What happened when the fastest Gran Turismo drivers in the world went head to head?
The FIA certified Gran Turismo Championships began its third year with great anticipation as it continued to grow and attract new audiences and new players. World Tour 2020 – Sydney in February was a stunning way to start the new season in spectacular surroundings with some thrilling races. Japanese driver Takuma Miyazono took the honours in the Nations Cup and Nicolás Rubilar (CHI), Randall Haywood (USA) and Coque López (ESP) took the win for BMW in the Manufacturer Series.
We all know what happened next. The global pandemic locked down countries and restricted large gatherings and international travel. There would be no more physical World Tour events for the rest of the year.
But, of course, one of the great features of these emerging championships is that the majority of the racing takes place online. The 2020 Online Series saw competitors across five global regions racing each other over the 30 rounds.
More great racing action selected the fastest Gran Turismo drivers in the world to take part in the World Finals in December.
Not being together physically did not mean we could not create a great arena for racing. A new virtual home for the World Finals 2020 was created, and, with the help of new series partner Sony α (Alpha) cameras, we brought our competitors together via video from 14 different countries (and many different time zones).
The result was, once again, some epic racing.
Day 1 – GR Supra GT Cup
The scene was set by the support event – the one-make GR Supra GT Cup final in association with Toyota. 24 competitors took part in two semi-finals narrowing the field to a 12-player Final.
After trailing by more than 20 seconds at one point in the final race, a combination of superb tyre strategy and lightning-fast driving saw Takuma Miyazono of Japan cross the finish line first. The race win shot him to the top of the standings and handed him the 2020 GR Supra GT Cup title ahead of Brazil’s Lucas Bonelli and 18-year-old Spaniard Jose Serrano.
Day 2 – Manufacturer Series
Day two of World Finals weekend was devoted to the Manufacturer Series. 36 competitors represented 12 manufacturers – including series Official Partners Toyota and Mazda – in teams of three. The three teammates would contest one race each with the cumulative points total deciding the winning manufacturer.
The Grand Final climax of the Manufacturer Series was a 30-lap contest around Autódromo de Interlagos, where two past Nations Cup World Final champions would go head to head: Brazil’s Igor Fraga, the 2017 winner (and real F3 race driver) representing Honda, and 2018 champ Mikail Hizal of Turkey driving for Subaru.
After some close, exciting racing – and a battle of strategy of how best to use the three different compounds of Michelin tyres required in the race – Hizal emerged with the race win and Championship for a Subaru team that also comprised American Daniel Solis and that man Takuma Miyazono.
Team BMW took second place ahead of Team Mercedes-Benz.
Day 3 – Nations Cup
The FIA GT Championships 2020 reached its climax with the Nations Cup, pitting the top 16 competitors from all over the world against each other over three races. With the Grand Final worth double points, it came down to two drivers, Miyazono and Italy’s Valerio Gallo, who took their heated battle to the final corner of the last race, keeping everyone watching on the edge of their seats until the very end.
The battle between Miyazono and Gallo began early as the Japanese driver grabbed pole position for Race 1 at the Fuji International Speedway in the exciting new Toyota GR Yaris, with the Italian driver two spots behind him in P3. But Gallo ran a flawless race with a perfect pit stop strategy enabling him to cross the finish line first, while Miyazono came in a disappointing 9th place. But the winner of the Asia-Oceania Region came roaring back in Race 2 by grabbing pole position around the tricky Tokyo Expressway – East Outer Loop street circuit, run in tricky rain conditions on Michelin wet tyres in the Porsche 911 RSR. Miyazono put his car-control skills on full display, besting Jose Serrano of Spain on the final corner for the win. Gallo never found a rhythm in this race, crossing the finish line in 10th.
The Grand Final began with intrigue as the two points leaders, Miyazono and Serrano, had a disappointing qualifying session, managing only a 7th– and 8th-place starting position, respectively. Gallo, seeing a window of opportunity, laid down a blistering lap in the stylish Mazda RX-Vision GT3 Concept around the Sarthe Circuit, home of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to take pole position for the 10-lap race.
With several different pit-stop strategies employed by the drivers, they put on a grand show as several notable drivers challenged for the lead, including Australia’s Cody Nikola Latkovski, Tomoaki Yamanaka and Ryota Kokubun of Japan and Canada’s Andrew Brooks. After 10 laps, however, it was Gallo who crossed the finish line first, but Miyazono’s 2nd-place finish was enough to hand him the 2020 Nations Cup title, giving him 45 total points to Gallo’s 42 and 3rd-place finisher Kokubun’s 29. He also made it a World Final clean sweep, winning all three events of the weekend to add to his ‘World Tour 2020 – Sydney’ victory and Asia-Oceania Regional Finals win.
While many of us may wish to forget 2020, Takuma Miyazono will remember it with pride for a long time to come.