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NATIONS CUP
Incredibly Close Americas Regional Finals Sees Brazilian Adriano Carrazza Crowned Regional Champion
2020 Series Nations Cup - Regional Finals (America)
30/11/2020

Despite the hardships that the worldwide pandemic has caused, online virtual racing continues, as the FIA Gran Turismo Championships kicked off last week with the Europe/Middle East/Africa Region (EMEA). With all the contestants participating from their own homes, the action was as intense as it was unpredictable. In the end, it was perennial fan-favourite Coque López of Spain who won the EMEA championships, displaying an incredible pit stop strategy in the Grand Final. This week, all eyes were on the eagerly anticipated Americas Region and the return of 2018 champion Igor Fraga of Brazil to the Nations Cup competition prompting the question whether the real-life Formula 3 race driver still has what it takes to rule the online motorsports world.

The format for 2020 has been slightly revised, with the world divided into three main regions—the Americas, Asia-Oceania, and the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa). Each region consists of 16 competitors, made up of the top 12 ranked racers of that region and four additional players who earned their places through the Extra Stage online time trial. This year, the Americas field consisted of drivers representing six countries including Costa Rica and Guatemala. They competed in three races, with the top four finishers advancing to the World Finals. (Note: eight from the EMEA advanced to the World Finals and four will represent the Asia-Oceania region, including Takuma Miyazono of Japan who secured his place by winning the ‘World Tour – Sydney’ at the beginning of the year). The starting grid for every race was determined by a 10-minute qualifying, with points awarded to the top 10 finishers in each race.

With the starting order set for Race 1, it was time to go racing.

Race 1

Our first stop was São Paulo, Brazil, home to the famous Autódromo de Interlagos racetrack. For this seven-lap contest in Group 3 machines, every car was required to run on hard-compound tyres for the entire race (no tyre changes or fuel stops). Chile’s Nicolás Rubilar (FT_NicoR) showed that he hadn’t missed a beat by taking pole position in his Hyundai Genesis, while Andrew Brooks of Canada (PX-7-Deafsun), winner of the North America Online Series, sat right behind him in a Dodge Viper SRT. Registering the third-fastest qualifying time was the Porsche 911 RSR piloted by South America online champion Angel Inostroza (YASHEAT_Loyrot), also of Chile, with Brazil’s Lucas Bonelli (TGT_Bonelli) fourth fastest in an Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Of note, Brazil’s Igor Fraga (IOF_RACING17), perhaps showing a bit of rust, started in 7th position in a Mazda Atenza (Mazda6).

When the green flag dropped, the cars flew past the start line in single-line formation, as the drivers exercised caution on the cold hard-compound tyres. On Lap 2, Inostroza began pressuring Brooks for P2, while Rubilar’s Hyundai Genesis began to pull away. As Brooks adamantly defended his position, the rest of the field came right up on him, with only about a second and a half separating P2 through P7.

With his Porsche 911 reaching nearly 260 km/h, Inostroza decided to go for the pass on the front straight, moving to the inside of Brooks into Turn 1. The two cars touched, but Brooks, managed to keep his position. Other passing manoeuvres occurred down the field, but most were unsuccessful. It was becoming clear that Interlagos was among the more difficult tracks for overtaking, for the running order remained largely unchanged for the next few laps.

All this was playing right into the hands of Rubilar, who had built up a 2.0-second lead and was adding to it with each passing moment. At the halfway point of the race, the top seven positions were held by Rubilar, Brooks, Inostroza, Bonelli, the USA’s Randall Haywood (Lexus RC F) and Brazil’s Adriano Carrazza (Volkswagen GTI VGT).
Even in the middle of the pack, there were no serious overtaking moves, as Tristan Bayless (USA), Fabian Portilla (Chile) and the USA’s Kevan Pounder in P8, P9 and P10, respectively, had a comfortable lead over the 11th-place car.

