Sadly, we’ve reached those dark, waning days of the year, when drivers have put down their helmets for the winter months and the thunderous roars from circuits around the world have gone quiet. What is a racing fan to do this weekend?
My recommendation is to check out the FIA Gran Turismo World Championship, which will be streaming its 2020 World Final event this Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s action will be all about the Manufacturer Series, where drivers gather in teams to represent various carmakers, while Sunday will be dedicated to crowing a new winner of the one-make Nations Cup. The action begins at 8 a.m. ET on both days, and you can watch it live on the Gran Turismo TV YouTube channel, or through the embeds below.
The final rounds of the Manufacturer Series and Nations Cup each consist of three races, with double points awarded for the last event, deemed the Grand Final. The drivers competing this weekend qualified to clinch their appearances in previous regional events. World Championship winners are typically invited to the FIA’s year-end prize-giving gala, standing on the same stage as Formula One and World Rally victors. (2020, unfortunately, won’t go down quite the same way.)
While FIA Gran Turismo events are typically held in locales all around the world, the global pandemic necessitated a shift to a fully-online competition. That change also forced a redesigned race structure, as the in-person Manufacturer Series races normally involve teams of three drivers, who switch out during pit stops. Gran Turismo Sport lacks the ability to conduct driver swaps in online races, so that aspect of the championship has been dropped, though competitors will still be required to pit for tires and fuel.
Of course, 2020 provided many motorsports fans with their first taste of esports back in the spring, and the results were often a hell of a lot of fun to watch. I was fortunate enough to attend the New York round of last year’s FIA Gran Turismo championship and was blown away by every aspect of the experience, from the skill and professionalism of the drivers to the quality of the competition environment to the sleekness of the production graphics. The crew of presenters, Julia Hardy, Tom Brooks and Jimmy Broadbent, knocked it out of the park, too.
And that’s to say nothing about the drama of the racing itself, which had the New York crowd regularly erupting in applause and gasps, particularly in the Nations Cup Grand Final. During that race, set at Spa-Francorchamps, two of the series’ top drivers — Igor Fraga and Mikail Hizal — swapped positions for the lead and nearly crashed at Raidillon, when Fraga unexpectedly slowed to “break the rhythm” of his rival behind. I’m telling you, you could cut the tension in that room with a knife during the post-race interview.
Unfortunately, this World Final won’t quite reach those emotional highs without everyone being together, but we’re still certain to see some close racing between drivers who are at the absolute top of their game. The Nations Cup should be especially exciting, as favorites like Takuma Miyazono, Coque López and Cody Nikola Latkovski look for their first titles. I admit I’ll be rooting for Miyazono, as he was my partner for the Pro-Am race in New York and I’m still embarrassed about the pathetic first stint I handed him to work with.