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Brazil’s Igor Fraga (IOF_RACING17) Crowned the First Nations Cup Champion!
FIA Gran Turismo Championships 2018 World Finals/Nations Cup

The final race in the four-race series was a one-make contest where the drivers took the steering wheel of the Red Bull X2014 Standard. The super high-performance nature of this machine would really reveal the skills, or lack thereof, of every driver in the field.

Heading into the race, points-leader Tomoaki Yamanaka (yamado_racing38), of Japan, sat on pole position, while another favorite, Brazil’s Igor Fraga (IOF_RACING17), found himself way back in 10th, after experiencing some difficulties in the previous races.

Those in the higher starting positions opted to start on the soft-compound tires.

On the Mulsanne Straight, Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) gave up the lead to Australian Cody Nikola Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) and Germany’s Mikail Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING), who both took full advantage of Yamanaka’s slip stream to draft him on the long straight.

After being passed, Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) really started to unravel, as he was passed on Lap 2 by fellow countryman Shogo Yoshida (gilles_honda_v12), while serving a penalty for a shortcut infraction. In nearly the blink of an eye, Yamanaka had dropped down to 4th place.

Through the Porsche Curve, Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) passed Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) for the overall lead.

Lap 3 saw the front runners, Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) and Yamanaka (yamado_racing38), head into the pits. Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) remained on the track, but then headed into the pits on the following lap. Whatever his strategy was for staying out, it didn't seem to pan out, because he couldn't exit before Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) had reclaimed the lead.

Meanwhile, Fraga (IOF_RACING17) was charging hard, making his way all the way up to 4th place coming out of the pits. He switched from hard-compound tires to mediums, saving his soft-compound tires for the end of the race.

While in the pits, Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) made some changes to his car, but that may have been a mistake as Fraga (IOF_RACING17) was immediately on his tail, and by Lap 5, Fraga (IOF_RACING17) and another Brazilian driver, Adriano Carrazza (CRT-Didico15), blew past Yamanaka (yamado_racing38), dropping him to 5th.

Things only got worse for Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) as he was involved in a disastrous accident soon after, when he made contact with Canadian driver Jeffrey Gallan (FT_LLOYDZELITE), dropping him down to 11th place and throwing away any hopes of winning the championship.

On Lap 6, the top three drivers—Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING), Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) and Fraga (IOF_RACING17)—headed into the pits for a tire change almost simultaneously. Of this three, only Fraga had the soft tires available. Advantage the Brazilian.

Fraga's (IOF_RACING17) strategy of saving the soft tires for the end looked like it was going to pay off.

On Lap 8, at the Dunlop Curve, Fraga (IOF_RACING17) got past Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) for 2nd place. His pace was noticeably quicker than the others, and it was a foregone conclusion that he would catch and pass the leader, Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING), which he did on the Mulsanne Straight.

With the quickest car on the track and comfortably in the lead, Fraga (IOF_RACING17) cruised to the finish, fighting his way to the top from 10th place. His persistence and skill delighted the crowd as they cheered him to the finish line.

The strategy that many drivers employed in the Regional Finals, which was to carry less fuel to lighten their cars and save the soft tires for the final stint, worked like a charm for Fraga.

Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) and Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) had no hope of keeping up on the hard-compound tires.

After disappointing results in Race 2 and 3, Fraga never gave up hope, despite the fact that Yamanaka (yamado_racing38) had such a huge lead going into the final race. The odds were against him with his 10th-place grid position, but his gamble on employing a different tire strategy than the leaders paid off. Because the final race awarded double points, Fraga's (IOF_RACING17) victory was enough to deliver him the title of "Inaugural Nations Cup Champion."

Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) finished the race in 2nd place, meaning that he was the top driver from Europe. In 3rd place was Latkovski (Nik_Makozi), who proved to be the best driver from the Asia/Oceania group.

Yamanaka (yamado_racing38), who had such a promising position going into the last race, wound up finishing 10th, dropping his overall standings to 4th.

“In the end I wasn’t quite as skilled with the X2014 as the top three drivers. My aim going into the race was just to not lose any positions at the start. I never imagined I would fall so far, ” said a disappointed Yamanaka after the race.

Nations Cup Final - Result

(Overall Victory) Brazil’s Igor Fraga (IOF_RACING17)

Q: Describe how you got here and what you're feeling.

IF: I got off to a good start coming out first in Race 1. As the others were battling it out for 2nd place, I was able to keep hold of my lead from start to finish, but in Race 2, I was in a car that really took a toll on my tires. In the latter half of the race, I was desperately trying to hold off Yamanaka to protect my position, but in the end, I wasn’t able to stop him. As a result of that struggle I wound up dropping places, falling into 4th place right before the finish line.

In Race 3, my pace dropped drastically, and with my strategy backfiring, I finished in 10th. Based on that performance, I went into the final race starting out on the grid in 10th. And to add to that, Yamanaka, who was sitting at the top for points, started out in pole position. But I resolved to continue to do my best.

Before the race, I decided that even if I couldn’t make it all the way up to 1st place, I still wanted to give it my all. In the end my tire strategy paid off, and I managed to finish in 1st, winning the Nations Cup. I’m absolutely ecstatic. "Don’t give up, do your best," is the thought that drove me to that last race victory, tipping the scales back in my favor for the best possible outcome.

It’s an absolute honor to be here in Monaco creating a new chapter in Gran Turismo’s history. This place is very special, with many of the greatest drivers of all time having driven here. Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to join that list of legends, but I’m happy to be here in Monaco and to have been able to come out on top in this E-sport competition.

Q: Do you have any advice to upcoming players?

IF: For those players at home, watching this tournament and wanting to be in the same position, what advice do I have for you? It would be to practice tirelessly and build up your skill level and mental fortitude. You may not be the fastest driver now, but you never know what’s on the horizon. I wonder if this is all there is to it, but by just taking it one day at a time, you could very well become the next best driver. Keep polishing those skills and discover and conquer your weakness, that’s what’s key."

Q: In your case, you also race in real life. What would you say are the main differences?

IF: I don’t feel like it's all that different. Things I’ve learned on real tracks have helped me on virtual ones, and things I’ve learned in virtual races have definitely influenced my driving on real tracks.

Another thing with virtual racing is that, just like in real motor sports, your physical condition plays a big part. Making sure you get enough sleep before a race, being careful about what you eat on the big day, not eating too much just before the race, grabbing a light bite if you’re hungry and clearing your mind. I think taking care of these things and entering the race in prime condition is really important.

Q: As champion, where do you see yourself going from here?

IF: At the moment I’m also a real race driver, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue competing in the world of E-Sports. I want to make the most of my experiences here and take what I’ve learned to a real motorsport race series. That said, E-Sports is currently getting bigger and bigger. There’s no knowing what it will be like years from now. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll be able to compete next year, but I’m sure I’ll continue enjoying Gran Turismo.

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