Igor Fraga Wins GT Sport FIA-Certified Nations Cup With Stunning Last Gasp Victory

After months of comeptition, GT Sport’s flagship FIA-Certified online series came down to four races.

In the incredibly glitzy surrounds of the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel’s Club Sporting, the 16 best drivers in the world fought it out to be crowned the first Nations Cup champion.

Race 1 — N500 at Tokyo Expressway South (7 Laps)

Before the race at the new Tokyo Expressway layout got underway, there were no fewer than six ties for points in the championship.

Unlike the regional championships, drivers came into the final day with points. Each group of six finalists on Friday scored points, plus the four drivers that made the cut through the repechage race. These four drivers started at a disadvantage in terms of points, but with a four race night versus the usual three, it mattered less than one might think starting Sunday evening.

On the opening race of the night, Americas champion Igor Fraga (IOF_RACING17) once again started on pole in the BMW M4. Co-points leader Mikail Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) started down in 10th, with the 996-era Porsche 911 GT3. Rounding out the top behind Fraga, in order, were Shogo Yoshida (gilles_honda_v12) in the brand new Ferrari F50, Adriano Carrazza (CRT-Didico15) in the DB11, Fabián Portilla (FT_Mcqueen91) in the LC500, and Canada’s Jeffrey Gallan (FT_LLOYDZELITE) piloting the Amuse S2000 GT1 Turbo.

The South loop of Tokyo is a middle ground between the two existing major layouts — we drove it briefly — but it still is very much a speed-oriented circuit. The drivers were looking to make the most of that off the start, with first through 11th on Softs, as well as Giorgio

Fraga started strong, but not as much as Carrazza, whose big Aston quickly reeled in the new Ferrari for second by the first corner. An accident in the first hairpin knocked Gallan all the way to the back of the pack. Shortly before the end of the opening lap, Asia-Oceania champ Ryota Kokubun (Akagi-1942mi) picked up a slow-down penalty, with Nissan teammate Hizal doing the same a few corners later.

Yamanaka squeezed by a wayward Portilla on lap two, just before the first pit stops happened. Two Medium-tired drivers — Coque López (Williams_Coque14) in the Diablo and Jonathan Wong (saika159-) in the Ford GT came in for Softs, aiming for an undercut in clean air.

Yoshida put in the work to retake second at the start of lap 4. Slightly back in the pack, Hizal had advanced from his starting 10th all the way to 5th. Amazingly, the top drivers stayed out for another lap, though Suswillo, Mangano, Blazsan and Kokubun all dove in for new tires (all Softs bar Kokubun).

Up front, Fraga’s strategy appeared to be to ignore a pit stop until absolutely necessary. It was certainly working, with a 8-second lead by the start of lap six, the penultimate go-round. Down in 10th, Portilla’s LC500 was doing its best drifting impressions, making it very difficult for Suswillo to get by in the Corvette.

Fraga sure enough pitted soon after, needing to complete just one lap on Mediums. After all of the stops, the order was Carrazza, Yamanaka, Yoshida, and Latkovski. Lopez was right behind, and he had the added advantage of Soft tires on his Diablo GT.

Latkovski dove late into the final hairpin, but couldn’t make the pass stick, and nearly lost 5th to Lopez and Hizal. He gathered the mighty McLaren back up and refocused, out-dragging Yoshida across the line. Fraga clinched the win to extend his lead, though there was a huge pack not far behind on the points table.

Standings After Race 1

  • I. Fraga (BRA) – 22
  • A. Carrazza (BRA) – 15
  • T. Yamanaka (JPN) – 14
  • S. Yoshida (JPN) – 14
  • C. Lopez (SPA) – 14
  • M. Hizal (GER) – 14
  • C. N. Latkovski (AUS) – 11
  • F. Portilla (CHI) – 9
  • R. Kokubun (JPN) – 9
  • J. Gallan (CAN) – 8
  • J. Wong (HK) – 7
  • Y. L. Law (HK)) – 6
  • G. Mangano (ITA) – 5
  • P. Blazsan (HUN) – 5
  • N. Rubilar (CHI) – 3
  • A. Suswillo (GB) – 2

Race 2 — Gr.3 at Interlagos (9 Laps)

With Fraga starting on pole for race 2, the crowd may have been expecting another lights-to-flag win for the Brazilian — especially at his home track.

