A Battle Between a Rookie and Seasoned Veterans That Came Down to the Final Lap!
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GT Cup 2023 - Grand Final
BARCELONA, Spain (December 1, 2023) – The much-anticipated climax to the ‘Gran Turismo World Series’ 2023 kicked off today in the breathtaking city of Barcelona, Spain. Fira Barcelona, the venue for the weekend, was bursting with energy, thanks to a packed crowd that passionately rallied behind their hometown heroes, erupting into thunderous applause at every mention of a Spanish drivers’ name. The drivers, in turn, fueled the excitement, engaging with the ecstatic audience at every opportunity.
The weekend’s opening act, the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GT Cup (TGR GT Cup), held a unique significance this year because it was the sole individual event after the transformation of the Nations Cup into a team competition. Anticipation soared as the stage was set for an exhilarating showdown that featured a field of 22 drivers, which included experienced veterans such as Nations Cup champions Coque López (coquelopez14) and Takuma Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20) to TGR GT Cup rookies like Pol Urra (GG_PolUrra) and Calen Roach (CalenJRoach).
After qualifying, the drivers were divided into two Semi-final groups, where the top four finishers punched their tickets to the Grand Final. Those who placed from 5th to 8th received another chance in a Repechage round, where the top four there gained entry to the final. The first Semi-final race saw Urra dominate, holding off veteran Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) to earn the top spot on the Grand Final starting grid. In the second Semi-final, it was a 1-2-3 finish for the Spaniards, when Jose Serrano (TDG_JOSETE) led a couple of Lópezes—Coque and Arthur (GG_AlexLM)—to the finish line. And, in the repechage—which was run on snow for the first time ever on the newly added Lake Louis track—Takuma Miyazono dominated the field, sliding his way into the Grand Final, along with three others. Thus, the stage was set for another exciting, memorable final!
Grand Final: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya GP Layout
The Grand Final’s race track couldn’t have been more fitting: the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, just a stone’s throw—15 miles—from the venue! The stadium was a cauldron of pulsating excitement, vibrating with anticipation as four out of the top six positions were occupied by Spaniards, with Pol Urra sitting on pole in the Toyota GR010 Hybrid race car and Jose Serrano lined up next to him.
Every driver was required to use at least two of the three different compound tires—soft, medium and hard—for the 23-lap contest, meaning pitstop strategy would play a big role in the outcome of this championship. Most of the drivers opted to begin the race with the medium-compound Michelins, while Urra and Serrano decided to go with the softs, hoping to create a large gap early and run away from the rest of the field.
The race began predictably, with Urra and Serrano building a 1.7-second lead over the 3rd-place Ryota Kokubun, who started on the medium-compound tires. Meanwhile, Coque López, on mediums like Kokubun, began slipping down the field, falling behind Adriano Carrazza (Didico__15) and Takuma Miyazono, who were both charging hard on the softs.
The first pitstop came on lap 5, when Arthur López curiously swapped his mediums for softs. One would have thought he’d be better served staying out on the mediums longer, for he had at least three or four more good laps left in them. The following lap, Serrano made his move, sliding past Urra through Turn 5 to take the overall lead.
On lap 8, Carrazza and Miyazono pitted for fresh Michelins, with both drivers surprisingly going with another set of softs, meaning they were employing a two-stop strategy. The race leaders made their pitstops on lap 9 to change to medium-compound tires, then returned to the track in P5 and P6, as 6th-place Urra immediately felt pressure from Carrazza, who was riding on his rear bumper. On lap 11, Urra briefly lost control of his car, allowing Carrazza and Miyazono by. The Brazilian and Japanese driver continued to power forward, overtaking Serrano to claim P4 and P5, respectively. Miyazono then passed Carrazza to essentially take the lead of the race but was slapped with a one-second penalty for bumping another car, putting him back into 2nd place behind the Brazilian.
On lap 16 and 17, Miyazono and Carrazza made their second pitstops, handing the lead to Urra, Serrano and Coque López, who seemed like they were intent on going the rest of the way on their medium-compound tires; however, the question was: Would those tires last for the rest of the race? As the Spaniards ran 1-2-3 to the delight of the crowd, the unbelievable happened on lap 18. Coque López looked to take the lead, pushing past both Urra and Serrano, but in the process, there was contact between those two, and Jose was forced off the track! The incident dropped him to 4th place, behind Kokubun and out of contention!
While Coque led the race, his soft-compound tires were just about at their limit, and with four laps still to go, no one expected them to last until the end of the race. Meanwhile, Kokubun was charging hard, passing Urra on lap 21, but the Japanese driver was assessed a 1.0-second penalty for contact with another car.
Coque López saw his chance of winning dashed when his tires finally ran out of grip on the last lap, dropping him to 3rd place; therefore, the final moments of the race came down to a two-horse sprint between Urra and Kokubun. As the Japanese driver desperately tried to overtake the Spaniard through most every corner, Urra defended his position like a seasoned veteran, ultimately taking the checkered flag and notching a win for the home country!
“This is unbelievable,” said Urra after the race. “When I was in 4th place near the end of the race, I felt I could win this. On the last lap, I saw Coque racing on a weird line, so I knew his tires were done. Then it was just me and Kokubun, but his tires were worn too, and so were mine. It was just a crazy race!”
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GT Cup 2023 - Grand Final
|Pol Urra GG_PolUrra
|Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi
|Coque López coquelopez14
|José Serrano TDG_JOSETE
|Lucas Bonelli RVT_BONELLI
|Guy Barbara Dstinct_Twitchy
|Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20
|Mehdi Hafidi ERM_Mehdi59
|Alex López Murillo GG_AlexLM
|Baptiste Beauvois R8G_TSUTSU
|Calen Roach CalenJRoach
|Adriano Carrazza Didico__15