Race Report

The Best of the Best Gather to Earn Their Access to the Grand Final

Gran Turismo World Series 2022 Nations Cup - World Finals

The Gran Turismo World Series 2022 entered its final chapter with the Regional Finals of the Nations Cup, where 30 of the fastest Gran Turismo drivers from 14 different countries arrived in the sports complex at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel for the first live World Finals event in three years. The starting grid of the Grand Final of the Nations Cup, scheduled for Sunday evening, was decided today by three Regional Final races, plus a Repechage, where the contestants were divided into three groups of ten according to their respective regions: Asia-Oceania, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and the Americas. The top three finishers in each race advanced to Sunday’s Grand Final, while those who placed from 4th to 7th place went to the Repechage, where the top three finishers there punched their ticket to the Grand Final.

Going into the day, Brazil’s Igor Fraga sat atop of the championship board with seven points, followed by Frenchman Kylian Drumont with six. But that had the chance of changing dramatically as more points were awarded in Regional Finals than the previous rounds, and the Grand Final awarded even more; therefore, every racer in the field still had a mathematical chance of taking the title, which made each regional race filled intensity and non-stop action.

Asia-Oceania Regional Final: Watkins Glen Long Course

The first contest of the day decided who from the Asia-Oceania Region advanced to the Grand Final. In the Qualifying Session, it was clear that the Japanese drivers were on a mission, taking the top five grid positions for the 17-lap contest around Watkins Glen. The 2020 Nations Cup champion Takuma Miyazono of Japan (Kerokkuma_ej20) sat on pole in the Ferrari 330 P4 (1967 model.) Sharing the front row with him was Seiya Suzuki (V1_CRV-KRT86), while Tomoaki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) and Kanata Kawakami (SG_Kawakana) occupied the second row. Two Australians—including the only female driver in the field, Emily Jones (emreeree)—a duo of New Zealanders and one driver from Hong Kong filled the remaining spots.

Every driver was required to run at least one lap on both soft- and medium-compound tires, so pitstop and tire strategy were both in play. It came as no surprise that the four top drivers on the grid opted to start on the faster soft-compound Michelins, hoping to pull away early and build an insurmountable lead.
The rolling start produced a clean start for the leaders, as Miyazono led a quartet of his compatriots through the first turns of the race. Australian Guy Barbara (Dstinct_Twitchy) received a first-hand taste of how tricky these older race cars were when the rear end of his Ferrari swung out, causing him to spin and hit the guardrail through the first corner.

As expected, the top four cars on the soft-compound tires began pulling away, building a 2.0-second lead by the middle of lap 4. Meanwhile, Jones was taking it to the Kiwis, first overtaking Simon Bishop (sidawg2) and then passing Matt McEwen (AE_McEwen) a lap later to claim P6.

Lap 6 saw the first major move among the Japanese drivers when Yamanaka overtook Suzuki going into Turn 1. The first pitstops came on lap 8 when Yamanaka, Suzuki and Kawakami swapped their soft-compound tires for the mediums, while Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi), took on the softs. Race leader Miyazono chose to come in the following lap and returned to the track back in 1st place with a 2.2-second cushion.

At the start of lap 11, Kokubun, the only one on soft-compound tires among the leaders, passed Kawakami to claim P4 and began cutting into the 5.0-second lead of 3rd-place Suzuki. On lap 15, Kokubun passed him on the first corner, but this duel was far from over. The last three laps of the race saw Kokubun and Suzuki go at each other with abandon, hoping to secure the automatic pass to the Grand Final. They challenged each another at every opportunity, exchanging positions on numerous occasions, and swapping paint more than a few times. This was racing in its purest and most exciting form.

The two-man duel was decided on the final three corners of the race, when Kokubun took the inside line on Turn 7, called the “Toe,” and nudged ahead of his countryman, securing his ticket to the Grand Final. The race winner, Takuma Miyazono also advanced, as well as 2nd-place finisher Tomoaki Yamanaka.

