Gran Turismo World Finals 2023 Preview: Barcelona!

The showpiece live finals of the Gran Turismo World Series are almost upon us, coming over the weekend of December 1-3 and, for the first time, from a new venue.

After returning to Monaco — the location of all the live finals in the Gran Turismo Sport version of the flagship esports series — in 2022, the World Series has moved on to a new location and the home country of defending Nations Cup champion Coque Lopez.

The sprawling city of Barcelona, capital of the Catalunya region, will host the 2023 finals at the enormous Fira Internacional de Barcelona convention center right in the middle of the city. It’s an event that will be open to the public too, though tickets are no longer available.

Accompanying the new venue is a new format for the Nations Cup. This transforms from a solo event into a team championship as we first saw in Amsterdam in the summer, with three representatives from each qualified nation taking part.

As well as three days of live-streamed races — in the Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup, Manufacturers Cup, and Nations Cup — there’ll be chances for viewers to earn in-game rewards by taking part in two special campaigns.

Friday December 1: Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup Final

The traditional curtain-raiser — and form guide — for the World Finals, the Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup will see 24 players gather to fight it out in a variety of Toyota vehicles, starting at 1800UTC.

As usual, the 24 qualifiers consist of the fastest 21 from the online portion of the competition and three qualifiers from special regional events in the Asia region. Don’t expect those players to be overrun though, as this year’s competitors include a top GT World Challenge driver in Andika Rama Maulana and Olympic finalist Karl Etyemezian.

On the more familiar side we have defending Nations Cup champion and local favorite Coque Lopez — one of five Spanish representatives, including global top qualifier Pol Urra — and 2020’s triple champion Takuma Miyazono. Indeed Miyazono is the only previous Toyota series champion taking part and was top-qualifier in Asia.

The event will feature a qualifying session using the GR Corolla at the local Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya National course, followed by two seeded semi-finals using the Gr.3 GR Supra Concept at Grand Valley and Deep Forest — with the top four in each qualifying. The next six head into an off-road repechage in the GR Yaris at Lake Louise, with the top four again qualifying.

That sets up the winner-takes-all final, which is a 23-lap run around the full Catalunya circuit in the GR010 hypercar with required tire changes.

Over the last four runnings we’ve seen three winners go on to collect either the Nations Cup or Manufacturers Cup titles (or both), with the sole exception being 2022’s winner Igor Fraga — who had, of course, won both titles in previous seasons.

That means it’s an extremely good indicator of who’ll be at the sharp end for the two finals which follow, although this year’s format change in Nations Cup makes prediction a little more complex!

Saturday December 2: Manufacturers Cup Final

The first GTWS world title will be decided on Saturday with the Manufacturers Cup, again beginning at 1800UTC.

It remains in the same format since the inception of the GTWS, with teams of three drivers — one from each of the three qualifying regions — representing the 12 qualified marques. Once again, this will include the three partner brands of Genesis, Mazda, and Toyota, along with the best nine other manufacturers.

Porsche goes into the event as likely favorites, having won the Showdown in Amsterdam despite being a man down due to Angel Inostroza’s injury. He returns though to join Takuma Sasaki and — probably cheered on by the home crowd — Jose Serrano.

However defending champion Subaru also put in a strong performance at the Showdown and brings back two of its 2022-winning team in Kylian Drumont and Takuma Miyazono. Roberto Sternberg is a newcomer to the team (having raced in Amsterdam) but not the event after previous appearances for Volkswagen.

Even by its own drivers’ admission, Lamborghini was a surprise package at Amsterdam, but the trio of Randall Haywood, Yuki Kodaka, and Will Murdoch might yet spring another one. Of course one should never rule out two-time champion Toyota either, especially with dual championship-winner Coque Lopez on the squad which also includes previous event winner Adriano Carazza and the exciting youngster Rikuto Kobayashi.

The event will see one driver qualify the car in a one-lap shootout at the N24 circuit, before an eight-lap qualifying race at the full Catalunya course to decide grid positions for the final. That’ll be a five-lap run around N24, requiring tire and driver changes.

Sunday December 3: Nations Cup Final

2023’s biggest change is the switch of the Nations Cup from a solo event to a team-based competition which — like the Manufacturers Cup — will see 12 teams of three drivers representing their country on the finals stage.

The makeup is roughly split along regional lines as it was before, with five countries from the EMEA region, two each from North America, Central & South America, and Asia, and one from Oceania.

Unlike previous years then, there’s no knockout rounds, with all 36 drivers taking part in the final. Each racer will compete in a different preliminary round, earning up to 12 points apiece, before the double-points final which will require all three to have some seat time.

At present we don’t know the full setup, but there’ll be a qualifying challenge for the top-ranked driver on each team, followed by a production car race at Trial Mountain, a race for the Honda RA272 at Watkins Glen Long Course, and — unusually — a race for the diesel LMP1 Peugeot 908 HDI at the no-chicane Catalunya layout.

That leads into the traditional final in the X2019 Competition race cars, this year at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and over 22 laps with all three tire grades required.

Having won the Showdown, comfortably, and boasting world champion Coque Lopez and two of the fastest current racers in Jose Serrano and Pol Urra, Spain is a likely favorite to take the first title in this format and on home soil — with the crowd being a fourth-driver.

However, there are some other outrageously strong lineups, including: Baptiste Beauvois, Kylian Drumont, and Thomas Labouteley for France; Lucas Bonelli, Adriano Carazza, and Igor Fraga for Brazil; and Marco Busnelli, Valerio Gallo, and Giorgio Mangano for Italy.

Bonus Campaign & Viewer Campaign

Viewers have a chance to earn six rewards during the event, through two campaigns that are accessible in-game.

The “Bonus Campaign” invites players to predict who will come out on top in each of the three championships, with one million in-game credits per event for a correct selection.

Handily you can wait right up until the moment the first race in each event starts to make your choice, allowing you to see who comes out on top in qualifying before you click — although one-lap pace isn’t always a guarantee in strategic events.

For the “Viewers Campaign” it’s even easier. You just need to click on the “Watch Stream” button each day — or at any time up to 2359 UTC on Sunday December 10 — to earn an in-game reward.

For now we only know two of these, with the Toyota FT-1 VGT and Mazda LM55 VGT for the Toyota and Nations events respectively. A mystery Vision GT awaits for the Manufacturers stream, which could be one of two: the Genesis VGT or the Bulgari VGT — likely the former due to being a series partner.

Pro-Am and Celebrity Appearances

One highlight of the live events is always the Pro-Am race, which sees members of the media, streamers, and influencers racing as part of a team with the qualified finalists, with prizes on offer for the top three.

While commonly not the greatest advert for driving standards (except around any GTPlanet cars, of course), and usually with a more hands-off approach from the stewards, it’s always an entertaining event and often sees a celebrity appearance or two.

In the past that’s included Sir Lewis Hamilton, while Esteban Ocon took part in the 2022 event. We’re not yet sure if there’ll be any big names from the world of motorsport at the event — or racing in the Pro-Am — but Gran Turismo does have a Spanish F1 driver as a brand ambassador

We’ll also see the two aforementioned Vision GT cars revealed, as part of a wider 10th anniversary celebration of the Vision GT project that will include a display of many of the full-size vehicles (some of which are functional) in a hall at the Fira Internacional de Barcelona event space.

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