Italy’s Valerio Gallo has taken the very first Olympic Virtual Series Motor Sport Event title, courtesy of a narrow final race victory over Mikail Hizal of Germany.
Gallo had set the fastest lap time in qualifying for the event, but it was Hizal who laid down the early marker in the first event of the finals. The 2019 world champion qualified first for the race at Tokyo Expressway with a 2:07.7 lap in the Toyota 86 GT Gr.4, with France’s Baptiste Beauvois just 0.07s behind him, and 2020 and 2018 world champions Takuma Miyazono and Igor Fraga only a tenth further back. In fact the entire 16-car field was covered by less than a second.
Beauvois though made the move for the lead early in the race and stayed there almost throughout. Although there was some mid-race dicing with Hizal and Miyazono, the French driver was at the front for much of the race. Indeed as Fraga, Miyazono, and Hizal — later joined by Gallo — tussled for position, Beauvois was able to break clear to win by over a second.
That was aided by an error from Jose Serrano which saw the Spanish driver miss his braking point at the final hairpin on the final lap, shuffling the cars from second through seventh and knocking the pole-sitter back to fifth at the checkered flag.
Undeterred, Hizal did it again, guiding the GR Yaris to pole at Sardegna B by 0.06s, again from Beauvois, with Fraga and Miyazono again forming the second row of the grid.
That was though to be the last we’d see of Fraga. A severe network issue knocked the Brazilian driver out of the lobby and he was unable to rejoin for either the second or third race.
The race itself unfolded in a similar fashion to the first, as Hizal, Beauvois, and Miyazono, along with Hungary’s Patrik Blazsan, escaped at the front of the field, this time using the medium tires to build the gap. As the mandatory pitstop and tire change unfolded mid-race, the quartet had a three-second gap to Nikita Moysov of the Czech Republic behind.
Despite some very firm battling at the front, Moysov and Gallo couldn’t make firm in-roads, and it was Beauvois that reached the finish line first again, ahead of Blazsan, Miyazono, and Hizal.
Hizal’s perfect qualifying form was broken by Gallo ahead of the double-points finale, with the Italian beating the German to pole by just over two hundredths of a second, pushing Beauvois onto the second row alongside Miyazono.
However, Beauvois’ fortunes took a dramatic turn for the worse, as he found himself shouldered to the outside of the first chicane at Dragon Trail Seaside, and then again at the kink before the first hairpin, spinning to the back of the pack. The stewards decided that the inside car for the latter move, Canada’s Andrew Brooks, was the guilty party and gave him a five-second penalty.
As is often the case with these finals races, exactly who was in the net lead at any given time was tough to determine. Certainly Gallo was making great strides at the front — helped out by a rare mistake from Miyazono in the Chicane of Death — but then he was using the softer tires first.
It wasn’t until lap 14 that all the strategies unfolded, and there was a clear result in view: Hizal, five seconds down, had five laps on soft tires to catch and pass Gallo. One of the two would win and claim the Olympic title.
While a tall order, the German driver looked like he could manage it, and drew closer with each corner. It ultimately came down to the last corner of the race, which Gallo was able to defend both on entry and on exit to prevent Hizal getting the run to the line. At the flag, it was Italy’s gold medal from Germany by just 0.067s. Despite his early race calamity, Beauvois recovered to ninth to take the bronze for France.
Congratulations to Valerio, Mikail, and Baptiste for becoming the first ever Gran Turismo Olympic medalists! You can catch up with all the action below, along with all the other Olympic Virtual Series events elsewhere in the video.
Featured image via Gran-Turismo.com
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