Spain’s Coque Lopez has won the EMEA Regional Final in the 2020 FIA Gran Turismo Online Championship, after a strategy masterstroke that saw him win the final race.
While Lopez became the EMEA champion, the early running was all Valerio Gallo. Not satisfied with setting the pole position time for the fictional Italian circuit at Lago Maggiore, the Italian driver drove a lights-to-flag victory to take the first maximum points score. Shadowing him throughout the race was Baptiste Beauvois, the French driver who was the best-placed of this season’s competitors at the last World Final.
Overtaking was at a premium at Maggiore, so debutant Jose Serrano who’d qualified in third place came through to score his maiden podium. Just behind him was Lopez, who’d managed to squeeze his RCZ past Rick Kevelham in the Renault Sport RS01. Kevelham lost a further place late on to Giorgio Mangano in the 911 RSR.
There were a few more chances to pass in the second race, at the real-world Italian circuit of Monza. With the Gr.1 grid featuring a mixture of modern hybrid LMP1s, older non-hybrids, Group C cars, and even Vision GT models, the cars’ strengths all came at different points of the track.
Once again, it was Gallo who set the pace with the Peugeot 908, but Serrano almost immediately powered past with the Audi R18’s hybrid system. It didn’t take long for Gallo to get past again though, and drive to a second victory in two races. Again the man in second was Beauvois, as Serrano fell back through the pack due to the straight line speed of the Group Cs. Indeed Group C cars filled second, third, and fourth, with Adam Tapai and Lopez both getting past in the later stages of the race.
However there was still all to play for, as the final X2019 race would bring double points. Gallo’s qualifying streak was broken, as he could only place 10th, with Beauvois on pole position ahead of Serrano. Tire strategy would play more of a role, and indeed the soft-shod Serrano drove clean past Beauvois on the medium tire on the Kemmel Straight at the first time of asking.
Lopez, on a similar strategy to Serrano, soon joined his countryman with a similar move. Beauvois then became the architect of his own downfall, dropping the right tires off the track at the exit of Jacky Ickx corner, but recovering into seventh place.
As is tradition, the middle part of the race settled down as the drivers’ various pit-stop strategies left them in different parts of the circuit. In these events, drivers are required to use all three tire grades — soft, medium, and hard — and the commonest strategy is to run the hard option for a single lap, splitting the rest between fast soft tires and more durable mediums.
That wasn’t quite what Lopez had in mind. Stopping for a second time on lap 13, the Spanish driver picked up a third successive set of soft tires and laid down an enormous on-track advantage over then-second Kevelham, with Blazsan in third — another ten seconds back — as the only driver to have used all of the required sets of tires.
Lopez duly stopped for the medium tires at the end of lap 18, and then hard tires at the end of lap 19, coming out with five seconds of clear air between him and Blazsan — who managed to jump past Kevelham, after the Dutch driver also stopped for the final hard tire dash — and simply couldn’t be caught. Serrano also made the tire advantage work with a pass on Kevelham to round out the podium.
A final corner incident involving Beauvois, Adam Suswillo, Gallo, Mangano, and Manuel Rodriguez saw a post-race investigation that concluded with no further action. Despite finishing outside the points, Gallo’s earlier results were good enough to see him qualify for the World Finals too.
The full list of EMEA qualifiers for December’s final is as follows:
- Coque Lopez
- Jose Serrano
- Baptiste Beauvois
- Valerio Gallo
- Adam Tapai
- Patrik Blazsan
- Rick Kevelham
- Giorgio Mangano
There’s two further regional finals to come, with the Americas final broadcast on November 29, and the Asia-Oceania event to follow on December 6 – which you’ll also be able to catch here on GTPlanet.