With Different Strategies at Play, the Result Was Undecided Even at the Race’s Conclusion
Gran Turismo World Series 2022 Nations Cup - World Finals
The Gran Turismo World Series 2022 concluded today with the series finale—the Grand Final of the Nations Cup—where 30 of the fastest Gran Turismo drivers from 14 different countries gathered at the sports complex of the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel for the first live World Finals event in three years. The starting grid of the Grand Final was whittled down to 12 after a series of Semi-final races on Friday.
Brazilian Igor Fraga held the championship lead going into the Grand Final with 12 points, followed by Angel Inostroza of Chile (10 points) and Japan’s Ryota Kokubun and Italy’s Valerio Gallo (nine points apiece), but with 24 points awarded to the winner of this race, it was anyone’s championship to win. After the Qualifying Session, Japan’s Takuma Miyazono—the 2020 Nations Cup champion and Asia-Oceania Region winner—took pole position by 0.001 seconds over Spain’s Coque López. In the No. 3 spot was Inostroza, while a couple of Brazilians, Adriano Carrazza and the aforementioned Fraga—the 2018 Nations Cup champion and the winner of this year’s TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GT Cup—occupied the No. 4 and No. 5 spot, respectively. Rounding out the third row was Japan’s Tomoaki Yamanaka.
The venue for the 30-lap Grand Final was the popular Trial Mountain Circuit, run in the opposite direction. The 12 players piloted the menacing 804 BHP Gran Turismo Red Bull X2019 Competition painted in the colors of their home country. Each driver was required to use one of the available tires—hard-, medium-, and soft-compound Michelins—at least once, so pitstop strategy was definitely in play. With double points awarded in this race, everyone on the grid had a mathematical chance of becoming the 2022 Nations Cup champion.
Amidst a full crowd in the arena, the final race of the Series went green under ideal racing conditions with not a cloud in sight. Miyazono and López were the only two in the field to start on the soft compound tires. As was the custom, they intended to pull away from the pack and build an insurmountable lead before going to the slower tires. The first lap saw most of the drivers exercising caution, with the only significant move being Yamanaka’s pass on Fraga for 5th place. However, a quartet of racers on the hard-compound tires made their first pitstops at the end of the first lap, having fulfilled their requirements on the slowest Michelins. On the next lap, López drafted Miyazono at 325 km/h on the front straight to take the race lead, and the two began pulling away from the field.
On the third lap, Carrazza made a brilliant move to the inside of Inostroza through Turn 7 to claim 3rd place, both drivers running on medium-compound tires. Inostroza returned the favor a lap later, using the slipstream to blast past the Brazilian. Their scuffle allowed Fraga and Yamanaka to catch Carrazza, setting up a fierce fight for P4. When the four cars arrived and jumped onto the front straight, they went three wide, attempting to out-brake the others into the first corner. Fraga won this battle, moving in front of Yamanaka and Carrazza. Already, things were heating up, and there were still 26 laps left to go.
On the back straight on lap 7, Miyazono reclaimed the lead after drafting López before Turn 8. By this time, the two leaders had built up a 5.6-second gap on the field. With their soft-compound tires wearing, both Miyazono and López made their first pitstops on lap 9. While López went with the medium-compound tires, Miyazono surprised everyone by bolting on another fresh pair of soft-compound Michelins, meaning he was on a three-stop strategy. They were joined on the pit lane by Inostroza and Carrazza, who both went from mediums to softs.
Race leader Fraga made his first pitstop on lap 11, going for the hard-compound tires next, indicating he was employing a different strategy than the others. But his plans took a serious turn for the worse when he crossed the white lines entering the pit lane, which resulted in a devastating 3.0-second penalty that dropped him to 7th place.
Lap 14 saw Inostroza take advantage of the grip of the soft-compound tires to get past López to claim P2, his sights now set on Miyazono, who was six seconds in front. Further down the grid, Bonelli was also making the most of the soft-compound tires, passing Fraga and Beauvois to claim 5th place. At the halfway point of the race, it was Miyazono in the lead by 5.5-seconds over Inostroza, followed by López, Carrazza, and Bonelli.
