Race Report

After Intense Battles Amongst All the Participants, a New Nations Cup Team Champion is Crowned!

Gran Turismo World Series World Finals 2023 - Nations Cup

BARCELONA, Spain (December 3, 2023) – The Gran Turismo World Series 2023 came to a stirring end today with the marquee event of the weekend, the World Series Nations Cup World Finals! The two previous contests—the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GT Cup (TGR GT Cup) on Friday and the Manufacturers Cup on Saturday—set an invigorating tone, heightening the anticipation for an epic day of racing. Amidst a fully packed Fira Barcelona arena, nestled in the vibrant city of Barcelona, Spain, the fastest 12 teams, represented by three drivers each, gathered from across the globe to showcase their skills. Marking a departure from previous years, the Nations Cup transformed into a team-oriented competition, which meant that today, the drivers’ objectives extended beyond personal glory; they raced for the honor and pride of their respective nations.

The heavy favorites to win it all this year was Team Spain, boasting three of the series’ top competitors, including last year’s individual Nations Cup champion Coque López (coquelopez14), teamed with the always fast Jose Serrano (TDG_JOSETE) and the sensation of the season, super rookie Pol Urra (GG_PolUrra). But the field was crowded with formidable adversaries, such as Brazil, Japan, France, and Italy, all of whom were eager to seize victory and leave the exuberant Spanish fans in a state of stunned silence.

The format of the competition spanned across three preliminary individual contests—Race 1 through Race 3—with one driver representing each participating country. Points earned from these races decided the subsequent race’s grid position based on the results. Teams were mandated to designate a different driver for each of these three races; however, the pinnacle of the event, the Grand Final, took the form of a thrilling team competition. Here, the three drivers from each country team took turns behind the wheel during the race. And with the points worth double for this race, it proved to be another epic climax to an incredible championship season.

Race 1: Trial Mountain Circuit

The first race of the day was a five-lap sprint around the tricky Trial Mountain Circuit. Pol Urra of Spain sat on pole position in the BMW M3 Coupe (2007 model), with Italy’s Giorgio Mangano (LUA_Gio) lined up aside him in a yellow Lexus LFA. Starting in the next row were Kylian Drumont (R8G_Kylian19) of France, piloting a Ford GT and Lucas Bonelli (RVT_BONELLI) of Brazil in a Toyota Supra A80.

The race started smoothly for all the drivers, as the cars made their way through the first half of the track in single formation, but the drama began unfolding at the end of the back straight when Mangano and Drumont looked to get past Urra’s BMW, but despite possessing less experience in big-time GTWS racing, the Spaniard coolly held his line, not letting either of through. Lap 2 saw Bonelli slip past Drumont on the tricky right-hander under the first tunnel. Meanwhile, Team Japan’s Rikuto Kobayashi (TX3_tokari71) made his presence known, hounding Drumont for P4. Mangano then drafted Urra’s BMW on the back straight to nab the overall lead from Spain.

The final half of the race saw an epic battle between France, Brazil, Spain, and Japan as they swapped positions several times, none of the prideful drivers willing to give an inch. By the beginning of lap 4, Italy and Spain had amassed a 2.6-second lead over France, which in turn maintained a 1.0-second lead over Japan. A half-second behind Kobayashi’s Lamborghini Diablo GT was Bonelli’s Toyota Supra.

The final lap saw Urra drafting Mangano’s LFA on the back straight and slipping past the Italian on the subsequent corner. The Spaniard would not relinquish his lead, as he took his M3 all the way to the checkered flag to the huge delight of the crowd.

Urra, the TGR GT Cup champion who lives only a few miles away from the venue, said, “Things may look like they’re going easy, but everything is more concerning than it may seem. When I saw that Japan and France were battling, I knew I needed to stay put and attack for the lead on the final lap, and that worked pretty well.”

