In-person racing is back with a bang, after an extended pandemic-related layoff, and Gran Turismo’s first event this year was the Showdown held inside Red Bull’s Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria.
It was Subaru who took the Manufacturers Cup victory, its second win of the year following the pre-recorded Watkins Glen round last week.
As qualifying neared the end for what was to be a 48-lap race around Gran Turismo 7’s Trial Mountain in Gr.3 machinery, Mercedes-AMG’s Kazuki Cho fired in a 1:47.298 lap time to take pole position, 0.3s ahead of Erik Cases Vazquez for BMW and Roberto Sternberg for Volkswagen.
As the race got underway for the first time, three laps in it looked as if the leading BMW and second-placed Chevrolet crashed into the wall at Turn 12 – but it transpired the infrastructure was failing, and a red flag was waved.
After a break of nearly an hour, the longest race in Gran Turismo World Series history began with a rolling start.
With the mandatory use of all three tyre compounds – soft medium and hard – during the race and driver swaps, picking the right strategy was pivotal to a good result.
Mercedes-AMG had chosen to start on the medium-compound rubber and was soon overhauled by the soft-shod BMW and Chevrolet teams. On the sixth lap, Chevrolet took the lead. Elsewhere in the field, however, all other teams were on either the medium or hard tyres in the early stages.
Kylian Drumont in the Subaru was the quickest of the medium runners in the opening laps, quickly dispatching Volkswagen and the Mercedes-AMG – the team without round one winner Takuma Miyazono after the Japanese driver contracted COVID-19.
As the opening stint drew to a close, Subaru was catching the leaders who were by now struggling with excessive tyre wear. However, at the end of lap 14 when Drumont looked ready to pounce, both Chevrolet and BMW pitted.
Three laps later and Subaru was the first of the non-soft-running teams to enter the pitlane. Out of the cockpit hopped Drumont, with Daniel Solis taking to the wheel. Now on hard tyres, they had a slow pitstop taking on fuel, and emerged well behind Chevrolet at this point.
Near the midpoint of the race, Mercedes-AMG attacked Porsche forth eighth at Turn 12, only for the rear-engined sports car to then weave down the straight between Turn 13 and 14 and head nose-first into the barrier. Connor Healy suffering a hardware issue resulting in a mechanical retirement.
With four teams, who all started on hard tyres, electric to pit on the 21st lap, everyone had completed one tyre swap.
In the midpack, Volkswagen was creating all sorts of excitement by slewing across Turn 14, then battling hard with Toyota, Mazda and Nissan.
2018 Nations Cup champion Igor Fraga was by now behind the wheel of the Toyota Supra and on soft tyres, charging all the way up into the lead, but picking up a one-second penalty for a track limits infringement at the first corner.
Behind, Baptiste Beauvois in the Mercedes-AMG was closing in on Solis in the Subaru, and made a move for second at Turn 9. Subaru then pitted for the final time, and the quickest soft tyres, at the end of lap 32.
Once all the stops had played out, Toyota led on medium tyres, ahead of Subaru and then Mercedes-AMG on softs. Chevrolet was up in fourth, but on the slower, harder, option.
Ryota Kokubun couldn’t hold of Drumont for long, as the BRZ dived by the Supra at Turn 13 on lap 35. The move was repeated by last week’s Nations Cup race winner Lucas Bonelli in the AMG GT3 one lap later.
At one point Bonelli was closing in on the lead, the gap down to 1.1s at times, but in the final few laps, this stretched to 3.6s by the time Subaru crossed the line to win. Mercedes-AMG held on to second, ahead of Toyota in third a scant 0.3s in front of Mazda.
“I’m so happy, I don’t believe [it],” said Drumont.
“It was my first live event and I did my first victory. It’s perfect for me.”
“A lot of emotions, it’s wild. It’s crazy. For years I’ve been playing on a controller, and I still do. I just wanted to come to an event and prove I can still do this,” said a visibly emotional Solis.
Subaru picks up six World Series points to add to its three previously secured this season to extend its lead at the top of the table. Next up is the second round of the Manufacturers Cup, 25th September 2022.
GRAN TURISMO SHOWDOWN 2022 MANUFACTURERS CUP, RESULTS
- Subaru – Kylian Drumont, Daniel Solis – 48 laps
- Mercedes-AMG – Lucas Bonelli, Kazuki Cho, Baptiste Beauvois +3.608
- Toyota – Igor Fraga, Ryota Kokubun, Nikita Moysov +15.219
- Mazda – Shotaro Ryu, Arnoldo Daetz, Giorgio Mangano +15.500
- Nissan – Mehdi Hafidi, Hiroshi Okumoto, Harald Walsen +22.828
- Volkswagen – Seiya Suzuki, Thomas Labouteley, Roberto Sternberg +24.754
- Chevrolet – Adriano Carrazza, Alex López Murillo, Kazuho Iwata +36.502
- Jaguar – Ádám Tápai, Alonso Regalado, Soma Iseri +37.106
- Genesis – Nicolas Romero, Yuito Sasaki, Dean Heldt +45.330
- Mitsubishi – Hiroki Shimizu, Arthur Mosso, Joss Legrand +48.513
- BMW – Erik Cases Vazquez, Randall Haywood, Jay O’Dowd +1:06.052
- Porsche – Jose Serrano, Angel Inostroza, Connor Healy – DNF
Images: Polyphony Digital