With Porsche and Italy taking the spoils last month through the efforts of Angel Inostroza and Olympic victor Valerio Gallo respectively, fans awaited the expected reshuffle of form with new vehicles and tracks to enjoy.
Manufacturers Cup Qualifying
German outfits made up almost half the grid for the trip to the famed Nürburgring. It would, however, be Japan who would star as Subaru’s Takuma Miyazono headed a top-four lockout for the land of the rising sun. Toyota’s Adriano Carrazza, Honda’s Gallo and Mazda’s Ryota Kokubun filled out the front two rows of the grid.
Manufacturers Cup Race
Unlike at Suzuka, tyre strategy was a lot more uniform as the lights went green with the top three on Racing Softs and everyone behind on Racing Mediums.
Carrazza’s start was messy, hitting the back of Miyazono into Turn 1 and earning himself a one-second slowdown penalty immediately. By Turn 7 he’d find himself down in 6th.
The Brazilian didn’t lose confidence and was punchy in his fight back up the order. Eventually, even the fast-starting Mercedes of Lucas Bonelli fell to the charge of Carrazza who was now back in third and only five seconds off leader Miyazono. He didn’t escape without yet another penalty though for contact with his compatriot.
Gallo would be the first of the soft-compound runners to dive into the pits in an effort to close the gap between himself and the Subaru in front of him at the end of the fifth lap. Miyazono and Carrazza would hold off until Lap 7 and although the Japanese driver would comfortably rejoin in first, the Toyota representative would find himself in a precarious net third as an early stopping Inostroza was now breathing down his neck on soft rubber.
Lap 9 Turn 1 proved to be a flashpoint as an out-of-control Kokubun not only aided Inostroza in claiming third but also allowing the Volkswagen of Donovan Parker to slip through into fourth. The American’s pace would not be enough to keep a resurgent Bonelli and Kokubun from moving up the order, setting up a thrilling fight for third until the last lap with Inostroza’s tyres in the red seeing him bow out early.
Miyazono would cruise over the line with Gallo in similar free air. Bonelli would grab the final point, holding off Kokubun to the line.
- SUBARU – T. Miyazono – 15 LAPS
- HONDA – V. Gallo – +5.643
- MERCEDES-BENZ – L. Bonelli – +11.264
- MAZDA – R. Kokubun – +11.464
- VOLKSWAGEN – D. Parker – +12.992
- PORSCHE – A. Inostroza – +14.877
- FORD – T. Kato – +15.269
- TOYOTA – A. Carrazza – +18.020
- CITROEN – A. Le – +18.037
- LAMBORGHINI – M. Troncoso – +18.141
- AUDI – V. Neto – +18.656
- BMW – N. Rubilar – +18.953
Nations Cup Qualifying
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca hosted the Nations Cup for the week with a huge left-turn in vehicle choice from the GT3 category to the track day favourite KTM X-BOW R.
Another strong qualifying performance from Gallo was good enough for the front row but yet again a Japanese driver started on pole; this time around the honour went to Tomoaki Yamanaka. Baptiste Beauvois, with Olympic Series heartbreak still fresh in the mind, lined up on P3.
Nations Cup Race
Yamanaka’s advantage lasted seconds as last time’s Nations Cup victor Gallo stormed into the lead early doors. As was the case in the earlier Manufacturers’ race, tyre strategy was simple to understand with the top six on Softs and everyone else on Mediums. Bonelli, who had qualified well to start from P4, had a poor start losing out to the Japanese pair of Kokubun and Miyazono before reclaiming one of the positions lost by Lap 3.
From here the race settled quite nicely until Lap 8 where Gallo chose to take control of his own destiny with an early pitstop onto the Mediums. Kokubun was next on Lap 9 though he was followed by a large selection of Medium runners including the leader of that pack, Patrick Blazsán.
As the stopping phase came to an end, there were no movers or shakers to speak of though Gallo haphazardly picked up a slow down penalty which was served messily, blocking Yamanaka from retaking the lead of the race.
All eyes were now looking towards Blazsán though as the Hungarian was flying on his new set of boots. By Lap 16’s dawn, he was within striking distance not just of Miyazono directly ahead but first placed Gallo just seconds up the road. As he began his ascent up the order, Blazsán was aided hugely by the gargantuan tussle between the top three as positions were exchanged frequently.
Lap 17 was where everything happened as Gallo was ejected from the podium scrap in brutal fashion and Blazsán made every moment count with second his holding position behind Yamanaka by rotation’s end. Finally, with a lap and change left, the Hungarian made the call to attack.
In spectacular fashion, Patrick Blazsán had won the race with Yamanaka and Beauvois forced to settle for podium places.
- P. Blazsán – HUNGARY – 20 Laps
- T. Yamanaka – JAPAN – +1.011
- B. Beauvois – FRANCE – +1.549
- A. Carrazza – BRAZIL – +1.936
- G. Mangano – ITALY – +4.234
- L. Bonelli – BRAZIL – +4.503
- R. Kokubun – JAPAN – +4.808
- A. Inostroza – CHILE – +5.644
- A. Brooks – CANADA – +6.746
- T. Miyazono – JAPAN – +7.142
- C. López – SPAIN – +7.469
- J. Serrano – SPAIN – +8.116
- Á. Tápai – HUNGARY – +8.316
- V. Gallo – ITALY – +21.980