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NATIONS CUP
Nations Cup World Series - Round 1: a Thrilling, Nail-biting Finish to Kick Off the 2021 Series
2021 Series Nations Cup - World Series Round 1
06/06/2021

MONZA, Italy (June 6, 2021) – The 2021 FIA Gran Turismo Championship officially commenced today with Round 1 of the Nations Cup, as the top competitors from the 2020 World Finals returned to participate in Rounds 1 and 2 of the fresh season. With only one race per round, the pressure was on to score big and score early if they had any hopes of capturing this year’s title.

With the global pandemic still affecting many parts of the globe, the event organizers adopted a new format for 2021 that essentially divides the calendar year into two seasons, with Season 1 consisting of Rounds 1 and 2 (held in June and July, respectively), capped off with a new event called the World Series Showdown. Then, Season 2, which includes Rounds 3 and 4, to be held in October and November respectively, culminates with the World Finals scheduled for December. More information on the 2021 format can be found at gran-turismo.com.

FIA Gran Turismo Championships 2021 Series Overview
Details regarding this year’s format and schedule in the Championships

The question on everyone’s mind was “Will Japanese driver Takuma Miyazono continue his winning ways from last season, or will familiar names like Valerio Gallo, Andrew Brooks and Coque López finally be able to break through and grab their first championship?” We got an early glimpse of the answer in the this, the first race of the year.

Round 1: Autodromo Nazionale Monza

The venue for the first race of the Nations Cup season was none other than Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza, or more commonly called “Monza.” The drivers showed little rust as they qualified in impressive fashion, getting around the high-speed track in the Mazda RX-Vision GT3 Concept in about 1 minute 46 seconds. In fact, only 1.7 seconds separated the entire 14-car field, and it was Canada’s Andrew Brooks (PX7-Deafsun) who grabbed pole position, with Brazil’s Adriano Carrazza (KoA_Didico15) occupying the spot next to him. The second row consisted of the speedy Italian Valerio Gallo (William_BRacer) and another Brazilian hot-shoe, Lucas Bonelli (TGT_BONELLI). The surprise of the day was last year’s world champion Takuma Miyazono of Japan (Kerokkuma_ej20) only managed the 12th fastest time. Had success dulled his motivation or did everyone simply get quicker? All drivers were in similar Mazda RX-Vision GT3 racecars and required to complete at least one lap each on soft-, medium- and hard-compound tires, so strategy was sure to play a major role in the outcome.

When the green lights flashed to start the 17-lap contest, all 14 cars battled for the preferred racing line, lining up side-by-side and a few swapping paint as they forced their way through the chicane-like Turn 1. It was Bonelli who got the worst of it as he got bumped and bullied, dropping instantly from 3rd to 7th. Fellow Brazilian Carrazza didn’t fare much better as he was assessed a penalty on the opening lap that all but ended any hope of winning. After the first lap, the three cars in the lead were Brooks, Gallo and Hungary’s Patrik Blazsán (Fuvaros8), all running on soft-compound tires, while those at the back of the pack opted to start on the hards, saving the soft-yet-quickest Michelins for the end of the race.

At the start of Lap 2, Gallo overtook Brooks to take the lead, as the top three cars were separated by less than one second. Unfortunately, Gallo took too aggressive of a line through Curva di Lesmo (Turns 4 and 5) and was slapped with a 1.0-second penalty for leaving the track, putting him in 3rd.

At the start of Lap 6, Blazsán made a bold move to get by Brooks at Turn 1; Gallo also got by, dropping the Canadian to 3rd. Lap 8 saw the three race leaders dive into the pits, as they swapped to the medium-compound tires, saving the slowest rubber for later. At the halfway point of the race, the running order at the top remained unchanged—Blazsán, Gallo and Brooks—but Spaniard Coque López (Williams_Coque14) was slowly making his way up the field, moving into 5th place (he had started 11th), while Miyazono had risen to 6th, and both drivers had already fulfilled their stints on the hard-compound tires. On Lap 11, López and Miyazono pitted to take on the soft-compound tires, ready to start an all-out attack on the leaders. As they charged like bulls, Gallo reclaimed the overall lead on Lap 14, with Blazsán and Brooks in hot pursuit. Only three laps remained, but the top six cars still had to fulfill their requirements on hard-compound tires. At this point, López was 12 seconds behind, so the question was, could he get within striking distance after the leaders came out of pit row?

As expected, the top three cars pitted on the final lap, with all of them returning to the track barely in front of the hard-charging López, but it didn’t take long for the Spaniard to expose the slower tires of Andrew Brooks, hounding the Canadian and getting by him on the penultimate corner; however, while that battle was brewing, Gallo and Blazsán managed to break away and have their own duel to the finish line. The sprint after the final corner was indeed heart-stopping as the speedy Italian managed to hold off the hasty Hungarian by 0.06 seconds to claim the first win of the season and score three big points.

2021 Series Nations Cup - World Series Round 1
Result

Rank Driver Time
1 Valerio Gallo Williams_BRacer 31:13.487
2 Patrik Blazsán Fuvaros8 + 00.068
3 Coque López Williams_Coque14 + 01.639
4 Andrew Brooks PX7-Deafsun + 01.686
5 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 + 01.798
6 Jose Serrano PR1_JOSETE + 02.319
7 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot + 04.874
8 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio + 04.921
9 Baptiste Beauvois R8G_TSUTSU + 05.011
10 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI + 05.236
11 Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi + 05.639
12 Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38 + 09.038
13 Ádám Tápai TRL_ADAM18 + 09.741
14 Adriano Carrazza KoA_Didico15 + 11.130
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