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Victory for Japan! Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) brings the Nations Cup Asia/Oceania Championship crown home to Japan!
FIA Gran Turismo Championship 2018 Nations Cup Asia/Oceania Regional Final
2018. 10. 11.

The final race 3 took place 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. However, for race 3 points were doubled so at this stage it was still impossible to predict who would win the Asia/Oceania title.

The race started with points leader Jonathan Wong (saika159-) [919 Hybrid] in front. 3rd place starter Japanese Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) [TS050 Hybrid] used the full potential of the hybrid’s accelerating power to overtake 2nd place starter Tomoaki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) [LM55 VGT Gr.1]. Lacking a hybrid system, Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) got off to a slow start and soon began to struggle.

His problems were compounded further when he received a 3-second time penalty after a bump with Japan's Yuki Shirakawa (yukiku) [R18] on the approach of the first corner was judged to be a deliberate push to the side.

The upsets continued.

Perhaps fatigued by the consecutive races, Wong (saika159-) made a mistake as he came into corner 1 in 1st place, going into a half spin after clipping the curb on the outside. After this, Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) was easily able to move up to 1st.

On the home straight of lap 2, Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) slowed down to clear his penalty. He was passed by Japan's Shogo Yoshida (gilles_honda_v12) [SRT Tomahawk VGT Gr.1], falling to 4th place.

Though having fallen to the back after troubles at the very beginning of the race, Australia's Cody Nikola Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) [Hyundai N2025 VGT Gr.1] was able to climb to 5th place on lap 2.

On the home straight of lap 3, Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) slipstreamed back into 3rd.

On lap 4, Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi), who had chosen Medium tyres to start, was put under pressure by Wong (saika159-) who had chosen Soft tyres, and on corner 1, 1st place changed hands.

On lap 5, all three of the front running cars entered the pits. Wong (saika159-) switched to Medium tyres, Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) switched to Hard, and Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) to Medium.

Yoshida (gilles_honda_v12) had delayed his pit stop and so for a time had been able to hold 1st place but after pitting in on lap 8, fell to 5th.

On lap 8, the Hard tyre equipped Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) overtook Wong (saika159-) who had the advantage on Medium tyres. And so the top spot changed hands again.

On lap 11, Wong (saika159-) and Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) both headed in for their final pit stop, both changing to Hard tyres.

On lap 12, 1st place runner Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) made his final pit stop and changed to Soft tyres. However, there were still 7 laps left in the race. Regarding whether it would be possible to run 7 laps on Soft tyres, even commentator YAM expressed his doubts on this racing strategy.

Predictably, he was caught by Latkovsky (Nik_Makozi) [Hyundai N2025 VGT Gr.1] after leaving the pits and the gap between the top 4 cars shrank considerably.

However, using his Soft tyres to their full advantage, Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) was able to retake 1st on the entry to the Dunlop curve and began to put some distance between himself and 2nd.

Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) also entered the fray. Joining the top group, he overtook Wong (saika159-) on the home straight of lap 14 to take 2nd.

While the battle for 2nd place heated up, Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) further increased his lead over his opponents.

Despite concerns about running an extended stint on Soft tyres, being alone in the lead he was able to keep control of the gap to the opponents behind him while using his tyres conservatively. Thanks to this strategy, he was the first to reach the chequered flag.

In this moment 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 official event race before. We are sure he will continue to exhibit his incredible race strategy in the World Finals.

Tomoaki Yamanaka’s penalty on the first lap had haunted him to the very end of the race but he was able to take 2nd place on the points rankings. Though he has racing in Gran Turismo for 20 years, 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-) came in 3rd after taking on the best Japan had to offer, in an incredible display of skill. Entertaining the crowd in the interviews between races by even speaking Japanese instead of his native tongue, he has unquestionably gained new fans from the audience.

 

Asia/Oceania Championship 1st Place Winner: Japan, Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi)

Though 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 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 tyres first, so my strategy was to use Hard tyres, 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 tyres. I switched to my final set, the Soft tyres, once my Hard tyres had reached the limit of their performance, but I think a lot of people thought I had made the switch too early.

However, 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 tyres 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 home straight. After that I tried to catch up to Kokubun but he was using his Soft tyres 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 apologised 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 corner 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 in 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.

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