Bold Race Strategy in Inclement Weather Decided This Year’s Winner
Gran Turismo World Series 2022 Manufacturers Cup - World Finals
The eagerly-anticipated Manufacturers Cup of the Gran Turismo World Series 2022 was held today to decide this year’s champion. In attendance at the sports complex at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel—the site of the World Finals—were 36 drivers from around the world battling for 12 different manufacturer teams. With three drivers on every team—each one hailing from a different region—and the races requiring that all three drivers take the steering wheel for at least one lap, teamwork proved to be the name of the game in this year’s final.
The Manufacturers Cup World Finals consisted of two races, with double points up for grabs in the Grand Final, so nearly every team still had a mathematical chance of winning. Toyota and Subaru were tied for the championship lead going into the day (10 points apiece), while Mercedes-AMG occupied 3rd place and Mazda in 4th, with seven and five points, respectively.
Race 1: Deep Forest Raceway Reverse
The opening race of the day was a 20-lap affair at the popular Deep Forest Raceway, but the event organizers threw everyone a curveball by having them run the track in reverse. All three compound tires—hard, medium, and soft—were required for use, as well as two driver changes; therefore, at the very least, two pitstops were required.
On pole for Race 1 was Team Porsche, who had yet to score a point all Series, but armed with three incredibly talented drivers. Sharing the front row with the 911 RSR’s lead driver, José Serrano (TDG_JOSETE), was Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) in the Toyota GR Racing Supra Concept. In the next row was the Genesis X GR3 piloted by Nicolás Romero (ERM_NicoRD) and the Beetle Gr.3 of Team Volkswagen driven by Thomas Labouteley (Aphel-ion). The entire grid opted to start the race with the medium- and hard-compound tires, opting to save their softs for the middle or end of the race.
After a clean rolling start, the action began after the Turn 1 sweeper as the cars vied for position through the tight hairpin. Genesis went off the track after being punted by the Mercedes-AMG of Lucas Bonelli (TGT_BONELLI), dropping the Korean car maker down to 8th place while Bonelli went on to overtake the Subaru to claim P4. While Porsche and Toyota opened up a small gap between themselves and the field, the battle for 3rd place intensified between Volkswagen, Mercedes-AMG and Subaru. Bonelli did win the position on lap 2, but it was only temporary as he was assessed a 2.0-second penalty for the scrap during the first lap with Genesis, which cost him two positions.
It was evident that this track didn’t suit some of the race cars, including the Subaru, which had a hard time keeping up with the other more powerful machines on the straights. Throwing the hammer down on the last two laps was Genesis, which overtook two cars and eyed the 5th-place Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Bonelli for some payback. Making the biggest move so far was the Nissan GT-R NISMO driven by Hiroshi Okumoto (HIROGRAND_1009), which ran in 7th place after starting in 11th.
The first tire and driver changes came on lap 6 when most of the teams made their pitstops. The race strategies took varying shapes when Porsche, Volkswagen and Subaru went for the quicker soft-compound tires, while Toyota and Mercedes-AMG went for the longer-lasting mediums. The difference in strategies began to materialize when the Volkswagen, now piloted by Seiya Suzuki (V1_CRV-KRT86), overtook Igor Fraga (IOF_RACING17) in the Supra at the end of the back straight, and the Subaru driven by Kylian Drumont (PRiMA_Kylian19) bumped the Supra out of the way two corners later. Meanwhile Angel Inostroza (YASHEAT_Loyrot) in the Porsche had opened up his lead to 4.0 seconds.
There were battles being fought at the bottom of the running order too, as Ethan Lim (VQS_Ethan) driving the McLaren 650 S GT3 punted the Nissan GT-R of Mateo Estevez (VQS_Hyperz) off the track to take 7th place. However, after being assessed a penalty, he gave that position right back. Then, disaster struck Team Mazda when they experienced technical difficulties that heartbreakingly resulted in a DNF.
With eight laps to go, Toyota and Mercedes-AMG made their final pitstops to switch to the quick soft-compound Michelins for an all-out run to the finish. Race leaders Porsche, Volkswagen, and Subaru made their pitstops on lap 14, hoping their medium-compound tires would fend off the field on the quicker Michelins.
Takuma Sasaki (LG-TakuAn_) in the 911 returned to the track with nearly a 6.0-second lead with only five laps to go, which meant that barring any miscues, he was in position to bring Porsche its first victory of the season. Daniel Solis (PRiMA_Lamb) in the Subaru wasn’t so lucky, as the Toyota Supra, with Nikita Moysov (ERM_Nick) at the wheel, overtook him and claimed P3. Mercedes-AMG also passed the Subaru a lap later.