After the first few corners, it certainly seemed to be a case of holding station. The Senna S at Interlagos is the scene of so many incidents in physical racing, but the virtual drivers kept it clean. Indeed the early stages were not dominated by an excess of overtaking; the exception was the seven soft-tired drivers, who took hold of the top seven places.

Meanwhile Yamanaka and Latkovski, in the Aston Martin, had moved up to the podium at the expense of Carrazza. The two Asia-Oceania qualifiers kept trading places throughout the opening session, with Yamanaka favoring a pass through the run up to Ferradura. This allowed Fraga to build a small 2.5s lead.

Countryman Carrazza was having a horrible time though. Through the first turn, he lost position to both Mangano and Blaszan simultaneously, and his NSX dropped behind Yoshida very shortly afterwards, into eighth.

It was the pit stop window that proved to be a turning point. Most of the field chose to stop just before half distance at the end of lap four. That promoted Yoshida, Wong and Law to the front of the pack, with Fraga coming out in fourth, as Mangano seemed to make a catastrophic error in the AMG GT by picking up a second set of soft tires.

Despite the new tire advantage, Fraga couldn’t move up the field until the respective stops on the following lap — with Mangano stopping again for his required second compound. Fraga’s delay brought Yamanaka back onto his rear wing.

Latkovski, who’d had a strong race opening, fell victim to Lopez’s 911 at the first turn on lap eight and had little answer on the straight. That set up a remarkable three-way, last lap battle.

For the first time this weekend in the Nations Cup, Fraga surrendered a lead. Yamanaka, again, sent the M6 up the inside through T5 and squeezed alongside at the run to Ferradura. A minor side-to-side contact put Fraga out onto the low grip run-off, but he was able to keep it together only to see Yamanaka move past at turn eight.

It got worse for Fraga soon after as Lopez took second away at Juncao. As the Porsche moved past, Fraga’s Jaguar had a tire on the dirt, and that ruined his run up the hill to the line. That gave Latkovski an advantage and he made it count to grab the podium. Fraga was just able to hold on ahead of Blazsan for 4th.

Standings After Race 2

  • I. Fraga (BRA) – 29
  • T. Yamanaka (JPN) – 26
  • C. Lopez (SPA) – 24
  • C. N. Latkovski (AUS) – 19
  • M. Hizal (GER) – 17
  • S. Yoshida (JPN) – 16
  • A. Carrazza (BRA) – 15
  • J. Gallan (CAN) – 13
  • P. Blazsan (HUN) – 11
  • F. Portilla (CHI) – 9
  • R. Kokubun (JPN) – 9
  • J. Wong (HK) – 7
  • Y. L. Law (HK)) – 6
  • G. Mangano (ITA) – 6
  • A. Suswillo (GB) – 6
  • N. Rubilar (CHI) – 3

Race 3 — Gr.1 at Monza (10 Laps)

This was an unusual grid for the Nations Cup. Fraga’s fourth in Brazil put him off pole, with Yamanaka snatching it for his Audi R18. A pair of Peugeots from Lopez (L750R) and Latkovski (908) lined up behind Yamanaka, then Fraga in the Sauber C9.

It didn’t take long for the drama to kick off, with Lopez spinning in the first chicane (which is the second on the usual track). He fell down to 14th, and a similar incident for Suswillo did the same for him right down to the bottom of the pack. The stewards investigated Lopez and Fraga for the first incident, though ruled it no action.

Yamanaka continued to extend his lead to over four seconds at the start of the fourth lap. He must’ve been happy to hear the gasps a few corners later, as Fraga outbraked himself into the chicane and lost two positions. Hizal continued to keep himself in third despite being on Mediums compared to the two Japanese drivers on Softs in front (Yamanaka, and Yoshida in 2nd).

The pitstop shuffle saw Wong up into 2nd a lap later, staying out on Mediums through to the end of lap 6. Latkovski resumed the position the next lap, but he had over five seconds to make up on Yamanaka with three laps to go. Hizal found himself three seconds back in third, with the benefit of Softs.

A battle for 6th broke out on lap 8 between Wong and Carrazza. Using the slipstream of Mangano to great effect, Wong snuck up the inside of Carrazza and made the pass stick through the difficult chicane. A lap later he took his Porsche around the outside of Mangano’s Hyundai Vision GT to secure a top five spot.

