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An All-out Scuffle Until the Very End
2021 Series Nations Cup - World Series Round 3

Tokyo, Japan (03 October, 2021) – The 2021 FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championships entered the second half of the Series with the championship very much still up for grabs. The World Series Showdown last month put a temporary wrench into the title hopes of odds-on favorite Valerio Gallo of Italy when he was bested by Japan’s Ryota Kokubun, who took home 10 big points for his win (the “normal” rounds award only three points for the winner). But Gallo’s 2nd-place finish at the Showdown was enough to keep him at the top of the World Series points table, in front of the Spanish duo of Coque López and Jose Serrano.
Plenty of questions surrounded this Round 3 event, such as can Kokubun follow up on his big World Series Showdown win? Will Gallo return to his winning ways? And when will past Nations Cup Champions, Igor Fraga (Brazil) and Takuma Miyazono (Japan), find their form? The answers were found in the Southern California desert on a very fast track in a small town called Willow Springs.

Round 3: Willow Springs International Raceway (Big Willow)

The unexpected came early, before even the start of the race, when Belgian World Series newcomer Quinten Jehoul (ERM_Quinten) grabbed pole position, taking the spec Audi R8 LMS around the “Fastest Track in the West” in a blistering time of 1:08.449. Jehoul was just ahead of Valerio Gallo of Italy (Williams_BRacer) who took the number-two slot with Spaniard Jose Serrano (PR1_JOSETE) and Takuma Miyazono of Japan (Kerokkuma_ej20) occupying the second row. Igor Fraga of Brazil (IOF_RACING17) and Andrew Lee of Australia sat on row three. World Series winner Ryota Kokubun had endured a torrid time in the earlier Manufacturer Series race and his poor form continued when he qualified 15th. All 16 drivers were required to complete at least one lap on both medium- and hard-compound tires for the 25-lap contest around Big Willow, meaning pit strategy would be in full play.

As often happens, the front-runners started on the soft-compound tires, hoping to pull away early and run away from the pack, but as we have seen before, this strategy doesn’t always pan out. Jehoul led the way through Turn 1 after a clean standing start, with Gallo and Serrano right on his tail. The first overtake of the day came through the Turn 4 “Horseshoe” where Lee (on softs) slid past Fraga (on mediums) to claim P5. Surprisingly, the first pitstop also came on the maiden lap when Adriano Carrazza of Brazil (KoA_Didico15) swapped his mediums for softs, evidently employing a two-stop strategy but realizing while in the pits that it had been a mistake.

By lap 5, the top five cars—all on the soft-compound tires—began to pull away from the bottom half of the field where several intense battles were taking place. Less than two seconds separated P9 from P15, as the cars went two- and sometimes three-wide through the corners. On lap 10, Lopez understeered coming out of Turn 9, going off into the dirt and all but ending his hopes of a podium finish, but he held it together and managed to coolly enter the pits directly from the dirt to change tires. While perhaps not Coque’s decision to pit, most of the drivers on medium-compound tires chose the same lap to make their pitstops, while the race leaders stayed out, trying to squeeze every last bit from their soft-compound Michelin rubber.

On lap 12, Fraga came in to take on the medium-compound tires, joined in pitlane by a host of other cars. For them, it was now a sprint to the finish and hope that the soft Michelins would remain effective for the 13 remaining laps, which seemed entirely feasible because the race leaders ended up getting 14 laps out of them. Miyazono and Lee pitted on lap 13, and Jehoul, Gallo, and Serrano came in a lap later.

The leaders returned to the track on medium-compound tires in the same order they went in, but the gap between 5th-place Andrew Lee and 6th-place Adriano Carrazza (who overtook Fraga a lap earlier through the sweeper) shrunk to 2.8 seconds, and it would continue to shrink because P6 and down all wore the quicker tires. Poor Ryota Kokubun’s day went from bad to worse on lap 17 when he appeared to get onto the dirty line through the Turn 8 sweeper, perhaps assisted by his countryman Tomoaki Yamanaka. Travelling at 260 km/h his Audi R8 careered off the track and across the dirt leaving Kokubun right at the back of the field and with no way back.

Gallo made his move on the front straight on lap 19, driving right up to the rear bumper of Jehoul’s R8, which pressured the Belgian to get a bit squirrely through Turn 1. This opened a small space for Gallo to get through. Jehoul tried valiantly to regain the lead, but the seasoned Italian blocked his attempt at every turn. In fact, Jehoul seemed so intent on retaking the lead that he failed to notice Serrano charging hard behind him, who got past the Belgian on the penultimate lap, taking over 2nd place. And that’s how the race ended, with Valerio Gallo claiming his second win of the Series and extending his World Series points lead to five points over Jose Serrano and Ryota Kokubun.

Said Gallo afterwards: “It was a very intense race. All the front runners were on the same tire strategy, but I wanted to save the tires on the first and second stints and hoped for Quinten to make a mistake. When that happened, I used that moment to take the lead, knowing that on this track, overtaking is not easy. Because of how intense this race was, it was one of the most enjoyable races I have driven, and I hope the other guys enjoyed it, too.”

Round 4 of the World Series takes place in November and is the last chance for the competitors to earn valuable World Series points that they will carry into the World Finals in December.

2021 Series Nations Cup - World Series Round 3

Rank Driver Time
1 Valerio Gallo Williams_BRacer 29:36.498
2 Jose Serrano PR1_JOSETE + 00.935
3 Quinten Jehoul ERM_Quinten + 01.049
4 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 + 01.147
5 Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17 + 03.111
6 Nikita Moysov ERM_Nick + 05.602
7 Andrew Lee PX7-AmazingHour + 07.592
8 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI + 07.742
9 Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38 + 08.687
10 Coque López coqueIopez14 + 09.348
11 Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana + 09.696
12 Ádám Tápai TFz_Adam18 + 11.407
13 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot + 12.424
14 Nicolas Romero ERM_NicoRD + 12.784
15 Adriano Carrazza KoA_Didico15 + 15.090
16 Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi + 36.942
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