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Valerio Gallo becomes Gran Turismo World Champion | FOS Future Lab

06th December 2021
Andrew Evans

Italy’s Valerio Gallo has capped off an incredible season by taking the Gran Turismo world title with a flawless performance at the World Final. Gallo had already won three of the five races across the season, heading to the finals with a handy six-point lead over his nearest rival, Spain’s Jose Serrano. With 36 points available for the finals races, it wasn’t a big margin though.

Thirty-two drivers from around the world qualified for the finals – including a representative from Guatemala for the first time – requiring a semi-final phase to pare the field down to the final 16.

First up was the Asia-Oceania semi, with ten qualifiers from the region racing at Mount Panorama in special Mazda Roadster Touring Cars. Ryota Kokubun took pole position ahead of 2020 champion Takuma Miyazono, but Miyazono got the better start to lead at the first corner.

Only five drivers could qualify, so the fight for fifth place was the key battle, but it soon spilled over. Japan’s Tomoaki Yamanaka tagged the Australian driver Guy Barbara as he tried to take fifth, spinning him into the wall and earning a two-second penalty as a result – dropping both to the back of the field. Miyazono drove a controlled race, allowing Australia’s Andrew Lee to stay in the lead until the last pass down Conrod Straight. He’d win, with Matthew McEwen from New Zealand sneaking through on the line for second, ahead of Lee, Kanata Kawakami, and Kokubun.

The European semi took place at Monza, using a configuration missing the first chicane at Rettifilo. Patrik Blazsan from Hungary qualified on pole, with Serrano alongside him and Gallo only third.

A first-lap incident at Variante della Roggia saw a number of cars come to grief, though Gallo and Serrano weren’t involved, and Spain’s Coque Lopez, running a flipped tyre strategy, benefitted the most. In the end, Lopez climbed from 12th to third, while Gallo made a last-lap move at Curva Grande to win from Serrano. Giorgio Mangano, Baptiste Beauvois and Blazsan also made the top six and qualified for the final.

The Americas final looked bad-tempered, but not at the front. Lucas Bonelli managed the lights-to-flag win in the Ford GT road car, with 2018 champion Igor Fraga passing Chile’s Angel Inostroza for second to make it a Brazilian 1-2. Juan Hernandez finished right on their tail for fourth.

However it was far scrappier for the final qualifying spot. Each of the five remaining drivers was in the position at some point but bumped, scraped, or penalised out of it. In the end, Canada’s Andrew Brooks took the place on the penultimate lap and never looked back.

That meant that Gallo now only had to finish second to guarantee himself the title, with an eight-point advantage over Serrano at the top of the leaderboards. Serrano qualified on pole position for the final 22-lap race, with Gallo alongside him on the second row, but made an early error to allow Gallo past. Kawakami also overtook a couple of laps later.

With all drivers required to use all three tire compounds, the various strategies wouldn’t all play out until the final laps, and indeed it took until lap 19 to see the whole picture. Gallo was now on new but low grip hard tyres, Miyazono behind was on older, higher-grip mediums, and Beauvois – who’d started last – on the highest grip soft tyres. Despite the advantage though, both Miyazono and Beauvois made errors at the Dragon Trail circuit’s notorious “chicane of death”, which allowed Gallo to keep hold of the lead to win and take the title.

In the teams championship, Toyota regained the title it won in 2019 with a similarly perfect performance. With driver swaps not possible in Gran Turismo outside of live events, each of the three drivers for each team had to take part in a single race.

Toyota took pole position for the first event, with Coque Lopez setting the fastest time ahead of Serrano for Porsche. Despite a slightly earlier pit stop, Lopez was able to use the undercut to fend off the Porsche to take the win. That gave Yamanaka pole position for race two, and using an unusual tire strategy he was able to sprint away from the cars behind which were too busy squabbling to keep up. Bonelli (Mercedes) and Jeff Gallan (Mazda) finished just 0.035 seconds apart in second and third, but the Toyota was a second up the road.

The final Toyota driver was Fraga, with the race at his favourite venue: the Nurburgring 24 Hour circuit. Inevitably, Fraga streaked off into the distance to win from Kokubun in the Mazda by over eight seconds. Having already led the points table going in, Toyota’s three wins from three was more than enough to re-take the title, while Mazda finished second overall, and Porsche nicked third from Mercedes.

In addition to the main events, the World Finals weekend also staged the third running of the Toyota GT Cup. That would see Tomoaki Yamanaka claiming victory in a six-lap race of the Le Mans circuit, finishing just 0.2 seconds ahead of 2020 champion Takuma Miyazono, with 16-year old Rikuto Kobayashi rounding out the podium in an impressive debut.

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