and the audience members who cheered me on. I want to express my feeling of gratitude by competing in the best stage in the world. The winner though, will be me.
Asia/Oceania Championship 3rd Place: Hong Kong, Jonathan Wong (saika159-)
In Race 3, I span out on the approach to Turn 1 and fell to 2nd. On my second pit stop, I got caught behind Kokubun and while I was stuck there I was unable to keep Yamanaka from taking 2nd. After that, I did start making up time on the corners, but I couldn’t take back 2nd.
Resolution for the World Finals
"I’m going to do my best and try and get into the top 3. For the World Finals though, I really need more practice. I just don’t have as much experience in sim racing as the other drivers. I really have to try harder to fill that gap.
I’m going to keep doing my best to put pressure on my rivals, always aiming for that chance to overtake.