Epic battles at the halfway point of the FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championships!

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The FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championships reached the halfway point of the 2021 Series last weekend with the World Series Showdown. First up was the Manufacturer Series on Saturday, and a battle between 36 drivers representing 12 of the world’s biggest car makers.

The 12 Manufacturer Series teams – selected from their results in the Season 1 Online Series - were required to field three drivers, one for each race. Points would be awarded for each race with, as ever, double points for the Grand Final. 

In the Grand Final, Igor Fraga showed why he was the 2018 FIA Certified Gran Turismo Nations Cup Champion, keeping calm amid the pressure and taking the checkered flag 1.3-seconds ahead of Ryota Kokubun’s Mazda. The victory gave Toyota the 2021 World Series Showdown win with 43 total points. Mazda finished in a very respectable 2nd place with 38 points, while Peugeot (25 points), Volkswagen (22) and Jaguar (21) rounded out the top five.

The event positions will be turned into valuable World Series points that carry into the season-ending World Finals in December. Mazda top the World Series points table with 11 followed closely by Toyota on 10 and Subaru on 9.

Fraga commented after winning, “I got a lot of help from my teammates Yamanaka-san and Coque, who put us in a good position for the final race. They helped with the winning strategy for the Grand Final, which allowed me to focus on driving. This was important because I didn’t have time to practice much because we only found out about the venue when the Drivers Briefing came out on the day.” 

On the table Sunday was the Nations Cup where the world’s best Gran Turismo Sport players vied for the title of the fastest GT driver in the world. Slotted between Season 1 and Season 2, the World Series Showdown Nations Cup featured a field of 30 total drivers, 14 from the FIA Certified Gran Turismo World Series Championships (Rounds 1 and 2) and 16 from Season 1 of the 2021 Online Series. 

They were divided into two groups of 15 for a pair of Semi-final races where the best eight finishers advanced to the Grand Final. To ensure the semi-final races were hotly contested, points were awarded to the top performers in each race to carry into the Grand Final where double points would decide the final standings. 

The Grand Final on the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, was guaranteed to be an amazing show because less than a second separated the pole sitter, Igor Fraga of Brazil (IOF_RACING17), from the last spot on the grid, occupied by fellow Brazilian Lucas Bonelli (TGT_BONELLI). Japanese driver Ryota Kokubun (Akagi_1942mi) took the No. 2 spot, while Valerio Gallo of Italy (Williams_BRacer) and Jose Serrano of Spain (PR1_JOSETE) lined up behind him.

With two laps to go, it was a two-horse race, with Gallo and Kokubun increasing their lead over 3rd-place Serrano to two seconds. Kokubun made his big move on the Kemmel Straight, going for the pass through Les Combes (Turns 5 and 6) at 270 km/h, but Gallo gallantly defended his line, keeping the Japanese driver at bay. However, on the next lap, it was Gallo’s turn to make a mistake, going off at Les Combes and handing the lead, and the race, to Kokubun.

Gallo’s error resulted in a furious three-way battle for the podium, as he, Serrano and López swapped positions throughout the final lap. Serrano led the way through the final corner, and with the finish line in view, disaster struck. He ran out of fuel! His car stalled, allowing both Gallo and López to get by. It was a heartbreaking way to end the day for the Spaniard, but his 4th-place finish in the race was enough to give him the final spot on the World Series Showdown podium. Standing high at the top of it was Ryota Kokubun of Japan, who scored 24 points for the Grand Final win, giving him 30 for the day. Valerio Gallo came in 2nd with 28, while López and Fraga, in 4th and 5th, respectively, rounded out the top five.

After the race, Kokubun said, “At first, I was really nervous, wondering if I could really win, and I wanted to win. And for me, everything fell into place this time, and I’m very happy about that. I’m a big fan of older cars like the Ford Mark IV that we drove in the Grand Final because they’re fun to drive. And I usually drive them when playing Gran Turismo, which makes me wonder if this was all some sort of fate.”