Another thrilling last-lap finish has seen Spain’s Coque Lopez win his first Gran Turismo World Series Nations Cup, keeping his race win after a post-race investigation.
A controversial final lap saw Lopez, Angel Inostroza, and Takuma Miyazono — the three regional champions — swapping positions on a corner-by-corner basis until Lopez crossed the finish line first.
First blood went to Miyazono in qualifying, with the Japanese driver taking pole position by the thinnest possible margin of 0.001s from Lopez, with Inostroza lining up third and championship points leader Igor Fraga behind countryman Adriano Carrazza in fifth.
As we’ve seen often this season, the front two elected to start on the softest possible tire in order to build a quick lead, but that was Lopez initially after an early overtake of his rival. Further back the majority of those who’d opted to start on hard tires wasted no time in getting rid of them, pitting after just one lap.
Miyazono — who had later retaken the lead — and Lopez ducked into the pits at the end of lap nine for new rubber, with the due diverging in their tire strategies. While Miyazono opted for a second set of softs, committing to a three-stop race, Lopez went for the medium option hoping to negate the deficit by staying within slipstream range.
Fraga had inherited the lead following pit stops ahead, but made a catastrophic error on his own stop. Unsighted by road surface reflections he cut across the pit entry line and earned a three-second penalty. The very same thing happened a lap later to Baptiste Beauvois, running a similar strategy and pace to Fraga.
The traditional mid-race lull, as all the various strategies were ebbing and flowing, was interrupted by some uncharacteristic errors from the top drivers. Ryota Kokubun and Jose Serrano both made mistakes in the twitchy X2019 and ended up nose-in to the scenery.
However it soon became clear that it was between the two competing strategies of the front three. Inostroza had saved his soft stints to the last and was finished fast, while both Lopez and Miyazono would be making a late, late stop for the slowest, hard tire.
As that hoved into view, Lopez used his own soft tires to close in on Miyazono and take the lead with a move into turn nine that nobody was expecting — least of all Miyazono. A lap and a half later, heading into the final lap, they both ducked in for the hard tire with Inostroza now just 22 seconds back.
Sure enough, as they emerged it was now a front three, with the Chilean splitting them. On tires two grades softer, it seemed to be Inostroza’s race to lose.
Lopez though forced Inostroza into attempting an outside pass through turn eight, resulting in side-to-side contact and bringing Miyazono, somehow, back into the mix. The Japanese driver then hit the front briefly before contact with both Lopez and Inostroza sent him off, with Inostroza now in the lead.
Running through into the final tunnel turn, Lopez went for a late lunge, causing further contact. Inostroza was again forced wide, but this time couldn’t recover through the final downhill section and trailed Lopez across the line.
That all prompted an investigation, which ultimately came to the conclusion that it was a race incident. With that Lopez would retain the race win and, tying Inostroza on World Series points, the title based on the Grand Final result.
While controversial, and likely to be subject of many differing opinions, Lopez is a popular champion having been with the World Series and World Tour since it became a competitive event. It’s a disappointing end to what has been Inostroza’s best ever Gran Turismo World Series season — just missing the cherry on the cake — but we’ll likely see him return in 2023 with renewed motivation.
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