Lucas Bonelli Takes First World Series Win to Lead Nations Cup

The Gran Turismo World Series has a new winner, as Lucas Bonelli took victory in the Nations Cup at Round 1, ahead of countryman Igor Fraga.

For the second race in a row, it was Fraga who’d qualify on pole position after the single-lap shootout, with Bonelli four-hundredths behind. Defending champion Valerio Gallo could only qualify in 14th, half a second behind Juan Hernandez in 14th, with the other previous winner, Takuma Miyazono, in eighth.

However with the requirement to use multiple tire compounds — at least two grades from the Racing Hard, Medium, and Soft on offer for the Suzuki VGT Gr.3 — and a high tire wear multiplier, grid slot wouldn’t be as significant compared to strategy.

That was something that would become immediately apparent, with Fraga starting on the Hard compound and almost immediately relegated to second by the Soft-shod Bonelli. Indeed by the end of the first lap Fraga had been shuffled down to fifth behind Baptiste Beauvois on the Mediums and Matthew McEwen and Patrik Blazsan on the Softs.

A major incident further back accounted for a gaggle of drivers. Coque Lopez seemed to bog down on the grid, forcing Ryota Kokubun to take evasive action, but then Gallo missed his braking marker into turn one, causing a collision which accounted for six drivers — including Kokubun who dropped down to last.

There was more to come too. Kanata Kawakami span exiting turn nine, joining Kokubun at the back of the field. McEwen then had a prolonged accident trying to overtake Beauvois into the Inner Loop chicane, before Blazsan followed suit the next lap doing the exact same thing.

That all allowed Bonelli to build a five-second advantage at the front, until he stopped on lap five for Hard tires to take him to the end of the race — starting the cycle of pit stops. Emerging in traffic, Bonelli then picked up a one-second penalty for contact with the rear of Kawakami during an overtake.

With the advantage of grip in switching from Medium to Soft tires, Beauvois overtook Bonelli as he served his penalty and, with all the other stops completed, assumed the lead. From there he strolled away, building a five-second advantage.

However Gallo was providing a sign of things to come. Having stopped at the end of lap five for Softs and climbing up to third, the defending champion was fighting his car more than other drivers after seven laps and had dropped back to sixth. That quickly became 12th after another incident at the Inner Loop.

Sure enough, on seven-lap old Softs and with the checkered flag almost in sight, disaster struck for Beauvois. The car let go as he entered the Inner Loop, firing him into the infield barrier. That allowed Bonelli to retake the lead, holding off Fraga for the final half a lap to become the third Brazilian driver to win a round of the GT World Series.

Miyazono would claim the final podium spot after another tactical masterstroke, running nine laps on the Medium and just six on the Soft, to gain five places from his start position.

Bonelli’s first win sees him score the maximum three World Series points to lead the fledgling points table, with Fraga on two and Miyazono on one.

These points will accumulate across the season, through the three online rounds, the Showdown, and the World Final, with the driver scoring the most in total in all five events becoming 2022 champion.

There’s little time for these results to sink in however, as the World Series Showdown live event is coming up fast — taking place next weekend, July 30-31.

This live-broadcast tournament at Red Bull Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria, will see the 16 drivers from Round 1 joined by the 16 best online qualifiers from Series 1 with a place in Rounds 2 and 3 and the World Final at stake — as well as six more World Series points.

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