For the last three laps, Toyota stalked the Volkswagen driven by Roberto Sternberg (Energy_Amarok_23), looking to get past at the first opportunity. On lap 18, Toyota overtook the Beetle, followed by Mercedes-AMG a lap later, knocking VW off of the podium.
In the end, Porsche crossed the finish first line all alone, taking the victory and the 12 points that accompanied it, moving the team from last to 4th place in the championship. Toyota extended its Series lead, claiming 10 points for its 2nd place finish, while Mercedes-AMG remained in 3rd place.
Team Porsche driver Angel Inostroza said after the race: “I feel absolutely wonderful after that race. I was a little worried at the beginning when Toyota was behind us because the Supra has great top speed. José and Takuma, our 18-year-old driver, were amazing. We all did an awesome job.”
|Rank||Manufacturer / Drivers||Time|
|1||Porsche Angel Inostroza / José Serrano / Takuma Sasaki||29:06.106|
|2||Toyota Nikita Moysov / Ryota Kokubun / Igor Fraga||+ 03.608|
|3||Mercedes-AMG Lucas Bonelli / Baptiste Beauvois / Syunsuke Tsuboi||+ 15.219|
|4||Volkswagen Seiya Suzuki / Roberto Sternberg / Thomas Labouteley||+ 15.500|
|5||Subaru Kylian Drumont / Daniel Solis / Takuma Miyazono||+ 22.828|
|6||Genesis Yuito Sasaki / Nicolas Romero / Dean Heldt||+ 24.754|
|7||Honda Valerio Gallo / João Pessôa / Matthew McEwen||+ 36.502|
|8||Lexus Quinten Jehoul / Donovan Parker / Kanata Kawakami||+ 37.106|
|9||McLaren Konstantinos Konstantinou / Hayato Imazato / Ethan Lim||+ 45.330|
|10||BMW José Brea / Yuki Kodaka / Randall Haywood||+ 48.513|
|11||Nissan Mateo Estevez / Mehdi Hafidi / Hiroshi Okumoto||+1:06.052|
|12||Mazda Soki Nabetani / Giorgio Mangano / Andrew Brooks||DNF|
Grand Final: Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
The final race of the Series would prove to be a test of attrition. The forecast called for rain for the 30-lap marathon around the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, so the teams were required to readjust their strategies accordingly. Claiming pole position was the Porsche 911 RSR for its win in the previous race, piloted by Takuma Sasaki, followed by the Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept with Igor Fraga behind the wheel in the No. 2 spot. The second row was occupied by Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Lucas Bonelli, lined up next to the Volkswagen Beetle Gr.3 of Seiya Suzuki.
The lights went green under a light sprinkle, which prompted Team Toyota to start on rain tires. This meant that the team members were anticipating a heavy downpour in the opening laps of the race. The other cars didn’t agree, as they played it more conservatively, going with the medium-compound tires.
Toyota’s plan seemed to backfire as early as lap 2, as the heavy rain didn’t come, and Fraga found his Supra losing pace against the others. By this time, the Porsche 911 RSR had opened up a 2.0-second lead on the Supra while the Mercedes-AMG remained glued to its rear bumper. The AMG GT3 got by the Supra on lap 3, while Daniel Solis slotted his Subaru BRZ, which started in the No. 5 spot, right behind the Supra in 4th place. The American driver then made a bold move through Les Combes (Turns 7, 8, and 9) to overtake the Toyota putting the BRZ in 3rd place.
On lap 7, Fraga dove into the pits to swap his wet tires for the hard-compound Michelins. Although his team’s initial strategy was questionable, the Brazilian did a commendable job of keeping Toyota in contention. It was now Nikita Moysov’s turn to gain on the field. The next lap saw several teams come in for their required driver changes, as they all went for the hard-compound tires as well. Lap 9 saw the race leaders—Porsche, Mercedes-AMG, and Subaru—make their first pitstops and also treated us to what may arguably be the most spectacular spin in the history of the series. Andrew Brooks, attempting to get by the Volkswagen Beetle driven by Thomas Labouteley, lost control of his Mazda RX-Vision on the slippery track and spun wildly, going around six and half times (that’s 2,340 degrees!) before hitting the tire barrier. In the process, he took out the Beetle too, forcing it to go into a spin and slam against the barrier.
Under clear skies, Team Toyota was making quick amends for its strategic error, keeping a fast consistent pace that resulted in the Supra moving up to 2nd place through the Kemmel Straight on lap 11. With two-thirds of the race remaining, it ran about 6.5 seconds behind the Porsche 911 RSR, driven by Angel Inostroza.
