- MANUFACTURER SERIES
- A Dominant Performance Wraps Up Thrilling Series
- 2021 Series Manufacturer Series - World Finals
Tokyo, Japan (December 4, 2021) – The climax to the 2021 FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championships was broadcast this past weekend with the finales of both the Nations Cup and Manufacturer Series. For the Manufacturer Series, the leading 12 manufacturers from the second Season of the Online Series were represented by teams of three drivers – one from the EMEA region, one from the Americas and one from Asia-Oceania.
World Series points accumulated during 2021 were carried into the World Finals meaning that Team Toyota and Team Mazda entered as favorites equal on 13 points. Defending champions Team Subaru were four points adrift and would need a strong showing if they had any hope in keeping the title.
Each driver would contest one race with a maximum of 12 points on offer for the winners of races one and two and double points for the Grand Final, meaning an upset to the form book was still possible. As was the case for every World Final so far in the FIA Gran Turismo Championships, all three races were filled with drama and intrigue.
Race 1: Autodrome Lago Maggiore - GP II
The day began with a big surprise during qualifying when championship points leader Team Mazda barely cracked the top 10 and defending champions Team Subaru managed only the seventh best time. As expected, the Toyota Supra Racing Concept was lightning fast with Spaniard Coque López (coquelopez14) behind the steering wheel, taking pole position. Right behind him was Porsche, piloted by in-form fellow Spaniard Jose Serrano (PR1_JOSETE), while the surprise duo of Brazilian João Cláudio Santos Pessôa (GRID_JoaoSof) in the Honda NSX Gr.3 and Team Volkswagen’s Beetle Gr.3 driven by Hiroshi Okumoto of Japan (HIROGRAND_1009) sat on the second row. Each driver was required to make at least one pitstop for the 10-lap race around the tricky Lake Maggiore Circuit in Italy, with the option to refresh their medium-compound tires or take on fuel if needed.
López was the first to reach Turn 1, a right-hand sweeper, as the rest of the field followed in single-line formation. The running order remained unchanged through the first two laps, as the cars appeared evenly matched and spaced, with the largest gap between them being about one second. However, on lap 3, the drivers kicked their aggression level up a notch, as Japan’s Ryo Kumata (Ryo3GoGo) in the BMW M6 GT3 and Shota Sato (anchovy_sand) in the Nissan GT-R GT3 hounded countryman Okumoto in the Beetle who sat in 4th place. At the end of the lap, several drivers made their mandatory pitstops, and the following lap saw race-leader López come in, accompanied by Okumoto and Kumata, but the Porsche 911 RSR of Serrano stayed out. His plan was to build as large a lead as possible, using the clean air in front of him to his advantage, before making his pitstop.
Serrano came in on lap 4, taking on fresh tires, and returned to the track 1.8 seconds behind race-leader López. In a bit of a surprise, the well-aged Nissan GT-R of Sato found itself in 3rd place after his pitstop, only 2.0 seconds behind the 2nd-place Porsche of Serrano. So, after every car fulfilled their mandatory pitstops, the running order was Toyota (López), Porsche (Serrano), Nissan (Sato), Volkswagen (Okumoto), BMW (Kumata) and Honda (Pessoa).
On lap 7, Pessôa moved his NSX past the BMW M6 of Kumata to claim P4, but the top three positions looked solidified with López in the Toyota cruising with a 1.5-second lead over Serrano’s Porsche 911, who in turn had a 2.7-second advantage over Sato and his Nissan GT-R.
On the penultimate lap, Pessôa made a brilliant move to the inside of Okumoto’s Beetle on the final corner, nabbing 4th place in his NSX. Meanwhile, Serrano had decreased the gap between his Porsche and López’s Toyota to under one second. Armed with fresher tires because he pitted one lap later, the Spaniard mounted a full attack on the Toyota on the final lap of the race. He caught his countryman on the final corner, but didn’t have enough to make the pass, ultimately crossing the finish line 0.3 seconds behind López’s Supra. Sato delivered Team Nissan the final spot on the podium with an impressive 3rd-place finish. Team Toyota’s win increased its points tally to 25 in total, extending its lead over Team Porsche and Team Mazda, both on 17 points.
