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Lexus Grabs the First Manufacturer Series Title!
FIA Gran Turismo Championships 2018 World Finals/Manufacturer Series

The top 16 finishers of the FIA Gran Turismo Championships 2018 World Finals Manufacturer Series gathered in Monaco to battle for the prestigious honor of being the first ever world champion. Assembled here were the top players of the Americas, EMEA, Asia/Oceania regions, with three drivers on each team. The venue, fittingly, would be the famous Nürburgring (both the Nordschleife [North Loop] and the Grand Prix course).


The first qualifier took place the day before the big race, where the top six teams would advance to the second qualifying stage.

With Chile’s Nicolás Rubilar (FT_NicoR) leading the way, the BMW team clocked a blistering time of 8:02.844 to put the German manufacturer up front.

What came as a surprise was the Nissan team, consisting of Fraga, Hizal and Kokubun, who were the heavy hitters from the Nations Cup. They did not do as well as expected despite having three regional champions on the team. In the end, all they could muster was a 7th-place grid position.

Top 6 Qualifying

The second qualifier, which took place immediately before the main race, saw each team shave time off significant amounts of time from their first session. Surprisingly, Porsche came in last, as the team was unable to get its time below eight minutes and two seconds.

What was not a surprise was the prowess of BMW, which put in a blistering run just as time was running out.

Rubilar (FT_NicoR) logged in a lightning-quick top time of 8:00.067. The Lexus team was right behind BMW, as Japan’s ace driver Kanata Kawakami (Kawakana222) managed to shave a second and a half off his previous time, putting his crew 2nd on the grid.

Once he knew pole position was secured, Rubilar (FT_NicoR) pumped his fist in a show of emotion that was absent during the Nations Cup Regional Final. It was clear that because he was denied during the Nations Cup, he was out for blood today.


Most of the teams at the front of the grid opted to start on soft-compound tires, with their quickest driver behind the steering wheel. It was evident that they considered the first few laps to be the most important of the race. But BMW had other plans. The pole-sitter decided to go with medium-compound rubber, with battle-hardened Japanese driver, Takuya Okamoto (okasan_joestar07), in the driver’s seat. Did they plan to block the other cars as they battled each other for position? The intrigue grew with each passing second.

What was paramount for them was that in order for this strategy to work, they needed to keep their lead before reaching the Nordschleife.

The one-hour race got under way, with Okamoto (okasan_joestar07) leading the charge in his BMW as they headed for the first corner.

The cars in the middle of the pack, and those in the back, despite starting on soft-compound tires, were unable to match the speed of Okamoto (okasan_joestar07), who ran on the mediums, but Kawakami (Kawakana222), in the Lexus, saw an opportunity. Running in 2nd place, he moved to the inside of Okamoto (okasan_joestar07) as they went into the Bilstein Curve, and successfully made his pass, taking over the lead of the race.

Right after Okamoto (okasan_joestar07) gave up the lead, he was pressured by Japan’s Takuma Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20) of the Subaru team. Unable to keep the Subaru driver at bay, Okamoto (okasan_joestar07) relinquished yet another position as the top three cars headed for the Nordschleife.

While the race leaders drove with their composure intact, Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) began to lose his cool, as he desperately tried to move up as soon as the race started. This caused him to run over some curbing, which resulted in a heavy time penalty of nearly six seconds as he entered the Nordschleife. The Nissan team, the favorites to win the title, was seeing its hopes going down the drain.

At this point, Kawakami (Kawakana222) still held the lead.

Kawakami (Kawakana222) maintained his lead, with Okamoto (okasan_joestar07) running in 2nd place, but, because he was still on the medium-compound tires, right behind him, three drivers on the soft tires—Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20), Rayan Derrouiche (RC_Miura) and Tatsuya Sugawara (blackbeauty-79)—were right on his tail.

While the pack was still in the midst of completing the opening lap, an accident at Aremburg changed the nature of the race.

Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20), in the Subaru, went full throttle as he dove to the inside of Okamoto (okasan_joestar07), pushing the BMW off the track. No one expected this move from one countryman to another.

