Race Report

A Day Full of Surprises at the First Live Nations Cup Event in Two and a Half Years

Gran Turismo World Series 2022 Nations Cup - Showdown

Salzburg, Austria (July 31, 2022) – The first Gran Turismo World Series live event since early 2020 took place this weekend at Red Bull Hangar-7 in Austria. The World Series Showdown, the second event of the Series, began with the Manufacturers Cup yesterday, where Team Subaru made it two for two in 2022. On the slate for today was the eagerly anticipated Nations Cup events, consisting of five separate races, including the Grand Final. A total of 31 Nations Cup competitors made the trip to Salzburg, all of whom were selected from the 2021 World Finals and 2022 Online Series - Season 1.

The first round consisted of three Regional Finals, one for each Region of the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA), and Asia-Oceania. The top three finishers of each race scored an automatic bid to the Grand Final. Those who placed lower duked it out in the Repechage, where the top three qualified for the Grand Final too. In every race, there was drama at nearly every turn, partly because it was the first live event in a long while, but also because the players were still getting used to the Gran Turismo 7 platform. And in the end, it was a new name that prevailed.

EMEA Regional Final: Deep Forest Raceway

The first race of the day was contested by the drivers representing the EMEA Region. In this 20-lap contest, 12 drivers donned their driving gloves to duke it out in Aston Martin Vulcans. Tire strategy was in play because each driver was required to run at least one lap on both medium- and hard-compound tires. Well-known veterans were represented at the top of the starting grid, with Spain’s José Serrano (TDG_JOSETE) on pole, and last year’s champion, Valerio Gallo (William_BRacer) of Italy, in the No. 2 spot. In the second row was France’s Baptiste Beauvois (R8G_TSUTSU) and Giorgio Mangano (Williams_Gio) of Italy.

The race started cleanly from a rolling start, with nearly the entire field on the hard-compound tires. Serrano led the way through the first lap of the race, but a few cars behind him, his countryman Coque López (coquelopez14), one of only two drivers to start on the medium-compound tires, began making his move. By lap 2, he went from his starting grid position of 8th place to 3rd, and on lap 4, he had taken the overall lead.

Several drivers, including López, Gallo and Beauvois, made their pitstops to switch tires on lap 8, while Serrano followed a lap later. With López, on hard-compound tires, the wolves were ready to pounce. First, it was Gallo who passed López on the inside through Turn 1 on lap 13 to take the race lead. On the back straight, Serrano and Beauvois overtook López.

On lap 17, the Spaniard sneaked past Gallo on the front straight to grab P1 and José Serrano did not look back, crossing the finish line first, followed by Baptiste Beauvois and fellow Frenchman Kylian Drumont (PRiMA_Kylian19). Gallo, who came in a disappointing 4th place now needed to shine in the Repechage to qualify for the big race.

Rank Driver Time
1 José Serrano TDG_JOSETE 27:48.776
2 Baptiste Beauvois R8G_TSUTSU +01.842
3 Kylian Drumont PRiMA_Kylian19 +02.436
4 Valerio Gallo Williams_BRacer +03.185
5 Patrik Blazsán ROH-Fuvaros88 +04.500
6 Coque López coquelopez14 +05.810
7 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio +05.996
8 Manuel Rodríguez TDG_MANURODRY +12.558
9 Saruthan Seelan VQS_Coyote7 +14.412
10 Ádám Tápai TFz_Adam18 +15.497
11 Quinten Jehoul ERM_Quinten +17.104
12 Marco Busnelli TDG_MARKUS +17.588

Americas Regional Final: Daytona Road Course

The venue for the second of the three Regional Finals was the Daytona Road Course where nine of the fastest players from North, Central and South America battled to earn a spot for the Grand Final. While the top three spots earned a ticket to the Grand Final, the 4th- through 7th-place finishers went to the Repechage. The 2018 Nations Cup champion Igor Fraga (IOF_RACING17) of Brazil showed that he’s still a force to be reckoned with by qualifying his green-and yellow-liveried Ford GT race car on pole, while Chilean Angel Inostroza (YASHEAT_Loyrot) surprised many by claiming the No. 2 spot. In fact, the first five grid positions were occupied by either a Brazilian (Adriano Carrazza [Didico__15] in P3 and Lucas Bonelli [TGT_BONELLI] in P4) or a Chilean (Fabián Portillo [Mobil_PerroLoco] in P5).