Then, the unthinkable happened when Inostroza made a very rare driving error. He took his 911 over the slippery curbing that sent his car into a spin and onto the gravel, dropping him from the race lead to 4th place in the snap of a finger. Taking full advantage of this mishap was Toyota, which took the overall race lead, followed by the Genesis X with Yuito Sasaki (TRUST-T78-33D) behind the wheel. At the halfway point of the race, the running order was Toyota, Genesis, Nissan, Porsche, Mercedes-AMG, and Subaru.
Lap 17 saw the skies darken again. While the leaders switched to the medium-compound tires at the end of lap 19, expecting about the same amount of moisture as they saw at the start of the race, Mercedes-AMG, Subaru, and Volkswagen forecasted a heavier downpour because they all went with the wet tires.
As the rain came down harder, Kylian Drumont in the Subaru passed Baptiste Beauvois in the Mercedes-AMG, taking over 5th place on lap 21. As the downpour intensified, the two cars began trimming the gap of the lead cars, leaving a white spray of water in their wake. Their cars were about three seconds a lap quicker than their opponents who ran on the medium-compound tires; therefore, it was only a matter of time until the BRZ and AMG GT3 caught the leaders if the rain continued.
And it did. The Subaru moved into P3 on lap 24, with only the Toyota Supra and Genesis X in front of it by a mere 3.5 seconds. Realizing that it was a sitting duck, Toyota decided to roll the dice and place fate in its own hands. It made its third pitstop of the race, sacrificing the 25-or-so-second procedure to swap for the rain tires! Fraga jumped back into the driver’s seat and returned to the track in 6th place. He had five laps left to work his way back into contention. If anyone could do it, it was the 2018 Nations Cup champion.
Beauvois forced his Mercedes-AMG into the lead on lap 25 through Turn 10, getting by both Subaru and Genesis, but lost control on the entry into Turn 11, ending up in the gravel. This knocked the AMG GT3 out of contention, handing the overall lead to Drumont and the Subaru BRZ.
The next few laps saw a ferocious charge by Fraga in the Toyota Supra, as he quickly worked his way back up the field, moving into 2nd place after overtaking José Serrano in the Porsche 911 RSR on lap 27. It was now a winner-take-all scenario between Subaru and Toyota: Whoever won the race won the series championship.
Unfortunately for Fraga, he couldn’t get his Toyota closer than 1.5 seconds to the Subaru, as Drumont took the checkered flag and handed Subaru the 2022 Manufacturers Cup championship. Although both teams were tied with 20 points apiece, Subaru claimed the championship because of its Grand Final victory. It was the second championship for Subaru in three years.
The following were the comments from the members of Team Subaru after the race.
Kylian Drumont: “The weather was out of control, but that’s the way of life. When the rain began coming back, I wanted to go with the full wet tires because I thought it would be a good strategy, and it ended up being so.”
Takuma Miyazono: “I spun during my stint and lost about 10 seconds, so I couldn’t really do anything good, but I was saved by Kylian and Daniel, and in the end, we produced this result. I really feel that it was because of them.”
Daniel Solis: “This time being a champion on stage instead of not being on stage when we won in 2020 is unbelievable. It felt a little hollow back then, but to now be here is just amazing!”
Gran Turismo World Series 2022 Manufacturers Cup - World Finals
|Rank||Manufacturer / Drivers||Time|
|1||Subaru Kylian Drumont / Daniel Solis / Takuma Miyazono||1:15:00.641|
|2||Toyota Nikita Moysov / Ryota Kokubun / Igor Fraga||+ 02.596|
|3||Mercedes-AMG Lucas Bonelli / Baptiste Beauvois / Syunsuke Tsuboi||+ 03.817|
|4||Porsche Angel Inostroza / José Serrano / Takuma Sasaki||+ 04.805|
|5||Genesis Yuito Sasaki / Nicolas Romero / Dean Heldt||+ 26.645|
|6||Volkswagen Seiya Suzuki / Roberto Sternberg / Thomas Labouteley||+ 30.262|
|7||Mazda Soki Nabetani / Giorgio Mangano / Andrew Brooks||+ 32.445|
|8||Honda Valerio Gallo / João Pessôa / Matthew McEwen||+ 33.950|
|9||Lexus Quinten Jehoul / Donovan Parker / Kanata Kawakami||+ 34.162|
|10||McLaren Konstantinos Konstantinou / Hayato Imazato / Ethan Lim||+ 34.538|
|11||Nissan Mateo Estevez / Mehdi Hafidi / Hiroshi Okumoto||+ 39.084|
|12||BMW José Brea / Yuki Kodaka / Randall Haywood||DNF|