One of the wheels of the Subaru went off-track, but Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20) was able to gather it up and get back onto the track. Unfortunately for Okamoto (okasan_joestar07), he wasn’t so lucky, as his BMW went completely off-track, putting him in dead last when he finally got back onto the track. This was reckless driving on part of the Subaru team, resulting from its tire strategy: They should have known there was no way Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20), on medium tires, would be able to out-brake and overtake Okamoto (okasan_joestar07), who was running on softs.

After the race, Miyazono (Kerokkuma_ej20) rushed over to the BMW team to apologize.

“It’s unfortunate, but this is all a very real part of racing. Don’t worry about it,” BMW’s ace driver, Rubilar, responded.

Okamoto also held no grudge. “I was trying to take the curve on the inside line with tires that were low on grip. Of course, it’s a shame how things turned out, but it was kind of inevitable,” he said.

This was just another display of the high level of sportsmanship displayed among the top GT players in the world.

With the BMW and Subaru now totally out of the way, Derrouiche (RC_Miura), in the Toyota, and Sugawara (blackbeauty-79), in the Porsche, saw a huge opportunity and felt emboldened to capitalize on it. They charged hard after the race leader, Kawakami (Kawakana222).

After serving the hefty six-second penalty he was assessed earlier, Nissan’s Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) kept falling in position, now all the way down to 12th place.

As Lap 2 started, Derrouiche's (RC_Miura) hard-charging driving style managed to get his Toyota right on the tail of the Lexus of Kawakami (Kawakana222).

Derrouiche (RC_Miura) rode on his opponent’s tail until the next lap, when he finally made his move to get by on the approach to Aremburg, but Kawakami (Kawakana222) was not going to go away quietly. He kept the pressure on the new race leader by staying stuck to his rear bumper.

Lap 3 also saw a change of drivers for the Nissan team, with Mikail Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) taking over the driving duties from Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi). Nissan hoped a new driver would turn the tide in their favor... but it was not meant to be. While trying to get by the Aston Martin in 8th place, Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) lost control of his car and spun out, ending up in the dirt.

All the while, the leaders of the race—Toyota, Lexus and Porsche—made their first pit stops and driver changes. Now driving for Toyota was Agustín Cajal (ORMA_Aspicito), while Lexus switched to Vincent Rigaud (Oscaro_SkyPikmin). Both of them changed to hard-compound tires.

Lap 4 saw some drama when Cajal (ORMA_Aspicito) overran the curbing at Adernauer-Forst. His Toyota bounced off the concrete wall, but didn’t sacrifice his time much. That said, it was a big enough of a mistake to allow Rigaud (Oscaro_SkyPikmin) to get by in his Lexus and claim the lead.

While Toyota and Lexus decided to go with the hard-compound tires for the second stint, Porsche opted to go with the medium-compound rubber, with Thiago Gonzaga (FT_Solid) in the driver’s seat. Immediately, the Porsche started picking up its pace.

Still on Lap 4, the Toyota went out a bit wide at Pflanzgarten, dropping a wheel onto some gravel, creating an opening for the Porsche to get by. Now in 2nd place, Gonzaga (FT_Solid) had his sights set on catching the race leader…which he did on the following lap, making a pass on the Lexus just before the chicane on the Grand Prix course.

Gonzaga’s (FT_Solid) time at the top was short lived, however.

Lap 5 signaled the final round of pit stops. Sérgio Fonseca (serfonseca) took over for Porsche, with his car switching to the hard-compound tires. Tyrell Meadows (GT_Academy2013) took over the driving duties for Lexus, while Tomoaki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) jumped into the Toyota, both going with the medium-compound tires. For Nissan, it was Fraga (IOF_RACING17), on soft-compound tires, who was tasked with bringing the title home. And he was in a pretty good position to do just that, as the Nissan had moved all the way up to 4th position.

Immediately, Meadows (GT_Academy2013) closed in on the Porsche, with Fonseca (serfonseca) unable to extend his lead because of his hard-compound tires.

On Lap 6, Meadows passed the Porsche on the Döttinger Höhestraight, to take the lead.