|Rank||Manufacturer / Drivers||Time|
|1||Toyota Coque López||19:38.980|
|2||Porsche Jose Serrano||+00.309|
|3||Nissan Shota Sato||+04.438|
|4||Honda João Cláudio Santos Pessôa||+06.676|
|5||Volkswagen Hiroshi Okumoto||+06.222|
|6||BMW Ryo Kumata||+07.108|
|7||Mazda Miroslaw Kravchenko||+07.735|
|8||Aston Martin Adam Wilk||+10.556|
|9||Subaru Thomas Scibilia||+11.877|
|10||Jaguar Soma Iseri||+14.151|
|11||Mercedes-Benz Kazuki Cho||+18.267|
|12||Hyundai Fabio Merenda||+18.530|
Race 2: Tokyo Expressway - East Outer Loop
The starting order for the second race of the day was decided by the finishing order of the previous contest; therefore, Team Toyota sat on pole with Japanese driver Tomoaki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) at the wheel of the GR Supra Racing Concept. Positioned behind him was the Porsche 911 RSR of Takuya Sugawara of Japan (blackbeauty-79). Canadian Ethan Lim (VQS_Ethan) in the Nissan GT-R GT3 started in P3, while the Honda NSX Gr.3 piloted by Shohei Sugimori, also of Japan (s-shohei_), rounded out the top four. The venue was the tight and tricky Tokyo Expressway - East Outer Loop, at night. The drivers were required to complete 10 laps around the Japanese street circuit, with at least one lap on the soft- and medium-compound tires, so race strategy played a key role in determining the outcome.
Opting to employ a different tactic from the others was Yamanaka, the only one to start the race on soft-compound tires. His plan was clear: Run away from the pack and never relinquish the lead. There was plenty of drama from the onset, when the cars positioned themselves in each other’s slipstream on the long front straight. Here, Lim’s Nissan GT-R dove to the inside of Sugawara’s 911, taking over 2nd place. This section of the Tokyo Expressway saw an abundance of passing maneuvers because of the drafting opportunities it presents.
On the next lap, Sugimori’s NSX and Lim’s GT-R exchanged positions a couple of times on the front straight at 280 km/h, when suddenly Canadian Jeff Gallan’s (LLOYDZZELITE) Mazda RX-Vision GT3 and Sugawara’s Porsche RSR snuck up from behind and passed both going into Turn 1, taking over P2 and P3, respectively. All the while, Yamanaka’s plan was proceeding splendidly as he opened up a 2.2-second lead. At the end of the lap, several cars made their pitstops to take on the quicker soft-compound tires, while Yamanaka remained on the track, building on his lead.
On lap 5, Andrew Brooks of Canada (PX7-Deafsun), driving for Jaguar, made his presence known, taking over 2nd place when he passed both Sugawara’s Porsche and Brooks’ Mazda in his F-Type Gr.3. Brazilian Lucas Bonelli (TGT_BONELLI) in the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 was also charging hard, moving up six spots from 11th to 5th.
Yamanaka finally pitted on lap 7 with his Supra 20 seconds ahead of the field, but he returned to the track with only a 1.5-second lead, leaving everyone to wonder if he could hold the others off while on the slower hard-compound Michelins with three laps remaining. By the start of lap 9, his lead shrank to one second, as a quartet of cars on the quicker soft-compound tires—the Mazda RX-Vision GT3 (Gallan), the Jaguar F-Type (Brooks), the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 (Bonelli) and the Porsche 911 RSR (Sugawara)—stalked him like hungry wolves.
