The GR Supra GT Cup Asia Regional Round 2020 has been run and done, and won in convincing style by Muhammad Aleef of Singapore, although he had some strong competition in the form of Taj Aiman from Malaysia and Nathayos Sirigaya from Thailand.
Ultimately, a mix of pure speed and misfortune befalling his rivals enabled him to take the victory.
The competition was held over three races – two sprint races as well as a longer feature race, held virtually on Gran Turismo Sport, utilizing the new 2020 Toyota GR Supra road car.
Race 1 – Fuji Speedway
The first race was at the famed Fuji Speedway in Japan, an iconic track that is loved by racers and spectators alike.
In the qualifying session, Aleef was able to just edge out his rival, Aiman, albeit only by a few hundredths of a second.
Thanaphat Pungphat of Thailand grabbed third, from Sirigaya and Iqbal Suji.
Qualifying plays a pivotal role in overall success, and the contenders made themselves known. Across a two minute lap, the entire field was separated by only 1.4 seconds, which goes to show how close the competitors were.
Typically there is a lot of trouble on Turn 1 of Fuji due to its tight nature after a long straight, but the competitors were well behaved and made it through unscathed, with Aleef leading from Aiman at the front.
However, at the tight chicane on the back half of the circuit, Aiman made a slight misjudgment under braking and hit the side of Aleef. Thankfully for both competitors, neither was fired off the circuit, but Aiman was given a 1-second penalty for his troubles.
This is particularly costly at Fuji, as you must serve it at the start of the very long straight, and due to it being early in the race, it cost Aiman time as well as track position.
Front runner Thanaphat ran into trouble at Turn 1 on lap 2 and unfortunately dropped to the rear of the field.
Out in the front, Aleef began to try to control the race, although Sirigaya was staying just in touch, in the crucial slipstream range.
Unfortunately for Sirigaya, he suffered an internet disconnection and ultimately was a DNF for the race. For Aleef though, this gave him a slight cushion at the front of the field and this proved key as he came through to win at the end of the 7 laps.
A strong race from Iqbal Suji earned him second place, followed by the somewhat unlucky Taj Aiman. Meanwhile, there was a close finish behind for Terence Lallave and Nur Shazliezhan.
Race 2 – Tokyo Expressway East Outer Loop
The racers then moved to the next race at the Tokyo Expressway East Outer Loop circuit – a real challenge and fundamentally different from the previous track at Fuji.
Tokyo demands pinpoint accuracy between the concrete walls, and keeping momentum up is key. Several runners struck troubles in qualifying, either from hitting barriers or encountering traffic on their laps, but in the end, some familiar names rose to the top – Sirigaya on pole, with Aleef, and Terence Lallave right behind.
The race started with a tense drag race to Turn 1 – Sirigaya leading but braking just too late and hitting the outside wall.
This allowed Aleef to gain crucial track position, as well as his rivals behind. Due to the battling, Aleef was able to almost immediately pull ahead by 1.5 seconds, crucially out of slipstream range.
Contact between Lallave and Sirigaya at the final corner also sealed the race for Aleef, as they fell well behind.
In the end it came down to a relatively straightforward run to the flag for the front three, but behind them, the battle for seventh was intense,
Ultimately Suji came out on top, but not before a titanic battle between himself and Nur Shazliezhan that was spectacular to watch.
Race 3 – Nurburgring Nordschleife
With Aleef winning two from two, the pressure was on for the final race, held at the notorious Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit. A significant challenge, the Nordschleife demands complete focus for over seven minutes, and the slightest mistake can be catastrophic.
His rivals knew they had to win to have any chance of the title, while Aleef knew that despite winning the first two races, he could still easily have it slip through his grasp.
In qualifying, it was key to do a clean lap, which is easier said than done. Many drivers fell foul of the circuit, but ultimately Aiman grabbed a key pole position from Aleef, with Sirigaya in third.
Passing is notoriously difficult on the Nurburgring, so track position is key. This was seen early on as the front three remained nose to tail for much of the entire first lap — a real masterclass in racecraft as well as concentration.
Back further, Terence Lallave had chosen to go against the grain and start on the slower medium tyre compound, however, this didn’t end well as the soft tyre car of Jason Tay was all over him, and unfortunately contact between them led to Lallave in the barriers, and a significant penalty for Jason Tay, effectively ending both of their races.
A key moment for the race came on Lap 2, where slight contact between Aleef and a charging Sirigaya led to a 1-second penalty being given to Aleef. This enabled Sirigaya to pass Aleef, as they headed into the pits to do their mandatory pitstop to change tyres.
As they left the pits, Sirigaya immediately began his chase of Aiman. He was all over him through the first third of the track, but a key moment happened towards the top of the hill, as Sirigaya made slight contact with Aiman and went past — but was deemed to have caused the contact and thus handed a 1-second penalty.
Now it became a tense race to the flag — Aiman knew he had to stay within roughly three seconds to retake the lead, while Sirigaya had to build a sufficient gap to maintain the lead, and Aleef in third had to stay there in order to be the overall champion.
Some exemplary driving from all three over the rest of the race ended with a drag race down the Dottinger Hohe final straight, where Aiman was able to just overcome the slowed Sirigaya, and Aleef came home in third to seal the championship.
Aleef adds the 2020 GR Supra GT Cup Asia Regional title to his impressive list of e-racing achievements across multiple games, and will go on to challenge for the GT Cup world title in the finals in December.