Miyazono said after his win: “Yesterday, I was a mess [in the Toyota GR GT Cup], so I’m relieved that I was able to win today. I was not calm at all during the race, and I was worried that I would make a mistake at some point. I’m hoping to take the momentum from this win into the Grand Final.”

Rank Driver Time
1 Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20 29:51.845
2 Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38 +01.478
3 Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi +05.116
4 Seiya Suzuki V1_CRV-KRT86 +05.666
5 Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana +10.169
6 Matthew McEwen AE_McEwen +10.408
7 Emily Jones emreeree +12.498
8 Simon Bishop sidawg2 +15.886
9 Guy Barbara Dstinct_Twitchy +20.756
10 Jonathan Wong saika159- +23.748

Europe/Middle East/Africa Regional Final: Autodromo Nazionale Monza

For the Europe/Middle East/Africa Region, the venue for the race was the legendary Autodromo Nazionale Monza, a treacherous high-speed circuit located in Northern Italy. The race car for this event was also Italian, namely the Lamborghini V12 Vision Gran Turismo. As with the other races, the drivers were required to use both soft- and medium-compound tires for at least once in the 18-lap contest. In a bit of a surprise, Thomas Labouteley of France (Aphel-ion) grabbed pole position, with fan-favorite Spanish driver, Coque López (coquelopez14), lined up next to him in P2. Last year’s Nations Cup champion, Valerio Gallo of Italy (Williams_BRacer) and newcomer Saruthan Seelan of the UK (VQS_Coyote7) occupied the second row.

One of the heavy favorites, José Serrano of Spain (TDG_JOSETE), started at the bottom of the grid in P10.
The top three cars on the grid started on the soft-compound tires, while the rest of the field began on the mediums. The action commenced as soon as the green lights flashed, with Gallo charging hard though the Turns 1-2 kink, dubbed Variante Rettifilo, and overtaking Labouteley on the sweeping Curva Grande (Turn 3) to take the race lead. López was also charging hard, following Gallo to get past Labouteley. Further back in the field, rookie sensation Kylian Drumont of France (PRiMA_Kylian19) was punted off the track by Seelan through the Curva di Lesmo, dropping the Frenchman from 4th to 9th place. Meanwhile, Serrano was picking off one car after another and moved up four spots in the first lap.

With the special GT Vision machines reaching 350 km/h (217 mph) on the front straights, the running order after one lap was Gallo, López, Labouteley, and Nikita Moysov of the Czech Republic (ERM_Nick). Through Turn 1, López seemed to make a mistake, braking way too late for the corner, but he gathered it up nicely and found that he had passed Gallo in the process to claim the overall lead.

Lap 6 saw López, Gallo, and Labouteley extend their lead to about 7.0-seconds over the others, but those running mid pack were keeping well within striking distance because they still had their stint on the soft-compound Michelins. The first pitstops came on lap 7, when the French duo of Drumont and France’s Baptiste Beauvois (R8G_TSUTSU) traded their medium-compound tire for the softs. More cars came in the following lap, including 3rd-place Labouteley, but the two leaders remained on track.

When López and Gallo finally did come in on lap 9, they were far enough ahead to return to the track still with a 2.5-second lead, which they extended as the race progressed. The next several laps saw a fierce battle for 3rd place among the three French drivers, Labouteley, Drumont, and Beauvois. Beauvois lost control of his car temporarily on lap 13 and was assessed a 0.5-second penalty for leaving the track, which allowed Serrano to overtake him. This apparently angered Beauvois because not long after, he recklessly passed Serrano, Drumont, and Labouteley all at once through Curva Parabolica on the front straight at the end of lap 14, claiming 3rd place.

The running order remained largely unchanged for the rest of the race with Coque López taking a comfortable win, and Valerio Gallo crossing the finish line all alone in 2nd place. Beauvois took away a hard-earned P3 and a spot in the Grand Final.