Gran Turismo World Series World Finals 2023 - Nations Cup
Race 1 Results

Rank Driver Time Points
1 Spain Pol Urra 10'22.048 12
2 Italy Giorgio Mangano +00.684 10
3 Japan Rikuto Kobayashi +03.325 8
4 France Kylian Drumont +03.588 7
5 Brazil Lucas Bonelli +03.786 6
6 USA Calen Roach +06.753 5
7 Chile Angel Inostroza +08.827 4
8 Belgium Keanu De Vroe +10.504 3
9 Canada Mark Pinnell +11.904 2
10 New Zealand Simon Bishop +12.483 1
11 Malaysia Taj Aiman +13.384
12 Netherlands Kaj de Bruin +15.922

Race 2: Watkins Glen

The cars lined up on the starting grid in the order they finished for Race 1, which took the form of another five-lap sprint, but this time the venue was the historic Watkins Glen road course in New York state. The drivers were strapped into identical Honda RA272 formula cars. Representing Spain for this contest was Jose Serrano, while Marco Busnelli (TDG_MARKUS) of Italy took up P2. Rikuto Kobayashi’s excellent performance in the previous race allowed Japan to start in P3 with Seiya Suzuki (LUA_CRV-86) behind the wheel, while long-time veteran Baptiste Beauvois (R8G_TSUTSU) of France started 4th. It was also worth noting that in the five-spot, Brazil was represented by 2018 Nations Cup champion Igor Fraga (IOF_RACING17).

The first dramatic moment of the day unfolded on the first lap when Busnelli, attempting to get around Serrano through The Chute (Turn 6), unintentionally made contact and sent the Spaniard off the track and into the barrier, dropping Serrano instantly to P7! This resulted in a massive 4.0-second penalty that would later cost the Italian team dearly. Then, on lap 2, Beauvois, ran over the curbing on the inside of Turn 1, causing his Michelin tires to lose their grip, sending the Frenchman’s car sliding across the track. The driver error immediately dropped France down to P7.

As Busnelli served his penalty, six cars flew past him, including Brazil and Japan. They must have felt like Christmas had come early because Spain and Italy were all but out of contention for this race. That said, there was more than half the race to run, and one should never count out the Spaniards in a World Series event. And, sure enough, Serrano diligently worked his way up the running order like a quiet ninja, and by the start of the final lap, Team Spain was in 4th place... and gaining. However, Serrano didn’t have enough time to catch the others, and the race ended with Fraga taking the checkered flag with a 1.8-second lead over Suzuki of Japan. Coming in a surprise 3rd place was Chile, thanks to the steady performance of Fabian Portilla (LUA_PerroLoco).

“I was just driving and suddenly, I was in P1,” Fraga said with a chuckle after the race. “After that, it was all about breaking the draft with Team Japan, so I just tried to go as fast as possible and create a bigger gap. It worked, and it turned out to be a great race for us.”

Gran Turismo World Series World Finals 2023 - Nations Cup
Race 2 Results

Rank Driver Time Points
1 Brazil Igor Fraga 09'33.500 12
2 Japan Seiya Suzuki +02.122 10
3 Chile Fabian Portilla +04.183 8
4 Spain Jose Serrano +04.617 7
5 Italy Marco Busnelli +07.247 6
6 Canada Trent Jeffrey +07.303 5
7 France Baptiste Beauvois +07.521 4
8 New Zealand Matthew McEwen +07.673 3
9 USA Donovan Parker +08.000 2
10 Malaysia Dhanesh Wigneswaran +12.147 1
11 Netherlands Floris Simmerman +12.156
12 Belgium Giovanni Baccellieri +18.449

Race 3: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

The penultimate round held a bit more importance than the previous contests because it decided the starting order for the Grand Final. So, understandably, some of the teams saved their aces for this one, such as Valerio Gallo (OP_BRacer)—the 2021 Nations Cup champion—taking the wheel for Italy, and real-life formula racer Rikuto Kobayashi driving for Japan. [Note: Japan fielded a two-man team in the Nations Cup because their third member, Takuma Sasaki (SZ_TakuAn22), did not make the trip to Spain.] The battle took place on the historic Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya—located a few miles from the venue—with all the drivers piloting identical Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, painted in the colors of their home country’s flag.

Brazil’s Adriano Carrazza (Didico__15) led the field through the first few laps, as the other cars looked to improve their positions on the best passing points on the track. On lap 2, Coque López made his move, passing Chile’s Harald Walsen (RMS-NySoRi) for 3rd place, while Gallo also snuck by, putting Italy in 4th. Halfway through this race, it was Brazil in front, followed by Japan, Spain, and Italy. At the start of lap 4, this powerhouse quartet began breaking away from the rest of the field, immediately engaging in a vicious battle among themselves.

