Gran Turismo World Series Montreal: Lexus and Miyazono Take Dramatic Victories

The first live event of the 2024 Gran Turismo World Series has seen Team Lexus — through talismanic driver Igor Fraga — and Takuma Miyazono claim an early advantage in the two championships, although the real winner was a pair of lucky gloves…

With all the racing packed into a single evening, there was a lot to get through in a short time — especially for those few drivers racing in both, but it was the Manufacturers Cup up first.

For 2024 the format will see each representative on the three-driver squad race in one live event apiece. This is largely intended to be their home event in each case — with one in the Americas, one in Europe, and one in Asia — but other commitments and a visa issue for at least one participant saw some drivers head to Montreal to stand in for team-mates.

Gran Turismo World Series Montreal: Manufacturers Cup

Although, as he points out, it’s been a little while since Igor Fraga won a live event race in the GTWS (the Toyota GR GT Cup in 2022 at Monaco), the Brazilian went into the round as a favorite. That wasn’t just on reputation alone, but Fraga has proven difficult to beat at the Interlagos circuit used at the event and was driving his own real-world ride in the Lexus RC F GT3.

So it proved in qualifying as he showed a clean pair of tail-lights to all to claim pole position by over a tenth of a second. Takuma Sasaki, filling in for Arthur Mosso at Porsche, took second by a similar margin from Guy Barbara’s AMG with the Australian replacing Lucas Bonelli.

The front five drivers — Valerio Gallo in for Mateo Estevez at Team Honda and Robbie Heck for Team Mazda — all opted for the softer grade of tire, from the two required, for the opening stint and set about dropping the hard-shod pack behind. Indeed the gap built sufficiently to allow all five to pit around lap ten for more soft tires and come back out still ahead of the leading hard starter, Calen Roach for Team BMW.

Fraga though was experiencing the highest rate of tire wear, with the fronts dropping off a third faster than the chasing pack. He was the first of the front-runners to pit, but was joined by Gallo and Heck, while Barbara and Sasaki stayed out — Sasaki for three laps more, which saw him undercut by the other four.

However the Japanese driver was able to use the fresher rubber to get back past Barbara and Heck, hitting the front again at around two-thirds distance as others entered their pit windows. From here the strategies diverged though, as Fraga and Heck opted to pick up a third set of softs — guaranteeing one more stop — while the rest chose the hard grade to run to the flag.

Sasaki found himself staring at the rear wing of Gallo’s NSX as he rejoined from the pits, and that would be the case right through the final six laps as there was just no way past the 2022 Nations Cup champion’s car.

The battle also saw the duo losing time to Fraga and Heck, who both needed the gap to make a third and final stop. Sure enough, both waited until the final lap to make that mandated tire change, and while Heck would slot back into fifth it was Fraga that emerged with a pretty healthy 2.5s lead.

With the tire differential neutralized he’d keep that until the finish to claim the win and six World Series points, with Gallo and Sasaki rounding out the podium and taking five and four respectively. Barbara and Heck filled the next two slots, while a monster drive from Adriano Carrazza saw the Team Toyota man claim the final point after starting last and running the reverse strategy.

Manufacturers Cup Grand Final Results

  • 1 – Team Lexus (Igor Fraga) – Lexus RC F GT3 – 30 laps
  • 2 – Team Honda (Valerio Gallo) – Honda NSX Gr.3 – +2.592s
  • 3 – Team Porsche (Takuma Sasaki) – Porsche 911 RSR – +2.623s

Gran Turismo World Series Montreal: Nations Cup

The 12 Nations Cup racers will attend every event in 2024, and we’re likely to see the X2019 Competition used in every round — including the World Final — so Montreal was a crucial indicator of form.

For many GTWS followers (us included!), 2021 Nations Cup champion Takuma Miyazono would have been a pre-season favorite and the Japanese driver didn’t disappoint in setting the fastest time in qualifying at Road Atlanta with the only 58-second lap. Sasaki, on double-duty, made it a Japanese front-row, as the drivers from second to seventh were separated by just 0.07s.

That set the grid and the selection seeding for the Qualifying Race, once again taking the form of a modern supercar event with each driver picking their choice from the 12 vehicles available from first to last. The race was a straight, seven-lap run at Watkins Glen that’s mimicked by this week’s Daily Race C — although with a slightly different set of cars.

