The in-person event to decide the best car manufacturer – for now at least until the world finals in December – witnessed the first time the public could visit a Gran Turismo virtual motorsport event since 2020.
The BMW of Realado led the field away from pole position at the 35-lap race around Suzuka. Three drivers were paired to each car, apart from Porsche missing the injured Angel Inostroza, and changeable weather conditions were expected.
Takuma Miyazono in the Subaru started second and was the only entrant to eschew hard tyres, for medium compound rubber, and immediately attacked into Degner, snatching the lead.
Porsche and Nissan followed through, with Mateo Estevez diving down the inside of Takuma Sasaki’s 911 at the Hairpin for second. João Pessôa’s Honda followed through soon after, before Nissan was hit with a one-second penalty for contact on the opening lap, dropping the team down to fifth.
Just 10 per cent into the race, Lamborghini’s Will Murdoch found his way up four positions up the start, before the Yorkshire driver moved up to fourth as Yamanaka and Pessoa made contact at Casio Triangle.
The contretemps bunched the field, as they travelled around the circuit as a train before something gave way. In this instance, it was an optimistic move by Lamborghini into the Hairpin on Porsche, which in turn resulted in the Honda half-spinning. The rest of the field piled in and the order was reset.
The Raging Bull was up to second before Tomoaki Yamanaka’s AMG slipped through and these were the best of the hard-tyre runners, while everyone else seemed intent on pulling each other to pieces – like Jack Salter says in the movie….
Fourth to 11th were together as one, with Hiroshi Okumoto’s Mazda and Dean Heldt’s Genesis pulling the punches. Miyazono on medium-compound tyres disappeared, pulling a 16-second lead.
Nine laps in, and the sky darkened. AMG blinked and pitted to swap slick tyre compounds, while Lamborghini, Mazda, Porsche et al tried to eke out their existing tyres until rain arrived.
Come lap 10, some of the drivers were running out of patience as Heldt threw his Genesis down the inside of both Porsche and Mazda at the final corner, resulting in the German brand slipping through.
One lap later, the rain began. Subaru switched to intermediate tyres and from Miyazono to Kylian Drumont but picked up a three-second penalty for a pitlane infringement. Lamborghini followed onto the grooved tyres, with Randall Haywood now behind the wheel.
The track was dry through the first and final sectors, but Spoon Curve was drenched. Both Porsche and Toyota kept skating off, picking up penalties in the process. Subaru once again bolted up front, and Lamborghini rose through the ranks to second – although the gap was now over 20 seconds.
Resistance was futile for those on slicks, pitting once again to swap types.
As the rain intensified, several drivers were considering another pitstop for wet tyres, the lack of grip highlighted by Konstantinos Konstantinou putting the McLaren into the wall at Last Curve and dropping to the rear.
In the tricky conditions, Toyota’s Rikuto Kobayashi and Honda’s Valerio Gallo both made impressive progress to fourth and sixth respectively.
With just over 10 laps remaining, it was getting close to putting on slicks again, with drivers hunting out damp sections to preserve their current set. AMG and Honda gambled, and fitted mediums first, but Gallo went off in the opening sector, just clipping a wet patch on slicks.
Leaders Subaru waited until lap 25 and opted for hards. One lap later, the whole field had ditched the intermediates.
Jose Serrano was charging through for Porsche, an up-and-down race for the Stuttgart manufacturer. With just five laps left, the Spaniard dived past Yuki Kodaka’s Huracan for second.
Subaru still led, but the odd one out in terms of compound. As a result, Roberto Sternberg was losing four seconds a lap. Four laps from the end, the gap was seven seconds. Having been on their own for the majority of the race, suddenly they had company.
Sternberg defended in the Hairpin, so Serrano simply drove around the outside for first on the 33rd lap. Porsche had played the long game, with only two drivers, and won at the death.
Gran Turismo World Series Showdown Manufacturers Cup 2023 results
Images: Gran Turismo World Series / Traxion.GG