On the final lap, Lucas Bonelli made the most daring move of the race, flying past Inostroza’s Porsche 911 and driving right up to the rear of Brooks’ Dodge Viper. With 2nd place worth ten points, the Brazilian seemed intent on collecting. However, while Bonelli was preoccupied with trying to get past the Canadian, Inostroza snuck up on him and reclaimed 3rd place through the Ferradura Corner (Turn 6). The move had a huge effect on Bonelli’s pace as he dropped from 3rd to 6th in a matter of two quick corners.

In the end, it was Rubilar. A World Tour winner in 2019, who crossed the finish line first, collecting the 12 points awarded to the race winner. Brooks, who fended off challengers for the entire race, claimed a well-earned 2nd place, followed by Inostroza, Carrazza and Haywood. The frustration experienced by many of the drivers in Race 1 ensured that the next contest would be ripe with daring moves and nonstop action.

Rank Driver Time
1 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR 10:47.234
2 Andrew Brooks PX7-Deafsun +03.555
3 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot +03.613
4 Adriano Carrazza KoA_Didico15 +04.590
5 Randall Haywood TX3_Originals +05.050
6 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI +05.130
7 Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17 +05.477
8 Tristan Bayless roadbeef +06.726
9 Fabián Portilla PerrolocoMcQ +08.002
10 Kevan Pounder PX7-Windfire +09.374
11 Daniel Solis Px7-Lamb +11.203
12 Juan Hernandez JUNCOS_Kangreti +11.518
13 Robert Heck VSR_Robert +12.532
14 Bernal Valverde Infinity_BernalV +12.535
15 Nick McMillen GumballCGT +13.402
16 Mark Pinnell Turismo-lester +13.501

Race 2

The venue for Race 2 was WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Northern California, with the drivers strapped into Group B rally cars. Another 10-minute qualifying session decided the grid. Lucas Bonelli of Brazil drove angry, attacking the circuit and claiming pole position. And, like last time, the players would run on hard-compound tyres for all ten laps, meaning there would be no pit stops.

It was evident after the rolling start that this race was going to be different than the last one. On the opening lap, Adriano Carrazza (Brazil) made a daring move to the inside of Canadian Andrew Brooks’ Peugeot RCZ rally car through the Turn 2 hairpin, overtaking him for 3rd place. By Lap 2, the top five drivers had opened up a 1.6-second lead over the rest of the field. As the cars began Lap 3, there were more passing attempts as Brooks reclaimed P3 through the same hairpin where he was previously overtaken. Nicolás Rubilar also tried to get through, but had the door slammed on him by Carrazza. With the cars reaching 200 km/h on the back straight right before the famous Corkscrew, race leaders Bonelli, in a Honda NSX rally car, and Angel Inostroza of Chile, driving a Peugeot RCZ rally machine, had extended their lead to more than a second and a half over the rest of the field.

At the halfway point of the race, Bonelli, Inostroza, Brooks, Carrazza, and Nicolás Rubilar (Chile) occupied the top five positions.

On Lap 6, Rubilar tried to squeeze past Carrazza through the Corkscrew for 3rd place, when the USA’s Randall Haywood came from nowhere and slid past Rubilar’s Subaru WRX to take 5th place. But Rubilar showed everyone why he was a perennial front-runner as he reclaimed the position through the next corner. While the top three cars had built up nearly a 4.0-second cushion, only 1.5 seconds separated P5 to P9, meaning much of the action was happening mid-pack.

For the next few laps, Inostroza kept within striking distance of Bonelli’s NSX, not letting him build up more than half-second lead throughout the racetrack. Then on Lap 8, the defining moment of the race occurred. Inostroza was a bit too aggressive as he drove right up to the rear bumper of Bonelli’s NSX, hitting it and sending the Brazilian off the track. The incident allowed Brooks to slip past both cars to claim the lead. It was the ideal situation for the Canadian who had sat patiently in 3rd place waiting for the two race leaders to almost take each other out.

Inostroza was served with a two-second penalty for the Turn 6 incident. Fortunately for this Chilean, it didn’t result in a sacrifice in position. Meanwhile his countryman, Rubilar, was having all kinds of trouble, as he got tangled up in traffic and was being bumped by other vehicles, dropping him to an unceremonious 9th place.

