After five years of the PlayStation racing game’s official esports championships, how can it be made better? Here’s how to fix the Gran Turismo World Series.
Image credit: Gran Turismo
On the weekend of 27 November, the World Finals for the Gran Turismo World Series took place in Monaco. It was the first time in two years that the competitors gathered there to see who would win the championships in the Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup, Manufacturers Cup and Nations Cup competitions.
It was truly an incredible event that saw Igor Fraga win in the TGR GT Cup and Subaru’s Daniel Solis, Takuma Miyazono and Kylian Drumont win the Manufacturers Cup. Last but not least, the Nations Cup grand final came down to a controversial last lap incident between Miyazono, Angel Inostroza and eventual winner Coque López.
Over the years, the Gran Turismo World Series (formerly the FIA-certified Gran Turismo championships) has evolved and changed things up to see what works best. Especially in 2020 when everything had to go online.
Having seen the way the series has evolved over the past five years, maybe there are ways of improving it. Here is what we think is wrong with Gran Turismo esports, and how we think it should be fixed.
A Lack of Scale
Back when the Gran Turismo championships were LAN-only, the events had a lot of scale and significance. It wasn’t just because of being onsite, but also because of the variety of cars and racing going on. The drivers would qualify online to be able to participate in these events and when COVID became a problem, it went exclusively online until the World Series Showdown in July this year.
In the onsite events, there would typically be a few semi finals, a repechage race and an all important grand final for the Nations Cup. Then for the Manufacturers Series, it was typically two races where the drivers would take it in turns driving, with the grand final being a little bit longer than the opening race.
From 2021 onwards, with the exception of the World Series Showdown and World Finals, all the rounds broadcasted online were just one race. Series creator Kazunori Yamauchi claimed the drop-off in viewership of the series was mostly because the events weren’t LAN, but it didn’t help that they took away the amount of racing that viewers had come to expect.
The events were huge in scale. There was no reason to make them smaller just because they were going online. Yes, they couldn’t do the driver swaps like in the Manufacturers Series but it didn’t mean they couldn’t run one race for each qualifying driver in online broadcast rounds.
2021 and 2022 felt like steps backwards for the Gran Turismo championships, and it didn’t need to be.
The online rounds aren’t broadcasted live, they’re pre-recorded. That is a small price to pay if it retains the sense of scale and has plenty of races. The World Finals from 2020 and 2021 as well as the World Series Showdown in 2021 proved that. But they didn’t give these events the scale that they needed.
Kazunori Yamauchi has already gone on record saying he hopes to see the series expand for next year. In a round-table media interview during the 2022 World Finals, he stated that he hoped to have the majority of events being LAN back for 2023. But the occasional online event wouldn’t hurt, right?
In any case, with the promise by Yamauchi-san that the series would be bigger and better than ever, how about have the racing reflect that?
Bring Scale Back
There have been a few different formats trialed over the years, both LAN and online. Bringing the best together would make for the definitive Gran Turismo events.
Let’s work with the idea that the Gran Turismo World Series will run some events LAN and some online. Like what Polyphony did in 2022, only with more LAN events. First, online rounds and if it wasn’t obvious enough, having more races is a must.
For the Manufacturers Cup: three races with each driver doing one each, since they can’t do online driver-swaps on Gran Turismo 7. The first two races are the same length and the last one is a little bit longer and counts for double points.
Moving on to the Nations Cup: two semi finals, a repechage and a final, mirroring exactly how it would work in the LAN events except with fewer points than onsite events.
Concerning the Manufacturers Cup LAN events, there was the very long race from this year’s World Series Showdown which was around 160 miles, 48 laps around the 3.4 mile Trial Mountain. It was the only race that day but it proved very popular so that is a must. Although it wouldn’t hurt to add a few extra races in the onsite Manufacturers Cup.
To offer up something different from the relay enduro race, each driver would compete in a sprint race on their own like in the online Manufacturers Cup events. This was what they did for the first three World Tour events back in 2019, before swapping it out for the two races with driver-swaps.
These races would be in Gr.4 cars, and would be shorter than what we have become used to. Then, the grand final would see driver swaps and use Gr.3 cars. The sprint races would count for a third of the points of the grand final race, so there’s still incentive to perform across all races but the most importance is on that last race.
Manufacturers Cup races would remain at 12 competitors maximum in one race, but the Nations Cup races would increase to 16 at a time. That was the number used in online rounds, is it too much of a stretch to get four extra rigs for LAN events?
At the World Finals in Monaco, the format would change somewhat. Three Manufacturers Cup races that all include driver-swaps with the grand final being the length of the Showdown race.
As for the Nations Cup, three semi finals and repechage on the Friday to decide the 16 out of the 36 drivers who would compete in the four races in the final.
Fixing a Flaw
Something else that seems not to be utilised properly is qualifying. To save time on the broadcast if there are multiple races, pre-qualifying would have been done before the start and then a top six shootout at the beginning of the broadcast would follow. This would also effectively decide the grids for the remaining races, as the result of one race would set the grid for the next.
This doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, but it has its flaws. In the 2022 World Finals, Kylian Drumont – who won both sets of competitions in the World Series Showdown – was eliminated during the Nations Cup regional finals stage on the Friday.
He was sixth in the EMEA regional final, the top three from each regional final automatically qualified for the grand final, and the next four entered into the repechage. So he qualified for the repechage but he could only start ninth, as a result of starting behind the two sixth place finishers from the Asia-Oceania and Americas regional finals.
That does seem pre-determined, the grid order already being set as Asia-Oceania driver, then Americas driver, then EMEA driver and repeat. They couldn’t have set the grid instead by whoever had the fastest laps in their regional finals because the car and track combinations were all different. However, they could have set it instead by the qualifying times they set earlier but they didn’t.
The solution? Have all drivers run qualifying sessions for every race planned, including the repechage. Even if they don’t have to run in it, each driver should register a representative qualifying time. That way, the pressure is truly on. If they didn’t do well in their semi final, they know where they qualified in the repechage is the best they could do.
This was how it worked with the online editions of the World Finals in 2020 and 2021. There was a qualifying session for each race, why not have that with LAN events too?
Our Ideal Plan
If we were deciding the schedule, the season would begin in May supporting the Nürburgring 24 hours race, followed by a round at the Red Bull Hangar-7 in late July/early August. It would be pretty inevitable since every year there has been onsite events, Salzburg is the only location except for Monaco to have been on the schedule.
There would be online rounds after both events, and then in October/November time, we would have the regional finals as dedicated events like in 2018 and 2020. The Asia-Oceania regional final would be held at the Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo, the EMEA regional final in any suitable location and the Americas final in New York. Then, to top it all off, the World Finals as ever in December taking place at Monaco.
Also, as far as the points system goes: For the online rounds, have the top six scoring points rather than just the top three. For the onsite rounds at Nürburgring and Red Bull Hangar-7 as well as the regional finals, top eight score points. Then for the World Finals, top 12 score the points. Gives each round a healthy amount of points whilst also emphasising which ones are the most important.
What would you do to change the Gran Turismo World Series? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!