For Fonseca (serfonseca), being passed was the least of his worries, as the Porsche was being pressured by a pack of cars—comprised of Yamanaka (yamado_racing38), Yoshiharu Imai (legacy0193) and Shogo Yoshida (gilles_honda_v12)—that were vying for 3rd place.

In the meantime, Fraga (IOF_RACING17) caught up to this pack with some masterful driving of his own, with his car on soft-compound tires and a light load of fuel.

It was “all or nothing” for the final lap, as everyone knew not to leave anything on the table. Thus, this final lap saw a dramatic change of running order on the Döttinger Höhestraight.

Making great use of Fonseca's (serfonseca) and Fraga’s (IOF_RACING17) slipstream, Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) shot through the pack, claiming 2nd place for himself.

While the Nissan, Aston Martin and Mitsubishi were still jockeying for position, the unthinkable happened when the Nissan car, driven by Fraga (IOF_RACING17), started slowing down, for no apparent reason. The team had made a miscalculation on fuel strategy, and the car had completely run out of gas after crossing the Bilstein Bridge. It was a fitting end to the team, whose race was filled with errors and bad luck that included Kokubun’s shortcut penalty and Hizal’s spin. It simply was not meant to be for Nissan on this day.

All eyes were now on the finish line, and the first to cross it was the Lexus.

The Lexus team put on a flawless performance, maintaining a quick and consistent pace from start to finish. It was an especially sweet ride for ace driver Kawakami (Kawakana222), who was denied a title until winning the Online Series title. He was finally able to show his true potential on the ultimate stage in this World Final.

In the end, the third driver, on hard-compound tires, wound up being the deciding factor for many teams. While the last stint was riddled with driving errors, Meadows (GT_Academy2013), following solid drives from Kawakami (Kawakana222) and Rigaud (Oscaro_SkyPikmin), kept his cool and brought the championship home.

Meadows (GT_Academy2013), a veteran who had previously faced off against Japan’s best, such as Takahashi, Tomibayashi and Taneichi, at the 2016 FIA Gran Turismo Championship Pre-Season Test in London, was the ideal person to drive the anchor leg of this event because of his vast experience.

Crossing the finish line in 2nd place was the Toyota team. Although all eyes were on Yamanaka (yamado_racing38), who took part in the Nations Cup, it was actually Derrouiche (RC_Miura) who stole the show.

“I was faster on the Grand Prix course, but there was no way for me to match Derrouiche’s speed on the Nordschleife. He was just too quick!” Yamanaka said about his teammate.

Just being fast doesn't guarantee victory in a race, and we all saw evidence of that in today's contest, especially among team members.

And, going against the expectations of many, Aston Martin finished in 3rd place. A definite dark horse, then team was hardly noticed during the midpoint of the race, but like the Lexus team, all three drivers put in solid performances that garnered excellent results.

Manufacturer Series Final - Race Results

Winner: Team Lexus

France’s Vincent Rigaud (Oscaro_SkyPikmin), Lexus Stint No.2 driver:

"To come out on top in this first World Final, it just feels great! In the end, our strong tire strategy and faultless run is what got us here. We decided to go into the second stint on hard tires, since the other teams opted for hard tires in the final stint during the qualifiers. In the final race, the Porsche in first place on hard tires dropped its pace as expected. With us in medium tires on that final run, we were able to pass the Porsche and steal first place."

USA’s Tyrell Meadows (GT_Academy2013), Lexus Stint No. 3 driver:

"I’m thrilled to have made it here. Even before arriving, I was pretty confident that we had a strong team. I knew Kawakami would get a great time in the qualifier. He’s the kind of teammate you can really rely on. This time around, we all succeeded in our respective roles, forming a great tire strategy, staying stable throughout the race and avoiding any mishaps. To sum it up, I’m ecstatic! I’ve played Gran Turismo for over twenty years now, but I never imagined it would have brought me here."

Japan’s Kanata Kawakami (Kawakana222), Lexus Stint No. 1 driver:

"I’m truly delighted that we could walk away from the first ever Manufacturer Series as champions. Before arriving in Monaco, I had a different strategy in mind, but once we all came together here, we formed this new strategy. In the end it paid off and I think our tactic is what lead to our victory. I’m incredibly grateful to my teammates."

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