When the chequered flag waved, it was Andrew Brooks who drove past it first, earning him 12 points for the race, with a total of 22 heading into the Grand Final. Of particular note was the USA’s Daniel Solis, piloting a Toyota 86 Gr.B, who quietly worked his way from 8th place to finish 5th.

Rank Driver Time
1 Andrew Brooks PX7-Deafsun 14:23.830
2 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot +02.321
3 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI +03.990
4 Adriano Carrazza KoA_Didico15 +06.744
5 Daniel Solis Px7-Lamb +07.354
6 Randall Haywood TX3_Originals +08.411
7 Kevan Pounder PX7-Windfire +08.704
8 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR +09.069
9 Juan Hernandez JUNCOS_Kangreti +09.236
10 Nick McMillen GumballCGT +11.891
11 Robert Heck VSR_Robert +15.317
12 Bernal Valverde Infinity_BernalV +15.542
13 Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17 +15.780
14 Tristan Bayless roadbeef +17.739
15 Fabián Portilla PerrolocoMcQ +17.834
16 Mark Pinnell Turismo-lester +21.001

Grand Final

While Canada’s Andrew Brooks seemed to be in the proverbial driver’s seat heading into the final round, it was still anybody’s championship to claim because the Grand Final, a 25-lap contest around Sardegna - Road Track A, awarded double points, meaning that a driver who failed to score in the first two races could still win it all. And with the players required to run at least one lap each with the soft-, medium-, and hard-compound tyres, the championship could all come down to who adopted the best pit strategy, as was the case in the previous week’s Europe/Middle East/Africa contest.

Things became interesting before the race had even started as 2018 champion Igor Fraga (Brazil), who scored only four total points in the first two races, put himself 4th on the starting grid. Could he pull a rabbit out of his hat and make the biggest comeback in FIA GT Championship history? With the intrigue building, it was his countryman, Adriano Carrazza, who proved fastest in qualifying, taking pole position ahead of Angel Inostroza (Chile) and Brooks. The top three started the race on the soft tyres, while Fraga opted for the mediums.

As soon as the race started, Fraga was immediately under pressure, as Juan Hernandez of Guatemala and Chile’s Nicolás Rubilar, both on soft-compound rubber, looked to get past him. At the final corner on the first lap, Brooks committed a driving error, allowing Fraga to get past, giving the Brazilian 3rd place. On Lap 2, Brooks, intent on reclaiming P3, took an aggressive line and tapped Fraga through Turn 4, sending the Brazilian off the track. This incident dropped Fraga to P5. However, a few corners later, under pressure from Bonelli and Rubilar, Fraga went off course again, ultimately dropping him to a dismal 10th place. Then disaster struck the other Brazilian, Bonelli, who spun and went into the wall before the final corner of Lap 2, dropping him to 11th, one spot ahead of Fraga who had since fallen to 12th place.

Lap 3 saw Hernandez overtake Brooks for P3, as Carrazza—the only Brazilian to stay out of trouble—opened up a 1.4-second lead. On the next lap, Brooks, drafting Hernandez on the back straight, reclaimed 3rd place. Meanwhile Rubilar, who still had a great chance of winning the championship, worked his way up from 7th to 5th place. With so much riding on this race, every driver was putting it all on the line, taking daring risks and squeezing every bit of performance from their respective cars. The action throughout the field was constant and at times mesmerizing.

The first pit stop happened on Lap 7, when the cars running mid-pack came in, switching tyres and taking on fuel. A few of the top drivers pitted a lap later, including Hernandez and Inostroza, the latter taking on the hard-compound Michelins, only to change them out to softs the following lap. On Lap 9, the race leaders, Carrazza and Brooks, pitted, both opting to put on the soft-compound tyres again, and returning to the track in P1 and P2.
At the halfway point of the race, Carrazza led Brooks by 2.0 seconds, followed by Hernandez and the USA trio of Robert Heck, Tristan Bayless, and Nick McMillen, the latter a former GT Academy winner. If this running order held to the finish, Brooks would win the championship, beating out Carrazza, but there was still plenty of racing left.

