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NATIONS CUP
Pitstop Strategy Plays a Defining Role in an Unpredictable Outcome
2021 Series Nations Cup - World Series Round 2
11/07/2021

Tokyo, Japan (11 July, 2021) – The 2021 FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championship got off to a thrilling start last month with Valerio Gallo of Italy taking the first race of the season over Hungary’s Patrik Blazsán in a thrilling photo finish. So far this year, the Italian driver has been on an unprecedented roll, also winning the first ever Olympic Virtual Series Motor Sport Event last month. For Round 2, the same 14 drivers from the previous round gathered remotely from all over the world at the historic WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Northern California, looking to take the shine off the Gallo’s dominant ways and gain momentum going into the World Series Showdown in August.

For 2021, a new format was adopted that essentially divides the calendar year into two seasons: 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 where the best competitors from the Online Series have their chance to break into the top flight; then, Season 2, which includes Rounds 3 and 4, to be held in October and November respectively, culminating with the World Finals scheduled for December. The new setup places pressure on the players who cannot afford to have an off-day.

Round 2: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

The starting grid of the second race of the season saw Japan’s Tomoyuki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) return to form with pole position, joined on the front row by the current odds-on favorite Valerio Gallo of Italy (Williams_Bracer). The next fastest qualifiers were France’s Baptiste Beauvois (R8G_TSUTSU) followed by Luca Bonelli of Brazil (TGT_BONELLI) and Ryota Kokubun of Japan (Akagi_1942mi). All 14 drivers strapped themselves inside the ultra-lightweight KTM X-Bow R, required to run 20 laps with at least one lap each on the soft- and medium-compound sports tires, putting pitstop strategy in play. Of note, the top six cars on the grid opted to start on the soft-compound Michelins.

At the start, Gallo burst out of the gates like a rocket, beating Yamanaka off the line and leading the pack into the Turn 2 hairpin. Meanwhile, defending series champion Takuma Miyazono of Japan (Kerokkuma_ej20) squeezed by Bonelli to grab P5. The mid-engine/rear-drive racecars shuffled into single-file formation by the time they reached the famous Turn 8 Corkscrew with Gallo in front. For the next several laps, the running order remained largely unchanged, as only about two seconds separated the top six positions.

The first notable occurrence of the contest came at the end of Lap 7, when race leader Gallo went into the pits, which seemed a bit premature as his soft-compound tires still had at least three laps left in them. Was he employing some sort of new strategy? Time would tell, as the other leaders stayed out. Gallo returned to the track in 11th position, more than 30 seconds behind the new leader Yamanaka. Lap 9 saw a host of cars pitting, most of them to swap their medium-compound tires for the soft-compound ones in hopes of being able to chase down the leaders in the second half of the race. This moved Gallo up to 5th place and Kokubun, who had also pitted earlier, to 6th.

Beauvois came in the following lap, moving Gallo up to 3rd, while race leader Yamanaka pitted a lap later. The Italian reclaimed his lead after the cars returned to the track, appearing as if his early-pit strategy was paying off. Further down the field, Hungary’s Patrik Blazsán (Fuvaros8), who started from P8 on medium tires, was channeling his inner Lewis Hamilton, closing the gap to the front group who had started on softs but were now on the slower medium tires until the flag. The Hungarian was catching 6th-place Miyazono at the pace of about a second per lap.

With five laps to go Yamanaka was all over the rear end of Gallo’s KTM X-Bow, which had slowed its pace considerably. Then, Beauvois jumped into the foray, getting by Yamanaka through Turn 5, but the Japanese driver got him right back on the next corner. And while all of this was happening, Blazsán, on the soft-compound tires, continued throwing down the gauntlet, moving into 5th place after getting by Miyazono and Kokubun. Next in his sights was Bonelli and Beauvois, who were only a half-second ahead.

At the start of Lap 17, with Gallo’s tires all but completely worn, Yamanaka easily overtook him to take the race lead. Gallo continued to trend downward, ultimately dropping to last place. In 3rd place now was Blazsán, the only one among the race leaders with the soft-compound tires. With three laps to go and only two seconds behind race leader Yamanaka, he was suddenly in an ideal position to take the race. Another driver making big moves late was Brazil’s Adriano Carrazza (KoA_Didico15) who had started in P12 and moved all the way up to 5th, getting past Kokubun, Miyazono and Gallo in the span of one lap.

By Lap 18, the Hasty Hungarian had moved to 2nd place and filled up Yamanaka’s rearview mirrors with his dark green car. Blazsán made his move on the final corner of Lap 19, getting past Yamanaka on the front straight to claim P1. He would not look back, taking his lead all the way to the checkered flag with Tomoyuki Yamanaka in tow. Baptiste Beauvois crossed the line in 3rd, while Adriano Carrazza took home a well-earned 4th place.

The victory handed Patrik Blazsán the World Series points lead with five total points, followed by Gallo’s three and Yamanaka’s two. And those points could be crucial at the end of the year as they carry into the World Finals.

2021 Series Nations Cup - World Series Round 2
Result

Rank Driver Time
1 Patrik Blazsán Fuvaros8 31:26.193
2 Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38 + 01.011
3 Baptiste Beauvois R8G_TSUTSU + 01.549
4 Adriano Carrazza KoA_Didico15 + 01.936
5 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio + 04.234
6 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI + 04.503
7 Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi + 04.808
8 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot + 05.644
9 Andrew Brooks PX7-Deafsun + 06.746
10 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 + 07.142
11 Coque López coqueIopez14 + 07.469
12 Jose Serrano PR1_JOSETE + 08.116
13 Ádám Tápai TFz_Adam18 + 08.316
14 Valerio Gallo Williams_BRacer + 21.980
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