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Representing the last round before the World Finals, Round 4 of the 2021 FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championship was filled with the intense action and drama that we have come to expect from the highly entertaining World Series.

Nations Cup Round 4: Fuji International Speedway

There was no surprise seeing Valerio Gallo of Italy claim pole position. Right behind him sat last year’s Nations Cup champion Takuma Miyazono of Japan, while 2018 champ Igor Fraga of Brazil and Spain’s Jose Serrano occupied the second row. Less than four-hundredths of a second separated Positions 1 through 4, ensuring that this 18-lap contest was going to be an all-out war.

Miyazono made an aggressive move to pry the lead away from Gallo through Turn 1; however, the Italian kept his composure and maintained his line, not letting the Japanese driver through. Meanwhile, Serrano jumped all over Fraga, nabbing P3 away from the former champion.

The second lap saw Miyazono successfully draft the red Ferrari of Gallo at 270 km/h and claim the lead going into Turn 1. Then disaster struck Miyazono on lap 4 when he drove over the curbing at the exit of the Coca Cola Corner (Turn 3) causing his rear tires to lose traction. His white Ferrari flew off the track and fell to 7th place, handing the lead back to Gallo.

Lap 7 saw Serrano use Gallo’s slipstream to his advantage and take the race lead into the first corner. Gallo and Fraga seemed content running in P2 and P3 behind Serrano, as neither of them made any serious move to take the overall lead for a while.

On lap 15, Gallo made a move to the outside of Serrano, out-braking the Spaniard into Turn 1. Fraga looked to overtake him as well, but he ran into the back of Gallo’s car, which slowed him down and nearly sent the Italian off. The contact was enough to affect both cars and allow Serrano to hold onto the lead. One lap later, an almost identical scene played out at the same place, but this time, Gallo did manage to get past Serrano to reclaim the lead.

With each driver gallantly defending their respective positions, the race ended in that order, with Valerio Gallo winning his third World Series event of the year, earning three points for a grand total of 18 going into the World Finals. Jose Serrano’s 2nd-place finish (two points) kept him in the championships hunt with 12 total points, while the 3rd-place finish of Igor Fraga kept him in 5th and a chance to steal the championship away next month.

“I’m so excited because it was one of the most insane races, and it also brought back memories of last year’s World Finals,” Gallo said. “Since the last race, I’ve been trying to apply the same strategy, which was to stay behind someone until the end of the race. First it was Miyazono, but he unfortunately went off, and the race changed a bit, but I was able to keep cool. I really enjoyed the battle with Jose (Serrano) at the end. I’m so happy to have raced with these guys today because I felt it was the best display of racing yet. It was a really memorable experience. With this win and having a six-point lead, it provides a huge motivation boost going into the World Finals.”

Manufacturer Series Round 4: Nürburgring Nordschleife

The venue was the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife, a 20.8-kilometer circuit situated in a forest near the town of Nürburg, Germany. Because one lap around the Nürburgring Nordschleife is significantly longer than a traditional race circuit, this contest consisted of a mere four laps. Igor Fraga of Brazil scored pole position with a blistering time of 6’57.859”in the Toyota 86 Gr.4, edging out Japan’s Ryota Kokubun in the Mazda Atenza Gr.4 by a tenth of a second. Positions 3 and 4 were occupied by Yuhki Araki of Japan in the Dodge Viper and Spain’s Jose Serrano  in the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport.

Both Fraga’s 86 and Kokubun’s Atenza sped away cleanly from the standing start, leading the pack through the first of 154 corners that make up the Nordschleife. By the middle of the second lap, Fraga’s Toyota 86 began pulling away, opening up a two-second lead on the P2 car. Meanwhile, two Japanese drivers were dueling right behind him: Araki’s Viper hounded the Atenza of Kokubun throughout the first half of the lap. At the Kilometer 12 mark, on a section before the famous Carousel, Araki made a brilliant move to the inside, getting past the Mazda and taking over 2nd place.

At the halfway point of the race, it was Fraga in the lead, with Serrano in 2nd and Miyazono running 3rd, but all three still needed to make their pitstops. Kokubun held the top spot among those who had pitted, running in P6. At the end of lap 3, Fraga, Serrano and Miyazono came in. Fraga had a lightning-quick stop and managed to rejoin the race in the lead, while Serrano, who also had a great pitstop, managed to return in 2nd place, just in front of the hard-charging Mazda Atenza of Kokubun.

As the cars entered the final lap, Araki moved past Miyazono at the Kilometer 11 mark to take over 4th place, while Kokubun patiently remained in Serrano’s Porsche slipstream, waiting until the Kilometer 20 mark to pass. Ryota Kokubun cruised to a 2nd-place finish, earning a valuable two points for Team Mazda, and keeping the Japanese manufacturer in the series lead going into the World Finals. Igor Fraga’s brilliant win put Toyota alongside Mazda at the top of the championship leaderboard, while Jose Serrano’s 3rd-place finish kept Porsche in 5th place. Despite not taking any points in Round 4, Peugeot and Subaru remained tied for 3rd.

A delighted Fraga ended with pole, the fastest lap and the race win, commenting: “For the last race, I wasn’t happy with the tire wear, but this time, with the overall race strategy, I’m very happy. I was a bit worried about fuel in the beginning because the other cars were drafting me, which made me push a bit harder so they couldn’t get into my slipstream. That resulted in me using a little bit more fuel than I wanted, but in the end, it worked out well, and I’m glad I finished in P1.”*