With first pick, you may have expected Miyazono to run away with it, but it was Kylian Drumont that got the best start of all from third on the grid. The Frenchman used the Chevrolet Corvette’s legs to great effect, dragging past both Sasaki — who saw his progress stunted after driving his Maserati MC20 into the back the of F50 ahead in turn four — and Miyazono to take the lead into the Bus Stop.

That was the last anyone saw of Drumont, who just pulled away at over a second a lap to take the win by eight seconds. However Miyazono and Sasaki had an entertaining battle throughout the race to determine the podium, trading paint right on the limit until Miyazono just emerged to take second on the last lap.

Further back the battles were even more intense as you could throw a postage stamp over the cars from 4th to 10th. It would have included 11th and 12th, but Robbie Heck lost the rear of the Ford GT through turn nine and Angel Inostroza tripped over him despite best efforts to avoid it.

That almost came to a head on the last lap as the cars almost looked to go through the Bus Stop seven-abreast. A post-race investigation concluded that there was nothing too amiss, as Gallo’s sterling defence of fourth was broken with Coque Lopez, Kaj de Bruin, and Calen Roach rounding out the top six.

The French driver, victorious in these cars at the Showdown in 2022, was the only driver to opt for the soft tires — with use of all three grades required during the 35-lap race. It’s a strategy we’ve seen used to good effect in the past, and a surprise that he was the only one to make this pick.

However, the short, staccato lap and high tire wear meant that Drumont could never make the soft advantage count — despite the battles between Miyazono, Lopez, Sasaki, and de Bruin behind — and he squirmed into the pits on lap ten for a fresh set.

Another consequence of the short lap had a major impact on the race. Some of the drivers who’d started on hard tires and stopped early were making second stops with barely a dozen laps on the board. This brought them out of the pits on fresh, fast soft tires right in the middle of the podium battle but a lap down — something rarely seen in GTWS events.

That resulted in Lopez, Gallo, and Serrano all tripping over one another — through little fault of Roach and Barbara, in much faster cars but out of sequence in ninth and tenth — with Serrano eventually emerging as the leader of that squabble.

However, the faster, lapped cars were making their way to the front. Miyazono opted to pit before being caught up in the scrap, getting himself out of the way, but Sasaki — who’d inherited the lead now — was getting a slipstream from tenth-placed Barbara!

2022 champion Gallo would drop out of podium contention with an uncharacteristic error exiting turn five, but he wasn’t the only driver in the walls there. Just nine laps from home — and on his way out of the pits — Drumont made the same error and ended up facing the wrong way, just as race-leader Miyazono zipped past.

The race came down to the final set of stops, as the leading drivers sought to use the hard tire for the least amount of time possible in the last stint. Serrano looked to have it in the bag, pitting with a huge, 30-second lead over Miyazono with three to go and emerging two seconds clear.

It was a battle of cold vs. warm tires though, as Miyazono demolished that advantage through the twisty esses and swept past down the back straight to take the lead through the turn ten chicane with two laps remaining. Serrano couldn’t fight back as the Japanese driver immediately stretched a second’s advantage and broke the slipstream to take an impressive victory. Notably, Miyazono raced using Fraga’s gloves, having misplaced his own!

With the win, Miyazono has earned six World Series points, with five for Serrano and four for Lopez who just fended off de Bruin for the final podium spot. Sasaki’s impressive 21-lap opening stint on the medium tire was only rewarded with two points, with Gallo over 20 seconds further back picking up the final one.

Nations Cup Grand Final Results

  • 1 – Takuma Miyazono (Japan) – Red Bull X2019 Competition – 35 laps
  • 2 – Jose Serrano (Spain) – Red Bull X2019 Competition – +1.684s
  • 3 – Coque Lopez (Spain) – Red Bull X2019 Competition – +5.678s

There’s only a short, five-week break until the next event, with the action heading to a second all-new venue, city, and country in a row.

Round 2 of the Gran Turismo World Series 2024 takes place in Prague, Czechia, and Gold tickets for the event are on sale now. There we’ll see the dozen Nations Cup racers resume their battles, while the second set of drivers for each of the 12 Manufacturers Cup finalists will race off in the Gr.3 cars to secure points for their title challenges.

We’ll see you there on Saturday August 10!

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