The Olympics have never shared a simple relationship with esports. Be it poor promotion, undercooked formats or the rather more understandable dedication to family-friendly games, it hardly gets the masses excited.
Mercifully, alongside the fellow car-based Rocket League, sim racing can always be counted upon as a highlight in spite of the noise. Gran Turismo acted swiftly to secure their spot as the official platform that such a competition would be held upon.
This led to the ‘Olympic Virtual Series’ two years ago which would be won by eventual Nations Cup champion Valerio Gallo.
This time around, Gran Turismo acts as merely a part of the greater Olympic Esports Series.
Played out live in Singapore, the fastest qualifiers would enter into a single hot lap session succeeded by a 42-lap race around the Deep Forest Raceway. The prize on the line? A gold trophy befitting the occasion.
Narrowly missing out on the Nations Cup 2022 title, Angel Inostroza by this stage has successfully spread his wings amongst other offerings within the simracing world.
The Chilean had a chance to start his 2023 Gran Turismo campaign off right having secured pole position ahead of Kylian Drumont. Drumont, who was gifted a second chance to qualify after an issue occurred during his hot lap, was on pace for pole initially but settled for the outside pole.
Will Murdoch signified his rising star with a third-place effort pipping Adriano Carrazza to lead of the second row. José Serrano rounded out the top five of the twelve-driver grid.
Inostroza’s strategy was clear. As the only runner to start on the Soft-compound tyre, he would look to blast away from the chasing pack – building up a sizeable advantage – before defending for the back-half of the event.
The early laps were key, so creating a one-second gap by the third time around was alright but hardly confidence boosting.
Carrazza falling off the back of Murdoch was plenty of concern for Serrano who knew full well that the Brit, and indeed Drumont ahead of him, were running the same strategy as themselves. A move had to be made and so it was thanks to an impressive send into Turn 14.
Just a few laps further on, the Brazilian was set to lose another place. Giorgio Mangano had qualified poorly although his race pace was the best of those on the Medium compound. He would also claim fifth place into Turn 14.
Having extended his leading advantage to just shy of five seconds, it was time for Inostroza to head towards pit road. With eleven laps under his belt, the Medium compound was next on his to-use list offering a strong advantage over those who chose the Hard compound for their second stints.
Drumont was next in another four tours of the circuit on. He confounded predictions by matching Inostroza’s Medium call but would have plenty of work to do in order to claw back the now six seconds between the pair.
With the first pitstop phase coming to an end, what had become clear was Mangano’s incredible opening run. Also heading onto Mediums, he was able to catch out Serrano who had not only chose the Hard-compound route but encountered traffic.
An overtake was ultimately inevitable though the Italian would drop to sixth in the medium-term; Carrazza and Benjámin Hencsei were enjoying life on the Soft compound and allowed through without fuss.
The race leader was in for a final time on Lap 28 though an issue was on the horizon. Unlike his second stint where he enjoyed plenty of free air, Angel would be faced with the immediate traffic of Kaj de Bruin. Drumont, meanwhile, was flying and would be delighted to have heard that the Dutchman was not letting Inostroza through. Soft tyres were strapped on for a final twelve lap sprint with just three seconds the distance to close.
As it transpired, Serrano was set to go to the end after just the one stop. Yet again, this would go against Inostroza who found himself bottlecorked in the opening sector of Lap 34.
Drumont was cruising up to the pair of them but for a moment looked to have that progress halted. Inostroza had passed Serrano and the Frenchman had to back off upon exit of Turn 14.
His confidence was undeterred and, in one of the moves of the year, Drumont launched down the inside of both cars into Turn 1. The double overtake received a justified applause from the live audience and signalled a frustrating conclusion to the competition for the pole sitter. For a start, Serrano was back ahead which required a second overtake.
Murdoch was on the march, however, having a far easier time making his way around Serrano and closing down Inostroza. With just two laps left to complete, the Brit went for an audacious run around the outside of Turn 1. Angel held on as best he could but contact on corner exit unsettled his machine. It produced an excellent save although he was now definitively third.
Nobody would be denying Drumont his trophy from here on out. A super strategy and determined drive had earned him the moniker of an Olympic Esports Series champion.
- Kylian Drumont – 54’04.181
- Will Murdoch – +5.624
- Angel Inostroza – +7.876
- Adriano Carrazza – +12.701
- Giorgio Mangano – +13.777
- Karl Etyemezian – +14.808
- Yusuke Goto – +18.711
- Benjámin Hencsei – +19.678
- José Serrano – +21.326
- Kaj de Bruin – +31.210