López said after the race: “After the bad results to the beginning of the season, it’s so nice and enjoyable to be here and have the pace and be fighting to be the best, which is what I always expected. There’s really nothing else to say except I’m happy because everything today went as expected.”

Rank Driver Time
1 Coque López coquelopez14 28:11.378
2 Valerio Gallo Williams_BRacer +01.482
3 Baptiste Beauvois R8G_TSUTSU +06.352
4 Jose Serrano TDG_JOSETE +07.687
5 Thomas Labouteley Aphel-ion +09.136
6 Kylian Drumont PRiMA_Kylian19 +10.569
7 Nikita Moysov ERM_Nick +14.712
8 Giorgio Mangano Williams_Gio +19.929
9 Nicolas Romero ERM_NicoRD +29.762
10 Saruthan Seelan VQS_Coyote7 +44.923

Americas Regional Final: Autódromo de Interlagos

The last Regional Final of the day was a battle of the Americas, in which Brazil, Chile, and the U.S.A. fielded a strong lineup. Among the drivers in this group was 2018 Nations Cup champion Igor Fraga of Brazil (IOF_RACING17), who happened to win the previous day’s TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GT Cup. Although he was the favorite to win—he was also the Nations Cup series points leader—there were plenty of others who could spoil his day, especially his own countrymen, Lucas Bonelli (TGT_BONELLI), Adriano Carrazza (Didico__15) and Arthur Mosso (GRID_ART55MN). They all enjoyed homefield advantage for this round because the venue for this race was the Autódromo de Interlagos located in São Paulo, Brazil.

The players were strapped inside identical McLaren MP4/4 Formula 1 cars, one of the most successful F1 machines ever, making this race an homage to the great Brazilian race driver Ayrton Senna who drove this car to claim the world championship in 1988. As in the previous contests, the drivers were required to use both medium- and soft-compound tires at least once for this 22-lap race, so pitstop strategy was in full play.

Putting a wrench in the Brazilians plans early was Chilean Angel Inostroza (YASHEAT_Loyrot), who out-qualified everyone to take pole position. Bonelli sat in the No. 2 spot. The second row consisted of Carrazza and Fabian Portilla from Chile (Mobil_PerroLoco), while series leader Fraga started from the No. 5 position.

The standing start provided plenty of drama, as it created a mad rush of all ten cars diving into the first corner nearly simultaneously. Race leader Inostroza got through cleanly, but Carrazza became tangled up in traffic and dropped to 6th place. Portilla and Fraga moved up to 3rd and 4th, respectively, but Portilla was assessed a penalty for bumping, ultimately putting him out of contention.

It was evident that Inostroza was focused like no other, for he opened up a 4.0-second lead on 2nd-place Bonelli by lap 4. Fraga ran behind his countryman in 3rd, while American newcomer Dean Heldt (PRiMA_Deano) occupied P4. On lap 6, Fraga showed his skills by overtaking Bonelli in spectacular fashion through Descida do Lago (Turn 4 and 5) to move into 2nd place.

Inostroza was among the first to pit, coming in at the end of lap 10, changing his soft-compound tires for the mediums. He was joined by Carrazza and Heldt. Bonelli came in the following lap, while Fraga and Mosso made their pitstop on lap 12. When they returned to the track, every driver had pitted, and the running order was Inostroza, Fraga, and Bonelli.

Meanwhile, Carrazza and Mosso, who were on the soft-compound tires, slowly made their way up the leaderboard, taking over P4 and P5 by lap 17. Two laps later, newcomer Mosso made a move on the veteran Carrazza on the back straight to move into P4.

The last laps of the race saw little change in the running order, with Angel Inostroza making a huge statement with his impressive win. With his 2nd-place finish, Igor Fraga remained in the championship lead, but he knew full well that he would need to bring his A-game in the Grand Final if he wanted to become the first driver to repeat as Nations Cup champion. The last automatic bid to the Grand Final was taken by Bonelli.