At the start of the final lap, Yamanaka’s driving skills allowed him to increase his lead back to 1.2 seconds, keeping anyone from entering his slipstream on the front straight. The race now was for 2nd place, as Gallan’s RX-Vision desperately held off Bonelli’s AMG with one lap to go. Then came the most thrilling moment in the race: Lucas Bonelli made a late charge after the final corner to get past Jeff Gallan right at the finish line, squeaking out a 2nd-place finish by three-hundredths of a second! With Tomoaki Yamanaka’s win, Team Toyota took a 12-point lead into the Grand Final, with Team Mazda and Team Porsche still lurking in its shadow.
|Rank||Manufacturer / Drivers||Time|
|1||Toyota Tomoaki Yamanaka||20:06.520|
|2||Mercedes-Benz Lucas Bonelli||+01.430|
|3||Mazda Jeff Gallan||+01.465|
|4||Jaguar Andrew Brooks||+01.603|
|5||Porsche Tatsuya Sugawara||+01.835|
|6||Honda Shohei Sugimori||+04.716|
|7||Nissan Ethan Lim||+08.764|
|8||BMW Dean Heldt||+08.841|
|9||Aston Martin Alonso Regalado||+09.034|
|10||Hyundai Kevan Pounder||+09.256|
|11||Volkswagen Thomas Labouteley||+09.450|
|12||Subaru Daniel Solis||+18.335|
Grand Final: Nürburgring 24-Hour Layout
The final race of the Manufacturer Series was appropriately on the world’s most famous test track, the Nürburgring, but using the 24-hour race layout, which meant that one lap stretched for 25.4 km or 15.8 miles with 170 corners in between. For this five-lap contest, each team was required to run at least one lap on soft-, medium- and hard-compound tires, meaning that the importance of employing the correct pit strategy was magnified. Sitting on pole was Toyota’s ace driver and 2018 Nations Cup champion, Igor Fraga of Brazil (IOF_RACING17). France’s Baptiste Beauvois (R8G_TSUTSU) in the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 started in the number-two spot, with Japan’s Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) in the Mazda RX-Vision GT3 Concept in P3 and the Jaguar F-Type Gr.3 driven by Ádám Tápai of Hungary (TFz_Adam18) in P4.
The top four cars opted to start the race on the quickest soft-compound tires, planning to build up as large a lead as possible before switching to the medium- and hard-compound ones.
The race started with a slight reshuffling of the running order when Kokubun’s Mazda passed the Mercedes-Benz of Beauvois to nab 2nd place, while defending champions Team Subaru, whose WRX Gr.3 was driven by 2020 Nations Cup champion Takuma Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20), moved up four spots, from 12th to 8th. Beauvois reclaimed 2nd place through Adenauer Forst on the maiden lap and then gave it back to Kokubun through Döttinger Höhe. All the while, Fraga was putting the hammer down, opening up a 3.7-second lead over the field after one lap. As predicted, the majority of cars that started the race on the hard-compound tires pitted at the end of the maiden lap, with nearly all of them opting to go with the mediums, saving the quickest Michelins (the softs) for their dash to the finish.
The battle between Mercedes-Benz (Beauvois) and Mazda (Kokubun) intensified on lap 2, as they swapped paint and nearly forced each other off at Flugplatz. Kokubun reclaimed P2 and then subsequently left the German car in his dust as he raced after Fraga, who had increased his lead to nearly five seconds. At the end of the second lap, the race leaders all made their pitstops, going with the medium-compound tires, setting the stage for an intriguing finish.
With three laps to go, the running order remained Toyota (Fraga), Mazda (Kokubun), Mercedes-Benz (Beauvois), Jaguar (Tápai) and the BMW M6 GT3 driven by France’s Kévin Belic (Kelicful), with each of them needing to make one last pitstop before the end of the race. And at the end of lap 3, the mid-pack cars made their pitstops, taking on the soft-compound tires to lead an all-out charge on the leaders.
At the start of lap 4, Belic in the BMW M6 GT3 passed Tápai’s Jaguar F-Type to claim P4, with his sights set on the Mercedes-Benz AMG of Beauvois, who was about two seconds ahead. Otherwise, the running order remained unchanged with Fraga increasing his lead to more than seven seconds. The end of the lap saw the Brazilian bring his Toyota Supra in for the last time, joined by Kokubun, Beauvois and Tápai. They returned to the track in that order with Fraga maintaining his huge lead, but only a half second separated 5th-place Tápai and his Jag—now on hard-compound tires—from the Nissan GT-R of France’s Mehdi Hafidi (V1_Mehdi59), who led the group running on the soft-compound Michelins.
