There was a lot to digest from Gran Turismo’s most recent World Tour event at the Nurburgring. It had close, unpredictable racing, it revealed some tantalizing new content for GT Sport, and put the race stewards squarely in the spotlight of controversy. In the end, it wrote a memorable chapter in the 2019 season of the FIA-certified Gran Turismo Championship.
Before the event, we took a closer look at the main storylines expected to play out at the Nurburgring. Several of those came true, but there were quite a few surprises as well.
Two Sides to Every Story
We had a chance to speak with the top drivers that emerged from the Nurburgring World Tour event, giving each competitor a chance to tell their side of the story about the most exciting and controversial moments they were involved in.
Simon Bishop walks us through Team Toyota’s victory in the Manufacturers Series, Cody Latkovski offers perspective on both of his closing-lap incidents, Coque Lopez explains why he ran out of fuel, and Igor Fraga tells how he survived a crazy Nations Cup finale. Give it all a watch in the video above.
Fraga Resumes the Throne
After an underwhelming performance at 2019’s opening World Tour event in Paris, it appeared that Igor Fraga might be human after all.
Since winning the 2018 Nations Cup in Monaco last year, Fraga’s life has been a whirlwind of esports and real-life racing. He even toured Italy with Kazunori Yamauchi in the Mille Miglia, so it was understandable that he might not be as focused on GT Sport as he was last year.
Fraga immediately put that narrative to rest at the Nurburgring, overcoming a penalty from the stewards to score a hard-fought victory over Coque Lopez in the opening Semi Final. In the wild finale, he won again, securing his spot at the World Finals and returning to the top of the podium in the Nations Cup.
“At that time [in Paris], it was so busy trying to put everything together with my real-life career, and coming from another championship, it was difficult to provide time to everything that I needed to do,” Fraga said. “For here, I was able to focus on Gran Turismo, and it worked out!”
Coque Lopez’s Bad Luck Continues
There has never been any doubt that Coque Lopez is one of the fastest Gran Turismo players in the world, but his outright speed has not been enough to overcome the bad luck which has continued to plague him at live events. At the Nurburgring, despite excellent driving, a mistake in fuel strategy cost him a place on the podium.
It is not all bad news, though. Lopez is as fast as ever, and looks to be one of the few in the world who can keep pace with Fraga. As we learned when speaking with him after the event, he is encouraged by his pace and is optimistic about his future.
“I am happy to know that I can be there [in the lead], and because I know now what I can do,” Coque said. “Last year, I was here, watching the races, and I said to my team manager, ‘This time next year, I will be here, racing for the victory,’ and it came true!”
Lopez will be a favorite at the next World Tour event in August. However, since Fraga is expected to focus on the Manufacturers Series now, we will probably have to wait for the World Finals to see the next chapter in the budding Fraga-Lopez rivalry.
The Rise of Cody Latkovski
Although he never stood on top of the podium, it could be said Gran Turismo’s Nurburgring World Tour event turned into “The Cody Latkovski Show”.
Latkovski made his mark in the very first event, securing pole position in the opening GR Supra GT Cup exhibition race. He followed that up with blistering drives in the closing laps of both the Nations Cup and Manufacturers Series, putting himself and his team within seconds of victory each time.
Of course, Latkovski is no stranger to success: he finished in third place at the 2018 Nations Cup World Finals, behind only Igor Fraga and Mikail Hizal. After a disappointing 9th place at the opening 2019 World Tour event in Paris, Latkovski is back in the best form of his career.
“I don’t know what’s happened to me between this event and Paris,” Cody said. “I feel like I have found this new gear, like I’ve grabbed onto it and given it my everything. I don’t want to say ‘Oh, I could have done this or that,’ I want to go out there and show everything I can do and show how fast I can go. I want to show my speed to the world. I want to put on a show and everyone to enjoy it.”
What about Mikail Hizal?
After a heartbreaking finish for Mikail Hizal in Paris, he was set for a breakout performance on his home turf at the Nurburgring. Sadly for Mikail, that did not happen.
An unfortunate draw of the TVR Tuscan for the Semi Final saw Hizal fighting not for the lead, but the last spot in the repechage race. From there, things went from bad to worse, as a mistake in the second corner sent him to the back. An added penalty removed any chance of advancing to the final.
Incredibly, this was actually the first time we have not seen Mikail Hizal on the podium for an international Nations Cup event since September of last year.
Despite the disappointment, Mikail seemed to be in good spirits when we spoke to him. He will no doubt be as hungry as ever for
cookies a Nations Cup victory when the next event comes around.
South America’s Dominance Continues
Leading up to the Nurburgring World Tour, we noticed a trend was starting to emerge: South American drivers had won at every event in which they had competed, stretching all the way back to the 2018 Americas Regional Finals in Las Vegas.
Chilean driver Nicolas Rubilar kicked off 2019 with a victory in Paris, and Brazilian Igor Fraga’s victory at the Nurburgring only solidifies South America’s dominance. There are plenty more fast drivers from the continent, too, who have the speed to win on the international stage.
Looking Ahead to New York
With the FIA GT Championship’s biggest names making headlines at the Nurburgring, we can’t forget about the pool of increasingly experienced (and very fast) competitors just outside the spotlight. The next few weeks will also bring an opportunity for Gran Turismo’s race stewards to review the criticism they received over the penalties — or lack thereof — handed out at the Nurburgring.
The next Gran Turismo World Tour event takes place in New York City, on August 24 and 25, so we have just over six weeks to wait until the next chapter of the story unfolds.