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The 2021 FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championships entered the second half of the season with the trophies very much still up for grabs. After an action-packed first half of the 2021 season, things picked up right where they left off in the Nations Cup and Manufacturer Series for this third-round event.

Nations Cup

The unexpected came early in the Southern California desert on a very fast track in a small town called Willow Springs, when Belgian World Series newcomer Quinten Jehoul grabbed pole position. Jehoul was just ahead of Valerio Gallo of Italy who took the number-two slot with Spaniard Jose Serrano and Takuma Miyazono of Japan occupying the second row. Igor Fraga of Brazil and Andrew Lee of Australia sat on row three. Jehoul led the way through.  Turn 1 after a clean standing start, with Gallo and Serrano right on his tail. The first overtake of the day came through the Turn 4 where Lee (on softs) slid past Fraga (on mediums) to claim P5. By Lap 5, the top five cars—all on the soft-compound tires—began to pull away from the bottom half of the field where several intense battles were taking place.

On Lap 12, Fraga came in to take on the medium-compound tires, joined in pitlane by a host of other cars. Miyazono and Lee pitted on Lap 13, and Jehoul, Gallo and Serrano came in a lap later. The leaders returned to the track on medium-compound tires in the same order they went in. Gallo made his move on the front straight on Lap 19, driving right up to the rear bumper of Jehoul’s R8, which pressured the Belgian to get a bit squirely through Turn 1. This opened a small space for Gallo to get through. Jehoul tried valiantly to regain the lead, but the seasoned Italian blocked his attempt at every turn. In fact, Jehoul seemed so intent on retaking the lead that he failed to notice Serrano charging hard behind him, who got past the Belgian on the penultimate lap, taking over 2nd place. And that’s how the race ended, with Valerio Gallo claiming his second win of the season and extending his World Series points lead to five points over Jose Serrano and Ryota Kokubun.

Said Gallo afterwards: “It was a very intense race. All the front runners were on the same tire strategy, but I wanted to save the tires on the first and second stints and hoped for Quinten to make a mistake. When that happened, I used that moment to take the lead, knowing that on this track, overtaking is not easy. Because of how intense this race was, it was one of the most enjoyable races I have driven, and I hope the other guys enjoyed it, too.” Round 4 of the World Series takes place in November and is the last chance for the competitors to earn valuable World Series points that they will carry into the World Finals in December.


Manufacturer Series

The second half of the 2021 season kicked off with a 20-lap contest around the famous Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. Porsche claimed pole position with Spaniard Jose Serrano behind the wheel of the 911 RSR. He was joined on the front row by Igor Fraga of Brazil, the 2018 Nations Cup champion, in the Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept. The rolling-start saw most of the cars get cleanly through Turn 1, with Serrano’s Porsche 911 leading the way. The running order remained unchanged until Lap 7 when Araki and his Dodge Viper managed to pass Fraga for 2nd place. Race-leader Serrano made his pitstop in Lap 9, handing the overall lead temporarily to Araki. Araki finally did his pitstop the following lap with a 16-second lead, which proved just enough to rejoin the race back in front, but by only a tenth of a second.

Unlike the first half of the race where the drivers seemed to be overly cautious, they were now laying it all on the line, running side by side and aggressively looking to get past the car in front of them. Fraga got held up between several cars and dropped to P4 while Serrano in the Porsche 911 reclaimed the lead. As the cars reached 240 km/h on the front straight, Jehoul out-braked Araki on Lap 13 going into Turn 1, to take over P2. With five laps to go, the running order for the top five cars was: Porsche (Serrano), Peugeot (Jehoul), Dodge (Araki), Toyota (Fraga) and Subaru (Miyazono). But Fraga’s pace slowed, falling more than a second behind the 3rd-place RCZ of Jehoul. Then, he was assessed a half-second penalty for track limits.

In the end, it was Jose Serrano who held on for the race win, scoring three points for Porsche, while the impressive Quinten Jehoul brought his Peugeot RCZ in 2nd place. Despite finishing 3rd, Yuhki Araki’s competitive driving style certainly won him, and Dodge, a new legion of fans.

Despite Kokubun’s disastrous showing in Round 3, Mazda remain in the lead of the World Series points table with 11 points, followed by the 10 points of Toyota and Peugeot. With the win, Porsche moved into 6th place, still very much in the hunt with one World Series round to go before the World Finals in December.

Jose Serrano said after the race: “I’m on cloud nine now. The combo of the Porsche and the Red Bull Ring was really good for us. It’s a track where you need a lot of traction and the Porsche felt very stable. At the beginning of the race, I tried to pull away, but when Igor (Fraga) tried to overtake me, I knew I had to keep my position and drive within myself. I was successfully able to defend at the end, and everything turned out well.”