By Lap 12, Fraga, showing the heart of a past champion, worked his way up the field to 7th place on soft-compound tyres, but it was still his countryman, Carrazza, who was setting the pace, building his lead over Brooks to 1.3 seconds. With the Red Bull race cars reaching 300-plus km/h on the straights, a battle began brewing for P4, P5 and P6 as Fraga, Heck and Rubilar went hard at each other, bumping into one another at 250 km/h through the final three corners of the track. The action was intense, and you can be sure that there were plenty of colourful terms uttered in three different languages as they fought for position.

Lap 15 saw Carrazza and Brooks pit, with the Brazilian opting to for the hard-compound tyres, which he would change the next lap to complete his required stint on the mediums. Brooks went with the mediums and took on a full load of fuel, but he still needed to fulfil his one-lap stint on the hard-compound tyres.

When everyone came back out to the track, Carrazza was in P6 while Brooks ran in 3rd place, behind Inostroza and Hernandez, both of whom pitted a lap later, handing the lead to Brooks on Lap 18. At this point, Brooks led Carrazza by 5.0 seconds, but he still needed to come into the pits to run his required lap on the hard-compound tyres, which meant that all Carrazza had to do was stay out of trouble and keep his pace to win the race.

On the final lap, Brooks dove into the pits, and he needed to come back out in 2nd place to claim the regional championship, but Inostroza had already sped by, putting the Canadian into 3rd place. All the while, Carrazza claimed the overall lead, which he took to the finish line. With the victory, the Brazilian won the championship and earned his place, and eight valuable points, in the World Finals.

Inostroza who came in 2nd also qualified, along with 3rd-place Brooks and 4th-place Bonelli. What was remarkable was that the top three qualifiers had tied in total points with 38, Carrazza winning the title based on his higher position in the Grand Final.

Rank Driver Time
1 Adriano Carrazza KoA_Didico15 36:09.532
2 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot +01.562
3 Andrew Brooks PX7-Deafsun +04.231
4 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI +09.004
5 Juan Hernandez JUNCOS_Kangreti +09.009
6 Robert Heck VSR_Robert +11.441
7 Randall Haywood TX3_Originals +14.152
8 Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17 +15.258
9 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR +17.979
10 Kevan Pounder PX7-Windfire +20.053
11 Bernal Valverde Infinity_BernalV +21.129
12 Fabián Portilla PerrolocoMcQ +22.760
13 Mark Pinnell Turismo-lester +30.234
14 Tristan Bayless roadbeef +31.016
15 Nick McMillen GumballCGT +39.499
16 Daniel Solis Px7-Lamb - - -

In the post-race interview, Adriano Carrazza had yet to realize that he was crowned the new Americas champion until the interviewer, Julia Hardy, told him.

“What, I’m the America’s champion? Yes! Well, I am very happy with my performance, especially in the last race. I had a good qualifying and, for the race itself, I just wanted to keep a good pace. I think my pit strategy was sound and everything worked out well for me,” he said.

2020 Series Nations Cup - Regional Finals (Americas) Results

Rank Driver Race 1 Race 2 Grand Final Total Points
1 Adriano Carrazza KoA_Didico15 7 7 24 38
1 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot 8 10 20 38
1 Andrew Brooks PX7-Deafsun 10 12 16 38
4 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI 5 8 14 27
5 Randall Haywood TX3_Originals 6 5 8 19
5 Nicolás Rubilar FT_NicoR 12 3 4 19
7 Juan Hernandez JUNCOS_Kangreti 0 2 12 14
8 Robert Heck VSR_Robert 0 0 10 10
8 Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17 4 0 6 10
10 Kevan Pounder PX7-Windfire 1 4 2 7
11 Daniel Solis Px7-Lamb 0 6 0 6
12 Tristan Bayless roadbeef 3 0 0 3
13 Fabián Portilla PerrolocoMcQ 2 0 0 2
14 Nick McMillen GumballCGT 0 1 0 1
15 Bernal Valverde Infinity_BernalV 0 0 0 0
15 Mark Pinnell Turismo-lester 0 0 0 0
FIA GT Championships 2020 | Nations Cup | Regional Finals | Americas Region
Extremely close battles boiled down to the very last lap of ...

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