Five-time F1 world champion, and Gran Turismo “Maestro” Lewis Hamilton welcomed the 30 drivers to the stage, but with all the preparations done and dusted it was time to get down to action in Monaco on Friday.
Ahead of the final rounds on Sunday, the drivers had to be pared down from 30 to just 16. That meant two semi-finals, each with only six drivers qualifying and one eliminated. Following that, the 16 drivers not yet qualified would fight it out for the last four spots in the repechage race.
Race 1 — Block A
The action opened with a ten-lap race at the Lago Maggiore circuit in Gr.3 cars. As is now familiar, all drivers had to use all three tire compounds over the course of the race, requiring a minimum two pit stops required as a consequence.
With the front six drivers all starting on soft tires there was always going to be two classes in the opening stages. Sure enough, Fraga (IOF_Racing17), Portilla (FT_Mcqueen91), Gallan (FT_LLOYDZELITE), Suswillo (GTP_Aderrrm), Yamanaka (yamado_racing38), and Lopez (Williams_Coque) pulled a gap pretty quickly.
Although the racing was respectful, some scrapping between them meant that Fraga, with the luxury of pole position, was soon able to build a lead of his own and move to relative safety. What turned out to be the crucial action of the race happened in the mid-pack. Off-screen, while battling with Pagandet (Lomas_74), Goertz (JGOERTZ25) suddenly plummeted down the order, dropping to last.
Routine pit stops on lap 3 for the front six saw all but Suswillo switch to the hard tire option and return to the pack, with lead medium-tire driver Brooks (Deafsun96) taking up the lead in the GR Supra. Not keen to get held up, Yamanaka sent his AMG down the inside of the bowl T11 corner in pursuit of Fraga.
With other drivers making their stops, the original front six resumed their positions. Soon Suswillo’s differing pit strategy came into the mix as he pitted on lap 6 for the hard tires he needed to get to the end. Almost everyone else, bar Szkoruda (Z28) pitted the following lap, and that lead to a grandstand finish.
Fraga was practically untouchable at the front, building a huge eight-second lead. The scrap continued behind him though, with Portilla vigorously defending his second position from Lopez and Gallas. Yamanaka, on medium tires, passed Suswillo for fifth, and that left the British driver vulnerable to the drivers behind him on soft tires.
This proved crucial. Blazsan (TRL_Fulvaros) managed to skip past Brooks leading into the last two laps and set about chasing down that last qualifying position. Sure enough he made the tire difference count and sprang past Suswillo with only a few corners remaining.
At the checkered flag, Fraga had a commanding victory and qualified for tomorrow’s final. Also qualifying were Lopez, Gallan, Portilla, Yamanaka and Blazsan. The unlucky driver to be eliminated was Goertz, who never managed to recover from the second lap incident.
Race 2 — Block B
Onto the second group, with 11 laps around Dragon Trail’s challenging reverse layout. Shogo Yoshida (gilles_honda_v12) started on pole in the always-strong 911 RSR. Behind him, Adriano Carrazza (CRT-Didico15) lined up in the M6 GT3, with Asia-Oceania champ Ryota Kokubun’s (Akagi_1942mi) V12 Aston Martin behind him. Only Yoshida and Carrazza started on Softs in the top six, with most of the field opting for Mediums instead. Despite a few nudges at the chicane o’ death, there were no real lineup changes until the final corners of the opening lap, with Nicolás Rubilar (FT_NicoR) squeezing by Kokubun.
It didn’t last long, as Kokubun reclaimed it going into lap 2, with Mikail Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) right on Rubilar’s BMW’s tailpipes in the VW Vision GT. Yat Lam Law (NegiFISH_NaF) dove into the hairpin right after, knocking Hizal into Cody Nikola Latkovski (Nik_Makozi) who then fell off track, tumbling down to 9th.
Meanwhile, GT Academy champ Nick McMillen (GumballCGT) kept his nose clean through the first three laps, moving from 12th to 7th.
Rubilar once again took third going into lap 3. Law had a bit of a wiggle out of the chicane ending the lap, affording Hizal breathing room in 5th. Yoshida had a two second lead starting lap 5, but burned over a second off it after missing his braking point heading into the first hairpin.