As in the previous race, the drivers were required to use both the soft- and medium-compound tires at least once in the 16-lap race, so pit strategy was in full play. As the cars sped past the start line, Fraga led the pack through the first corner under the lights in this nighttime contest. The top three cars opted to start the race on the soft-compound Michelins, so they were looking to pull away from the pack early. Carrazza passed Inostroza through Turn 5 to move into 2nd place, while the rest of the field were busy drafting one another through the oval section of the track, reaching speeds of more than 270 km/h. Making his move early on the soft-compound tires was American Robby Heck (Robby--Heck), who quickly moved his way up the leaderboard going from last (P9) to 4th place in the first three laps.

Lap 7 saw the race leaders make their only pitstops, with Fraga returning to the track in 2nd place and Carrazza in 3rd. Race leader Bonelli came in the following lap, returning to the track in P5, however, he was now on the soft-compound tires, while the race leaders were on the slower medium-compounds. Therefore, once again, it would come down to who had the best strategy.

Lap 10 saw a vicious battle for 2nd place, as Carrazza and Inostroza swapped position several times. Behind them, Heck and Bonelli fought valiantly for 4th place. All the while Fraga extended his lead to more than 4 seconds. The tussles continued to the end of the race, where Adriano Carrazza bested Angel Inostroza by a small margin to claim 2nd place. But no one got even close to Igor Fraga, who cruised to an impressive win.

Rank Driver Time
1 Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17 28:31.116
2 Adriano Carrazza Didico__15 +04.625
3 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot +04.914
4 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI +10.263
5 Dean Heldt Deano_solo +24.647
6 Ethan Lim VQS_Ethan +26.804
7 Robert Heck Robby--Heck +35.100
8 Juan Hernández TX3_Kangreti +35.838
9 Fabián Portilla Mobil_PerroLoco +43.447

Asia-Oceania Regional Final: Fuji Speedway

With the 2020 Nations Cup champion, Takuma Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20), absent from the live event due to COVID-19 protocols, this category was now wide open. With a thing to prove after his disastrous showing in the first round, Japan’s Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) put down the hammer during qualifying to sit atop the starting field of eight drivers. Alongside him on the front row was Kanata Kawakami (SG_Kawakana), also of Japan, while Matthew McEwen of New Zealand (AE_McEwen) and Japan’s Tomoaki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) occupied the 2nd row.

Like the other races, pitstop strategy was in play because the drivers were required to use both the soft- and medium-compound tires at least once during the 20-lap contest around Fuji Speedway. The top five drivers, all in Super Formula Dallara SF19s, opted to start the race on soft-compound tires. The rolling start saw McEwan take a look to the outside of Kawakami at Turn 1 for a way past, by thought better of it and ducked back into formation.

The drivers seemed to be playing it cautiously, not making any major moves for the first few laps of the race. On lap 4, things began to heat up, especially between Japanese drivers Yamanaka and Seiya Suzuki (V1_CRV-KRT86). The latter climbed all over the rear of Yamanaka’s car, trying to draft him on the long front straight at 300 km/h. He seemed to get past, but Yamanaka defended, but in doing so, he exceeded track limits in the process, resulting in a half-second penalty. However, despite the penalty, Yamanaka managed to hold onto P4.

On lap 10, the leaders dove into the pits for their one and only tire change. When they returned to the track, their running order remained unchanged, with Kokubun in front, followed by Kawakami and McEwen. It was evident that Kokubun was completely dialed into his machine because his pace hardly slowed. By lap 14, he had opened up a 6.3-second lead on the field. And with Kawakami having a firm hold of 2nd place, the battle was for 3rd place, the final spot to qualify automatically for the Grand Final.