Hafidi wasted no time getting by Tápai’s F-Type to claim P5, but the focus then turned to Chilean Angel Inostroza (YASHEAT_Loyrot) who frantically fought to maintain P7, knowing full well that a 7th-place finish or better would give Porsche a podium spot in the series championship. It set up a thrilling three-way battle between the Jaguar, Porsche and Volkswagen, where each driver refused to give a single inch. They went three-wide through Wehrseifen, bumping each other hard. Sternberg’s VW got the worst of it, being punted off the track, dropping him to 10th place. Inostroza moved past Tápai through Kesselchen to take P6, but the Chilean was assessed a one-second penalty for his incident with Sternberg, allowing Tápai to reclaim P6 through Döttinger Höhe. However, Inostroza held onto P7 until the end, scoring Team Porsche a 3rd-place finish in the series championship.
In the end, a brilliant performance by Igor Fraga scored Toyota the race win and the series title. Ryota Kokubun’s 2nd-place finish handed Mazda an impressive 2nd place in the series championship after an up and down season. Baptiste Beauvois’ drive to 3rd place on track gave Mercedes-Benz 4th place in the series championship, just one point behind Porsche.
After the race, Fraga said, “I’ve been practicing a lot. Back in 2018, it was the same combination of tracks, and it didn’t go so well then, so this time, I had a chance to deliver a better result, and I made the most of it. I must say that pushing the car hard for five laps on that track was mentally exhausting, but it was all well worth it.”
Race 1 winner Coque López added, “Having these two teammates and having a great car to drive made all of this possible. I’m so happy with that we won all three races.”
Race 2 winner Tomoaki Yamanaka said, “I am so very happy. I didn’t believe that things would turn out the way they did, but I feel it was because all three of us did our jobs perfectly, and that’s why we were able to achieve this kind of result.”
|Rank||Manufacturer / Drivers||Time|
|1||Toyota Igor Fraga||41:15.216|
|2||Mazda Ryota Kokubun||+08.390|
|3||Mercedes-Benz Baptiste Beauvois||+17.015|
|4||BMW Kévin Belic||+18.423|
|5||Nissan Mehdi Hafidi||+19.641|
|6||Jaguar Ádám Tápai||+23.481|
|7||Porsche Angel Inostroza||+24.664|
|8||Volkswagen Roberto Sternberg||+25.861|
|9||Subaru Takuma Miyazono||+26.016|
|10||Honda Valerio Gallo||+27.378|
|11||Aston Martin Nikita Moysov||+28.180|
|12||Hyundai Andrew Lee||+36.421|
2021 Series Manufacturer Series - World Finals
|Rank||Manufacturer / Drivers||Race 1||Race 2||Grand Final||Total Points|
|1||Toyota Igor Fraga / Tomoaki Yamanaka / Coque López||12||12||24||48|
|2||Mazda Ryota Kokubun / Jeff Gallan / Miroslaw Kravchenko||4||8||20||32|
|3||Mercedes-Benz Baptiste Beauvois / Lucas Bonelli / Kazuki Cho||0||10||16||26|
|4||Nissan Mehdi Hafidi / Ethan Lim / Shota Sato||8||4||12||24|
|4||Porsche Angel Inostroza / Tatsuya Sugawara / Jose Serrano||10||6||8||24|
|6||BMW Kévin Belic / Dean Heldt / Ryo Kumata||5||3||14||22|
|7||Jaguar Ádám Tápai / Andrew Brooks / Soma Iseri||1||7||10||18|
|8||Honda Valerio Gallo / Shohei Sugimori / João Cláudio Santos Pessôa||7||5||2||14|
|9||Volkswagen Roberto Sternberg / Thomas Labouteley / Hiroshi Okumoto||6||0||6||12|
|10||Subaru Takuma Miyazono / Daniel Solis / Thomas Scibilia||2||0||4||6|
|11||Aston Martin Nikita Moysov / Alonso Regalado / Adam Wilk||3||2||0||5|
|12||Hyundai Andrew Lee / Kevan Pounder / Fabio Merenda||0||1||0||1|