Everyone in the top ten pitted on lap 4 save Rubilar, who dove away at the last second for an additional lap in clean air. With Softs versus Yoshida’s Mediums, Kokubun makes short work of his countryman’s 911 and moves into 3rd.
In for Softs, Rubilar emerged in 5th to start lap 6. Up the road, Kokubun snatched the lead over Carrazza into the hairpin, with Hizal following past a visibly nervous Brazilian. Rubilar and Yoshida would do the same at the start of lap 7.
Meanwhile up front, Hizal made the move going into T1, just making it stick against fellow Regional Champion (and Nissan Manufacturer Cup teammate) Kokubun. They were both in for new rubber and started lap 8 on their final set of tires, the Hards.
An investigation popped up between Martin Grady (GTA_Tidgney) and Adam Wilk (Adam_2167) at the end of lap 8. Wilk got a 2-second penalty, but Grady came out worse for wear way down at the bottom of the pack. A whole crew headed into the pits at the end of the lap for Softs, including Wong and Law, who came out in 6th and 7th. Law had just over two seconds to make up to secure the final Sunday slot at this point.
Yoshida pitted to end lap 9, opting to spend the least amount of time on the Hards as possible. He emerged in a comfortable third. The final lap was a battle for fourth, with Wong and Law squeezing every ounce of speed out of the Subaru and Chevy, respectively. The positions stayed stable to the line, while Carrazza’s defensive drive in 6th secured him the final Sunday spot over a hard-charging Rubilar, who span coming out of the hairpin on the final lap. Hizal won with a comfortable gap over Yamanaka, with Yoshida close behind in third.
Race 3 — Repechage
16 top drivers, four spots left in the final and only one more chance. The repechage was sure to throw up some interesting racing. With Gr.4 cars over 12 laps at Red Bull Ring, and tire wear not an issue, it was a straight scrap.
For the first few corners, all was well, although Rubilar ran quite wide on the exit of the first turn. However Pagandet and Holland tangled with each other in the Schlossgold corner, dropping the Australian to 11th — and earning a stewards’ investigation.
At the sharp end, Rubilar, Suswillo and Latkovski seemed to have a gentleman’s agreement of sorts. The three pulled away from the chasing cars but kept station. That all changed when Suswillo picked up an automatic penalty on lap 4. In serving the small penalty, both Mangano and Salazar passed the Brit’s Mustang, but Suswillo got his braking just right to retake that crucial fourth place at turn 3.
Further back, the squabble to be the driver chasing the lead five down was boiling over. De Jesus, Brooks, Pagandet and McMillen were four wide approaching turn two, with the American coming out on top. Then, just after the half way point Rubilar made a minor error, allowing Latkovski to move into the lead of the race, but all the action was over that vital fourth spot.
Salazar was not letting Suswillo get away and, with two laps remaining forced the Brit to take a defensive line into the second turn. He made the switch back stick and completed the pass on the run down to Schlossgold. This lasted until the end of the lap when Suswillo got a great run through the last turn and repassed on the drag to the line.
They spent much of lap 11 dueling, before Salazar made the same move again on the final lap. Suswillo wasn’t able to prevent it, but this time got a better run down to turn three and moved back ahead. The battle ran right down to the line, but it just wasn’t to be for the Portuguese driver.
Latkovski took the win, from Rubilar and Mangano, while Suswillo rounded out the qualifying places for tomorrow’s final.
- I. Fraga — IOF_Racing17 — Brazil
- J. Lopez — Williams_Coque14 — Spain
- J. Gallan — FT_LLOYDZELITE — Canada
- F. Portilla — FT_Mcqueen91 — Chile
- T. Yamanaka — yamado_racing38 — Japan
- P. Blazsan — TRL_Fulvaros — Hungary
- M. Hizal — TRL_LIGHTNING — Germany
- R. Kokubun — akagi_1942mi — Japan
- S. Yoshida — gilles_honda_v12 — Japan
- J. Wong — saika159- — Hong Kong
- Y. Law — NegiFISH_NaF — Hong Kong
- A. Carrazza — CRT-Didico15 — Brazil
- C. Latkovski — Nik_Makozi — Australia
- N. Rubilar — FT_NicoR — Chile
- G. Mangano — Giorgio_57 — Italy
- A. Suswillo — GTP_Aderrrm — United Kingdom