At the end of the front straight on lap 5, López showed why he was the defending Nations Cup champion when he out-braked the others into Turn 1, jumping into P2 amidst the fervor of the hometown crowd. Japan was left holding the short end of the stick on this one, not only giving up P2 to Spain, but P3 to Italy as well. Meanwhile, Ethan Lim (VQS_Ethan) wanted in on the fun, catching the front runners and sticking the nose of his car to Kobayashi’s rear wing.

On the final lap, Gallo, wanting to score the win for Team Italy, made an aggressive move on López; however, he couldn’t make the pass. Then, Gallo went from the hunter to the hunted, going slightly wide through Turn 10, allowing Kobayashi to sneak by and claim 3rd place. But this race belonged to Brazil and Adriano Carrazza, who led the entire way and gave his team pole position for the Grand Final.

“I felt a lot of pressure behind me. I was defending a lot because I knew the guys behind me were fast. I wanted to keep the big gap and the lead, while saving the grip of the tires,” Carrazza commented after the race.

Gran Turismo World Series World Finals 2023 - Nations Cup
Race 3 Results

Rank Driver Time Points
1 Brazil Adriano Carrazza 10'16.024 12
2 Spain Coque López +00.880 10
3 Japan Rikuto Kobayashi +01.404 8
4 Italy Valerio Gallo +01.945 7
5 Canada Ethan Lim +02.618 6
6 Chile Harald Walsen +02.953 5
7 Netherlands Rick Kevelham +07.127 4
8 France Thomas Labouteley +07.361 3
9 New Zealand Thomas England +08.654 2
10 USA Kevan Pounder +10.102 1
11 Belgium Quinten Jehoul +10.447
12 Malaysia Iqbal Suji +12.471

Grand Final: Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

The last race of the season was destined to be an epic battle, as every team had to strap all three of its drivers into the remarkable Red Bull X2019 virtual race car (with the exception of Japan) in this grueling 22-lap scuffle. The battlefield: the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, steeped in Formula 1 history and renowned for its swift and intricate layout. A key factor in this winner-takes-all contest was the mandatory use of hard, medium, and soft compound tires, coupled with refueling requirements, elevating pitstop strategy to a decisive element in determining the outcome.

In the front row was Brazil and Spain, with Igor Fraga and Coque López, respectively, who opted to start the race on the soft-compound tires, hoping to create a big lead early. The following four teams—Japan, Italy, Canada, and Chile—were on the medium-compound tires, while the back of the pack decided to get their hard-tire-compound requirement out of the way early.

Through the first lap of the race, Japan and Italy did well in keeping pace with the race leaders, as the race cars reached 320 km/h through Eau Rouge and the Kemmel Straight. But by lap 3, Brazil and Spain had opened up a 2.0-second lead on the rest of the field. Through the Kemmel Straight, López ducked into Fraga’s slipstream, and managed to pass him to put Team Spain in lead.

At the end of lap 6, all the teams on hard-compound tires made their first pitstops. Italy’s Mangano also came in, despite his medium-compound Michelins having at least a few more laps left in them. In handing the driving duties over to Valerio Gallo, Team Italy’s strategy was to have its fastest driver on the fastest tire for as long as possible. The team was playing for the win.

The next lap saw the cars on medium-compound tires make their first pitstops. Meanwhile, López was putting on a masterclass in driving, extending his lead over Fraga by 1.2 seconds. The two former Nations Cup champions finally came in at the end of lap 9, returning to the track with a 4.3-second cushion over the hard-charging Gallo of Italy, who was running in 3rd place. Their paths were set to divulge, as they opted for different tire strategies; Spain going with the mediums, while Brazil opted for the hard-compound Michelins.

At this point, Italy’s strategy seemed to be paying off, as Gallo not only caught one of the race leaders, he passed Bonelli on lap 12 to claim P2! Team Japan came into the pits on lap 14, planning to take the soft-compound tires all the way to the finish, while Brazil came in on the next lap with the intent of taking the mediums to the finish, both teams hoping to catch Spain after it changed to hard-compound tires.