In this showdown, Yamanaka, in P4, patiently shadowed 3rd-place McEwen, looking or the right opportunity to make his move. He waited and waited, but the opportunity never presented itself, and he had to settle for 4th and qualifying for the Grand Final the hard way, via the Repechage. As for the winner, Ryota Kokubun, well… he never withered, cruising to a surprisingly easy victory in front of Kanata Kawakami and Matt McEwen.

Rank Driver Time
1 Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi 27:12.250
2 Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana +09.886
3 Matthew McEwen AE_McEwen +12.147
4 Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38 +14.100
5 Seiya Suzuki V1_CRV-KRT86 +14.722
6 Guy Barbara Dstinct_Twitchy +17.273
7 Jonathan Wong saika159- +19.830
8 Simon Bishop sidawg2 +47.416

Repechage: Watkins Glen Short Course

With the grid order decided by the drivers’ performances in the Regional Finals, it was defending Nations Cup champion, Valerio Gallo of Italy, who sat on pole in the Genesis X GR3 for the 20-lap contest around Watkins Glen Short Course. Next to him was Brazil’s Lucas Bonelli, and in the second row was Japan’s Tomoaki Yamanaka and Patrik Blazsán (ROH-Fuvaros88) of Hungary. With everything on the line in this race, each player was desperate to finish in the top three or their weekend was over. Again, pitstops were required because the drivers needed to use both soft- and medium-compound tires at least once.

The race started with the cars rolling past the start line with Gallo leading the 12 drivers through Turn 1, as those behind him positioned their cars to take full advantage of each other’s slipstream. But the Italian brought his A-game to this race, opening up a 1.0-second lead by lap 3. With all the drivers taking their pitstops in laps 9 and 10, the running order remained the same at the halfway point of the race: Gallo, Yamanaka and Bonelli.

By lap 16, it was becoming clear who was going to survive this round, as Gallo had a 3.2-second lead on Yamanaka and Bonelli, both of whom were nearly five seconds clear of the P4 car of Dean Heldt (Deano_solo) of the U.S. The last four laps saw little drama, with Valerio Gallo taking the checkered flag, followed Tomoaki Yamanaka and Lucas Bonelli, all three headed for the Grand Final.

Rank Driver Time
1 Valerio Gallo Williams_BRacer 22:29.167
2 Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38 +03.649
3 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI +06.841
4 Dean Heldt Deano_solo +10.557
5 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio +10.786
6 Coque López coquelopez14 +11.939
7 Ethan Lim VQS_Ethan +12.646
8 Patrik Blazsán ROH-Fuvaros88 +12.746
9 Jonathan Wong saika159-) +13.557
10 Seiya Suzuki V1_CRV-KRT86 +14.161
11 Robert Heck Robby--Heck +23.707
12 Guy Barbara Dstinct_Twitchy +40.433

Grand Final: Trial Mountain Circuit

The entire weekend inside Red Bull Hangar-7 culminated with this race, the World Series Showdown Grand Final. Only the fastest of the fastest remained, with Spaniard José Serrano claiming pole position for his dominant victory in the Regional Final. Brazil’s Igor Fraga sat in the No. 2 spot. Ryota Kokubun of Japan and France’s Baptiste Beauvois occupied Row 2, while Brazilian Adriano Carrazza and Japan’s Kanata Kawakami sat on Row 3.

For the 30-lap contest around the popular Trial Mountain Circuit, the 12 drivers were strapped to the hyper fast Red Bull X2019 Competition machine. Each driver was required to use each of the hard-, medium- and soft-compound Michelins at least once, and they also needed to refuel, so race strategy played a huge role in the outcome.

With the top five drivers all starting the race on medium-compound tires, the action started early as Fraga jumped all over Serrano from the start, looking to get past the Spaniard at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity came on the back straight, when he drafted Serrano’s car at 320 km/h to take the overall lead.