Starting the final lap, the field had spaced itself out from 1st through 6th. Carrazza’s Bugatti stood no chance against the rampaging Jaguar XJR-9 of Kokubun. That was the only points-related change of positions on the 10th lap — with Yamanaka taking a second victory in a row, and the double-points race coming up, it was conceivably an eight-way fight for the championship.

Standings After Race 3

  • T. Yamanaka (JPN) – 38
  • I. Fraga (BRA) – 30
  • C. N. Latkovski (AUS) – 29
  • M. Hizal (GER) – 25
  • C. Lopez (SPA) – 24
  • S. Yoshida (JPN) – 23
  • A. Carrazza (BRA) – 18
  • J. Gallan (CAN) – 15
  • R. Kokubun (JPN) – 13
  • J. Wong (HK) – 13
  • P. Blazsan (HUN) – 11
  • G. Mangano (ITA) – 11
  • F. Portilla (CHI) – 9
  • Y. L. Law (HK)) – 6
  • A. Suswillo (GB) – 6
  • N. Rubilar (CHI) – 3

Race 4 — X2014 One-Make at Circuit de la Sarthe (9 Laps)

That set up a final-race showdown, where any driver in the top eight could win with the right results. This included two of the pre-tournament favorites, both starting in the top four.

Points leader Yamanaka started on the soft tires, as did Hizal and Latkovski behind him. Fraga, second in the standings, started a lowly tenth and opted for the hard tires — despite being notoriously difficult to launch the X2014 from the rolling start on the low-grip rubber.

Lap one saw the three leaders trading places with incredible frequency. First Latkovski made it past Yamanaka, and then Hizal past both in a three-wide train down La Sarthe’s long straights. Soon it settled down to the Hizal and Latkovski show, with every corner a passing place. Yamanaka had picked up an automatic penalty for track limits that dropped him behind countryman Yoshida into fourth.

The German and Australian drivers kept their tussle going over the next two laps, but the man on the move was Fraga. Somehow making the hard tires work, he climbed up to fourth place by the end of lap three and the first pit stops. Unusually, Latkovski opted to stay out for another lap on the soft tires, while all of his rivals pitted for medium rubber.

With the Australian pitting at the end of lap four, Hizal swept into the lead by around 2.5 seconds, with Yamanaka and Fraga close behind. Four became five as Carrazza joined the fray, leapfrogging Yamanaka into third before the Japanese driver fought back and then Fraga re-passed both. With Carrazza also passing Yamanaka in the Porsche curves, the leaderboard tightened up — Yamanaka had the title by the smallest of margins.

But that all changed as Blazsan — who’d had a torrid time in this car in his regional final — moved past him into sixth. Yamanaka was now out of contention and Hizal had the Boccioni sculpture in his grasp.

The end of lap six sparked the second round of pit stops. Our three championship contenders all pitted, but while Hizal and Latkovski had to make do with the hard tire, Fraga was on the fastest soft option — the tire with which he’d qualified first overall on Thursday with this car and track combination. Soon he’d slashed the three-second gap to the Australian in second to barely half a second.

Hizal, with a wave to the crowd, seemed unconcerned, but on the penultimate lap Fraga moved into second. That put the Brazilian into the overall lead regardless of what the German did. But after a short period of bump-drafting his Manufacturer Series team mate, Fraga climbed up into the race lead too.

That was how it ended, with Fraga taking maximum points from Hizal and Latkovski — three different regions in the top three spots. That gave Fraga the title of Nations Cup World Champion, while Hizal claimed second from Latkovski on the final race countback.

Final Standings

  • I. Fraga (BRA) – 54
  • M. Hizal (GER) – 45
  • C. N. Latkovski (AUS) – 45
  • T. Yamanaka (JPN) – 40
  • A. Carrazza (BRA) – 30
  • S. Yoshida (JPN) – 29
  • C. Lopez (SPA) – 28
  • P. Blazsan (HUN) – 25
  • R. Kokubun (JPN) – 23
  • G. Mangano (ITA) – 19
  • J. Gallan (CAN) – 15
  • J. Wong (HK) – 13
  • F. Portilla (CHI) – 9
  • Y. L. Law (HK)) – 6
  • A. Suswillo (GB) – 6
  • N. Rubilar (CHI) – 3

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