An image of Rikuto Kobayashi next to a car in Gran Turismo.

Rikuto Kobayashi: Gran Turismo’s next Superstar?

Gran Turismo 7

With the Gran Turismo World Series Showdown taking place in Amsterdam on 11-12 August, we spoke to one of the new drivers who may be a leading contender.

This weekend, the Gran Turismo World Series is hosting its Showdown event in Amsterdam. The best Gran Turismo drivers in the world will compete across the Manufacturers Cup and Nations Cup competitions.

New for this year, the Nations Cup racing will now be a team affair. In previous seasons when the champion was an individual, it will now be a team of three drivers, all from the same country. Providing more competitors with the chance to compete, going from 12 individual drivers in the grand final to 12 teams of three like in the Manufacturers Cup.

Plenty of high profile drivers are set to compete. There’s previous Nations Cup champions like Igor Fraga, Takuma Miyazono, Valerio Gallo and reigning champion Coque López, and also Olympic Esports Series Motor Sport gold medalist Kylian Drumont.

But there’s one driver we think you should keep your eye on.

Rikuto Kobayashi: A New Contender

In the 2021 Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup final held alongside the Gran Turismo World Finals, a name never seen before left quite the impression. Then 16-year old Rikuto Kobayashi took pole in Semi Final B, going faster than eventual champion Tomoaki Yamanaka’s time for Semi Final A.

He started on pole for the grand final and held his own against Yamanaka and the previous year’s champion Miyazono in a titanic duel around Circuit de la Sarthe. The youngster eventually ended up third in the standings, but had done enough to generate big interest.

So why is he now only making his first proper appearance in Manufacturers Cup and Nations Cup competitions? That’s because the minimum age to compete in the GTWS is 18, whereas for the TGR GT Cup it’s 16.

We have seen Rikuto in the TGR GT Cup in 2022, going on an alternate strategy from a lowly starting position in his group Semi Final. He made some incredible overtakes but got caught up in an incident, meaning he didn’t qualify for the Grand Final.

But that’s not all he’s been doing. Kobayashi is also a real world racing driver, and is currently leading quite comfortably in the F4 Japanese Championship.

In the leadup to Kobayashi’s GTWS onsite debut, we had the chance to interview him about his career so far and how he feels about what lies ahead.

OverTake: How long have you been racing on Gran Turismo?

Rikuto Kobayashi:

I have been racing in the real world most of my life and on Gran Turismo for about seven years. I raced karts for eight years and have been driving in Formula 4 for two years.

OverTake: How have you balanced racing in real life and on the game?

Rikuto Kobayashi:

I want to drive a lot in real life, but the opportunities are limited. Most of the time I can’t do that, so I that’s why I use games to practice.

OverTake: Do your performances in the Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup make you confident that you will be successful when you race in the Manufacturers Cup and Nations Cup?

Rikuto Kobayashi:

At last year’s tournament, I had an accident and failed to qualify, but I think my performance was such that I could run in the top ranks in the finals. That experience has given me a clear sense of confidence.

In the online rounds, I was the highest placed Toyota driver for the Manufacturers Cup in Asia and the top driver in the Nations Cup standings for Asia too.

OverTake: How do you feel about the format change for the Nations Cup with multiple drivers from each nation?

Rikuto Kobayashi:

I have an image of the Nations Cup as an individual competition, and I would like to see an individual competition. However, I think that the team competition will have a different excitement than the individual competition.

I would like to enjoy it with my Japanese teammates Takuma Sasaki and Seiya Suzuki!

OverTake: What will you consider to be a successful first year in the Gran Turismo World Series?

Rikuto Kobayashi:

I think the offline events have special value. Online games make it easy to connect with players around the world, but connecting those to the real world is not easy.

However, the sense of unity at the event when connected is wonderful. I hope that this event will develop in the future.

If you want to follow the World Series Showdown this weekend, tune in to the Gran Turismo YouTube channel. The Manufacturers Cup takes place 11 August and the Nations Cup on 12 August.

You can even earn some items relating to the event if you load up Gran Turismo 7 right now. Predict The Winners can see players earn up to 2,000,000 credits for making a prediction as to which team will come out on top on each day. Entries remain open until the start of the Grand Final.

Then when the broadcast is over, go to Viewers Campaign and correctly answer a question pertaining to the racing to earn in-game items. Additionally, players can claim a free Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the livery used in the upcoming Gran Turismo movie.

Which teams do you believe will win in this weekend’s Gran Turismo World Series Showdown? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

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