Lap 4 saw another Brazilian make a strong move when Carrazza passed Kokubun on the inside of Turn 9 to claim 3rd place. Meanwhile, Fraga was reminding the world why he was a former Nations Cup champion, laying down one blistering lap time after another. By lap 5, he had a 1.2 second lead, but then decided to take his first pitstop, where he switched to the hard-compound tires. Frenchman Kylian Drumont, who started in P7, joined him, swapping his hard-compound tires for the mediums. After one lap, Fraga returned to the pits, fulfilling his requirement for the hard-compound tires, changing to the quickest soft-compound tires.

Meanwhile, the race lead was being contested by Serrano, Carrazza and Kokubun, all of whom had yet to pit and were separated by less than a second. On lap 8, Carrazza drafted Serrano on the back straight, taking the overall lead. However, he, Carrazza, and Kokubun had yet to make a pitstop. The following lap, Yamanaka, who made his first pitstop on the first lap, had caught most of the field and passed Kawakami to take possession of 3rd place. Race leader Carrazza made his first pitstop on lap 10, handing the lead back to Serrano.

The following lap, Yamanaka, who was running in 2nd place, made a move to pass Serrano for the race lead. He got past the Spaniard, but it seemed he carried too much speed in the maneuver, losing control of his car and spinning. Fortunately for him, he was able to keep the damage minimal, gathering up the car and keeping his place in the standing. He came into the pits the following lap, going to the hard-compound tires. The question on everyone’s mind was, “Could his four-stop race strategy really work or was he totally cooked?”

In contrast, Fraga’s three-stop race strategy seemed to be progressing smoothly, as he had worked his way up to 6th place by lap 12 and was still the only driver in the top 10 to have pitted twice. He then made a move to take P5 by passing Beauvois through Turn 8. Carrazza, who got caught in the traffic was bumped by the Frenchman, causing him to lose control of his car and spinning, dropping him to the back of the field.

At the halfway point of the race, the running order was: Kokubun, Fraga and Gallo. On lap 15, Serrano made his first pitstop and Drumont made his second. But it was anyone’s guess who was in the best position in the race thus far because so many different strategies were in play.

The French duo of Drumont, who was in the lead, and Beauvois, who was in P2, made their final pitstops on lap 22, swapping for fresh soft-compound tires and taking on fuel. Amazingly, Drumont returned to the track back in the lead! And a second in front of the hard-charging Fraga! Those watching the action inside Hangar-7 erupted with excitement. With only seven laps to go, would he be able to keep the former Nations Cup champion at bay?

The answer became apparent during the following laps when the Brazilian champion couldn’t cut into Drumont’s lead. The Frenchman maintained a steady pace and a cool head all the way to the checkered flag, claiming his first Nations Cup victory and his second of the weekend (he was part of the winning Subaru team in the Manufacturers Cup). Coming in 2nd was Igor Fraga, who ran a brilliant race, with Ryota Kokubun taking home a well-earned gutsy 3rd-place finish.

Said Kylian Drumont, who collected six points for his win: “I don’t have the words to describe my emotions right now. It was my first event and my first win. It’s crazy. In terms of the race, all I did was follow my strategy and keep a good pace. When I saw Fraga behind me, and he kept reducing the gap behind me, I just told myself to just chill. And fortunately, it all worked out. I still can’t believe it.”

All of the action can be watched on the official Gran Turismo YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/GranTurismoOfficial/ and more information is available on gran-turismo.com

Gran Turismo World Series 2022 Nations Cup - Showdown

Rank Driver Time
1 Kylian Drumont PRiMA_Kylian19 45:36.350
2 Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17 +07.661
3 Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi +07.985
4 Baptiste Beauvois R8G_TSUTSU +09.111
5 José Serrano TDG_JOSETE +17.658
6 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI +17.770
7 Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38 +18.551
8 Valerio Gallo Williams_BRacer +19.932
9 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot +27.890
10 Adriano Carrazza Didico__15 +29.786
11 Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana +33.814
12 Matthew McEwen AE_McEwen +43.201