An image of Igor Fraga competing in the Nations Cup.
Gran Turismo 7

Interview with Gran Turismo Champion Igor Fraga

With the 2022 Gran Turismo World Series starting next weekend, we had a chance to talk to inaugural Nations Cup champion Igor Fraga about the season ahead.

Image credit: Polyphony Digital

The Gran Turismo championships are starting their fifth season, which will commence on 24 July. It will be their first on the new Gran Turismo 7 game, with all the previous seasons having been held on Gran Turismo Sport.

2022 sees the return of LAN events to the Gran Turismo championships. The World Series Showdown on 29-31 July will see competitors gathering at the Red Bull Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria. This is the first time since the Sydney World Tour event in February 2020 that the competitors will all be in the same place, as Gran Turismo‘s championships have been exclusively online since the pandemic began.

Then the World Finals after being online in the previous two years, will be back at Monaco like in 2018 and 2019.

Gran Turismo’s Success Story

Back in 2018 for the first season of the Gran Turismo championships, the first ever Nations Cup championship went the way of a driver called Igor Fraga.

The Japanese-born Brazilian driver was also making a name for himself in the real world racing scene. However, he got involved in esports competitions to help boost his profile. In 2017, Fraga picked up a copy of F1 2017 to learn the Mexican Grand Prix track for his upcoming NACAM F4 campaign.

As a result, he qualified for the F1 Esports Grand Final alongside the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after placing third in his heat for the Semi Finals (topped by eventual champion Brendon Leigh). Unfortunately, his final didn’t go so well, and he finished in 18th.

For the following year, he entered Gran Turismo‘s championships and balanced it with a full time campaign in U.S. F2000, where he ended up fourth.

After winning the championship, Fraga also won the McLaren Shadow Project Final which earned him a spot on the McLaren Shadow esports team. In 2019, winning these competitions earned Fraga the chance of racing in Europe, competing in the Formula Regional European Championship.

In that series, he ended up third behind current F2 drivers Frederik Vesti and Enzo Fittipaldi. But then fast forward to the start of 2020 and if FREC didn’t demonstrate Fraga’s genuine ability, the Toyota Racing Series certainly did. This was a winter series based in New Zealand that F1 drivers Lance Stroll and Lando Norris have both won. Fraga pipped the home hero and current F2 driver Liam Lawson to the title.

2020 should have been an amazing season for Fraga. He joined Red Bull’s junior team and went to compete in FIA Formula 3 on the F1 support ladder, but never got the chance to deliver results reflective of his ability. Then after a deal with a frontrunning F3 team fell through, he has been out of real racing since.

But Fraga has continued to compete in the Gran Turismo championships, winning his second Manufacturers Series title for Toyota in 2021. In the leadup to the new season, we had the privilege to chat with Igor Fraga about his preparation and his plans for the future.

OverTake: It’s been a couple of months since Gran Turismo 7 launched. How have you been adapting to GT7 from GT Sport, and what have been the noticeable differences?

Igor Fraga:

Since the launch of GT7, there has already been two physics updates so it has been a constant adaptation. It so far has been very different from GT Sport so we’re always constantly adapting.

There are other factors as well, such as wind direction, weather, air and track conditions which can all change during a race unlike in GT Sport where they always remain the same. So it has been a lot more challenging to race, more difficult to remain consistent. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to the broadcast events.

OverTake: What are your personal expectations for both the Nations Cup and Manufacturers Cup this season?

Igor Fraga:

I think everytime you join a competition, you obviously want to win and do your best and that mindset hasn’t changed since my first World Final and all my live events in Gran Turismo. It’s what I’ll keep pursuing, improve on all the aspects, get the best result possible.

Racing simulators in a row within the Red Bull Hangar-7 with aeroplanes stationed behind them in Red Bull branding.
The Gran Turismo championships will make its onsite event return at the Red Bull Hangar-7 in Salzburg. Image credit: Red Bull Gaming

OverTake: Gran Turismo will have their first onsite event in over two years. How much are you looking forward to that event and what difference does it make to you from doing online racing?

Igor Fraga:

The atmosphere will be completely different, and a different kind of excitement as well, will be able to review a lot of the competitors. Will be great to see them all again, we’re all very close.

Racing in front of a crowd is a challenge and you will be having to adapt to the pressure in different ways. Not to mention the hardware is different from your home setup mostly, like the monitor and the wheel, so you don’t have the comfort and familiarity you would have at home. I’m looking forward to getting back in an LAN setting, I’ve missed it.

OverTake: We saw you racing F3 in 2020 but since then, you haven’t been racing outside of Gran Turismo. What happened?

Igor Fraga:

At the end of 2020, we had a deal with a team but there were a lot of factors around the whole thing which kind of went wrong. COVID also played its part, so it didn’t happen.

Since then, I have not been able to race in real life but of course it doesn’t mean we stop trying. We’re working in the background, I can’t say anything specific but I will say we are trying to get back into real life racing.

OverTake: Finally, mainstream console racing games tend to have a reputation for not reflecting realism compared to sims like iRacing, rFactor 2 and ACC. As someone who competes on these games and has translated that into the real world, what do you believe are some of the biggest misconceptions about racing on these types of games?

Igor Fraga:

I think especially with Gran Turismo, it’s a game that opens up the opportunity for everyone to join in and compete. It’s more accessible for beginners to get into the racing games, it has assists to help ease players into it.

But at the end of the day, when you’re at the top level of competition, you have to develop defense techniques that can be translated into real life as well. Also, the good thing about Gran Turismo is that it has so many different cars.

Front-wheel drive, Formula cars, GT4, GT3 and so much more, you have to race all of them. It takes very different types of techniques to drive them so once you get into driving real life cars, you have a baseline with all the different types of driving skills you picked up from Gran Turismo.

Of course, real life driving and simulation based games are going to be slightly different but the variety within Gran Turismo always gives a good means to teach versatility. With the vast amount of different driving styles it provides, it makes it quite easy to adapt into the real life.

In general, it’s been very positive for me. Learning all these different ways to drive and being able to take that knowledge into the real world.

Fraga and all his Gran Turismo contemporaries will be competing in the first broadcast round of the 2022 Gran Turismo World Series will be the Manufacturers Cup on 23 July and the Nations Cup will be on 24 July. Broadcasts start at 3pm CEST.

Tune in to see some of the top Gran Turismo players in the world compete. To watch the action, go to the Gran Turismo TV YouTube channel to turn on the notification for the stream with your language of choice.

Will you be following the Gran Turismo World Series? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

Luca
Biggest esports racing fan in the world.