The race leaders, Miyazono and Inostroza, made their second pitstops on lap 18, the Japanese driver going with the mediums, while the Chilean opted to get the hard-compound tires out of the way. About this time, 2021 Nations Cup champion Valerio Gallo of Italy, who started in the No. 10 spot, was making a hard charge, working his way up to 4th place on lap 20. Then, race leader López make his second pitstop, going to the softs, leaving the slowest hard-compound tires for the end of the race.
Returning to the track on the soft-compound tires with nine laps to go, López had his sights on Miyazono who was 9.5-seconds in front of him. Both drivers still needed to make one more stop to use the hard-compound tires. Inostroza came in the following lap to get a fresh set of soft tires that he planned to take to the end of the race. He was joined by Gallo, Yamanaka, Seiya Suzuki of Japan, and Kokubun.
At this point, with so many different strategies in play, it was difficult to predict what exactly was going to happen, never mind who was going to win.
By lap 25, López trimmed Miyazono’s lead to 4.5 seconds, while Inostroza and Gallo charged hard in their Red Bull machines on the soft-compound tires, hoping to make up the 25-second-plus time difference between them and leaders. López finally caught the Japanese driver on lap 28 through Turns 9 and 10, a lap before they made their final pitstops to take on the hard-compound tires. It looked like a two-horse race, that is, until Inostroza decided to join the party when López and Miyazono exited the pits, slotting his car into 2nd place between the Spaniard and the Japanese driver.
In a mad rush to the finish, all three drivers refused to give up an inch, leaving everything on the line for the championship. Inostroza’s soft-compound tires were worn excessively, not providing much grip through the corners, but he had no choice but to carry on.
When three capable drivers in nearly equal machines go at each other with abandon, something dramatic was sure to happen… and did it ever. Inostroza went for the pass at the end of the back straight, but López shut the door, causing contact. This slowed the Chilean’s pace down enough for Miyazono to get by, but Inostroza attempted to out-brake everyone through Turn 9, and bumped Miyazono in the process, sending his car spinning uncontrollably, dashing the Japanese driver’s championship hopes. López then returned the favor by overtaking Inostroza through the Turn 12 sweeper after slightly bumping him to the outside. This put the Spaniard in the lead with three corners to go.
The audience was on the edge of their seats as López crossed the line in front of Inostroza by 0.3 seconds, while Miyazono limped home to a 3rd-place finish. But wait, the results were not yet official because the stewards were reviewing the incident that knocked Miyazono out, as well as the contact between López and Inostroza. It wasn’t until ten minutes later that the results were deemed official, handing the 2022 Nations Cup crown to the first Spanish champion of the series, Coque López.
“I don’t even know if I can talk right now. I’m so happy to win my second world championship and the first of the Nations Cup. My strategy was basically the same as Miyazono-san’s, but I decided to go with the opposite tires he chose [for the second pitstop] because I really believed in my race pace. It worked out quite [well], and in the end everything was decided in the last sector. If I didn’t perform well in this event, I was thinking of not coming back, but I think I will go a few more years now,” said a teary-eyed López after winning the championship.
Gran Turismo World Series 2022 Nations Cup - World Finals
|1||Coque López coquelopez14||45:46.769|
|2||Angel Inostroza YASHEAT_Loyrot||+00.300|
|3||Takuma Miyazono Kerokkuma_ej20||+05.007|
|4||Igor Fraga IOF_RACING17||+08.274|
|5||Lucas Bonelli TGT_BONELLI||+08.699|
|6||Valerio Gallo Williams_BRacer||+12.112|
|7||Tomoaki Yamanaka yamado_racing38||+16.911|
|8||Seiya Suzuki V1_CRV-KRT86||+18.366|
|9||Adriano Carrazza Didico__15||+19.565|
|10||Jose Serrano TDG_JOSETE||+26.341|
|11||Ryota Kokubun Akagi_1942mi||+29.430|
|12||Baptiste Beauvois R8G_TSUTSU||DNF|