Inostroza said post-race: “I was not comfortable at all on the medium-compound tires, so I made some mistakes on the track. This car had a lot of turbo lag, so I was drifting a bit through the corners, but in the end, I managed to take the win, so obviously, I’m happy. It was my first win in a live event in the Nations Cup.”

Rank Driver Time
1 Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot 29:23.600
2 Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17 +00.824
3 Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI +10.308
4 Arthur Mosso GRID_ART55MN +15.039
5 Adriano Carrazza Didico__15 +17.020
6 Dean Heldt PRiMA_Deano +20.349
7 Martin Marza TENTFS_Papo2514 +24.899
8 Robert Heck Robby--Heck +36.540
9 Mark Pinnell Turismo-lester +39.771
10 Fabián Portilla Mobil_PerroLoco +50.671

Repechage: Willow Springs International Raceway: Big Willow

The 12 drivers here were granted a second chance to get to the big dance on Sunday after failing to place in the top three in the Regional Finals. And if they failed to finish in the top three here, their quest for the 2022 Nations Cup championship would come to an end. The venue for this 18-lap sprint was the very fast Southern California track, Willow Springs International Raceway, where the drivers piloted the Suzuki V6 Escudo Pikes Peak Special painted in their respective country’s colors. Incidentally, this was the same car and track that every Nations Cup driver used for qualifying. No pitstops were required, but they would be necessary because the soft-compound tires lacked the wear to last the entire race.

After the first lap, Seiya Suzuki of Japan (V1_CRV-KRT86) took a slight lead on Brazil’s Arthur Mosso (GRID_ART55MN) and José Serrano of Spain (TDG_JOSETE), but the running order was destined to change because only one second separated the top three cars. Another pack of cars that included Japan’s Kanata Kawakami (SG_Kawakana), Thomas Labouteley of France (Aphel-ion), Adriano Carrazza of Brazil (Didico__15), New Zealander Matt McEwen (AE_McEwen) and Kylian Drumont of France (PRiMA_Kylian19) ran about 1.5 seconds behind the leaders.

The next several laps saw a fierce battle for 3rd place. As Suzuki and Serrano pulled away, Kawakami, Carrazza, and Mosso put it all on the line for the vital P3 position. The duel came to a temporary end when Kawakami pitted on lap 8 to replace his soft-compound tires. Then, race leader Suzuki also made a pitstop, followed by Serrano a lap later. When he returned to the track, just past the halfway point of the race, every driver on the grid had made a stop and the driving order was: Suzuki, Serrano, Kawakami, Carrazza.

The last two laps of the race saw Carrazza go hard after Kawakami, looking to lock himself in 3rd place. He finally got past the Japanese through the Turn 2 sweeper, as did Argentinian driver Martin Marza (TENTFS_Papo2514). On the final lap, José Serrano did everything he could to overtake Seiya Suzuki, but the Japanese successfully held off the Spaniard’s charge and took the win. Adriano Carrazza’s daring pass in the closing moments of the race earned him a 3rd-place finish and the final spot on the World Finals grid.

Suzuki said after the race, “I felt a ton of pressure coming into this event. Without forgetting to show respect for the other competitors, I wanted to perform well. My goal was to make it to the Grand Final, so I am very happy now.”

Rank Driver Time
1 Seiya Suzuki V1_CRV-KRT86 18:55.320
2 Jose Serrano TDG_JOSETE +00.355
3 Adriano Carrazza Didico__15 +02.335
4 Martin Marza TENTFS_Papo2514 +03.250
5 Kanata Kawakami SG_Kawakana +05.103
6 Thomas Labouteley Aphel-ion +05.261
7 Matthew McEwen AE_McEwen +07.776
8 Kylian Drumont PRiMA_Kylian19 +08.917
9 Emily Jones emreeree +09.488
10 Nikita Moysov ERM_Nick +14.131
11 Arthur Mosso GRID_ART55MN +21.993
12 Dean Heldt PRiMA_Deano +23.441