As expected, the race leaders Spain and Italy came into the pits for their last stops, with Spain going to the hard-compound tires and Pol Urra driving, who returned to the track with a 4.4-second lead over Italy, which enjoyed a 10-second cushion on Brazil; however, there was still five laps to go.

For the following several laps, Team Japan’s Kobayashi put on a clinic performance on the soft-compound tires, catching and passing Brazil’s Adriano Carrazza on lap 20, then making quick work of Marco Busnelli of Italy on lap 21. However, he just didn’t have enough time to reach Urra, for it was the TGR GT Cup champion himself who crossed the finish line first, handing Spain the first team Nations Cup title! The undermanned Japanese team of Kobayashi and Suzuki placed 2nd, while Brazil, overtaking Italy on the final lap, claimed the last spot on the podium. The fans erupted with applause and cheer, as Spanish flags waved proudly in the audience.

As the crowd burst into song, Serrano said, “Look at this amazing crowd! I like to thank Coque and Pol for doing an amazing job as always.”

Urra said about his last stint: “When I saw that Italy wasn’t closing the gap, I was like, okay, I think we might have this one. So, instead of driving as fast as I could, I just wanted to keep the car on the track.”

López added, “It feels amazing to be the first back-to-back Nations Cup champion, but this couldn’t have been possible without my two amazing teammates. On my stint, I was so-so racing Igor. We had some mind games going on, but it was nice to have my teammates there for me.”

Gran Turismo World Series World Finals 2023 - Nations Cup
Grand Final Results

Rank Driver Time Points
1 Spain Jose Serrano / Coque López / Pol Urra 41'55.358 24
2 Japan Rikuto Kobayashi / Seiya Suzuki +03.434 20
3 Italy Valerio Gallo / Giorgio Mangano / Marco Busnelli +08.326 16
4 Brazil Adriano Carrazza / Lucas Bonelli / Igor Fraga +08.668 14
5 France Kylian Drumont / Baptiste Beauvois / Thomas Labouteley +09.245 12
6 Chile Angel Inostroza / Harald Walsen / Fabian Portilla +20.222 10
7 Netherlands Kaj de Bruin / Floris Simmerman / Rick Kevelham +31.745 8
8 Belgium Quinten Jehoul / Giovanni Baccellieri / Keanu De Vroe +39.312 6
9 New Zealand Matthew McEwen / Simon Bishop / Thomas England +40.560 4
10 Canada Ethan Lim / Trent Jeffrey / Mark Pinnell +42.974 2
11 USA Kevan Pounder / Donovan Parker / Calen Roach +48.420
12 Malaysia Dhanesh Wigneswaran / Taj Aiman / Iqbal Suji +57.643

Gran Turismo World Series World Finals 2023 - Nations Cup
Final Points Ranking

Rank Driver Race 1 Race 2 Race 3 Grand Final Total Points
1 Spain Jose Serrano / Coque López / Pol Urra 12 7 10 24 53
2 Japan Rikuto Kobayashi / Seiya Suzuki 8 10 8 20 46
3 Brazil Adriano Carrazza / Lucas Bonelli / Igor Fraga 6 12 12 14 44
4 Italy Valerio Gallo / Giorgio Mangano / Marco Busnelli 10 6 7 16 39
5 Chile Angel Inostroza / Harald Walsen / Fabian Portilla 4 8 5 10 27
6 France Kylian Drumont / Baptiste Beauvois / Thomas Labouteley 7 4 3 12 26
7 Canada Ethan Lim / Trent Jeffrey / Mark Pinnell 2 5 6 2 15
8 Netherlands Kaj de Bruin / Floris Simmerman / Rick Kevelham 0 0 4 8 12
9 New Zealand Matthew McEwen / Simon Bishop / Thomas England 1 3 2 4 10
10 Belgium Quinten Jehoul / Giovanni Baccellieri / Keanu De Vroe 3 0 0 6 9
11 USA Kevan Pounder / Donovan Parker / Calen Roach 5 2 1 0 8
12 Malaysia Dhanesh Wigneswaran / Taj Aiman / Iqbal Suji 0 1 0 0 1

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