Japan rode through changeable weather and challenging track conditions to clinch the FIA Motorsport Games GT Cup gold medal at Vallelunga.
Ukyo Sasahara and Hiroshi Hamaguchi took the win after working their way through two separate periods of rainfall that caused different strategies to emerge up and down the order.
The Japanese pair, driving a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo prepared by Orange 1 Team FFF Racing, took their second victory of the day after winning Sunday morning’s second qualifying race.
Poland’s Lamborghini was on pole, based on its results across the two qualifying contests, but Hamaguchi – who was on the second row of the grid – set himself in front with a sixth-minute move on Andrzej Lewandowski into Turn 4.
Lewandowski was then overtaken by Vuttikhorn Inthraphuvasak in the Thailand-entered Porsche 911 GT3 R and the leading trio, all on wet tires, remained like this until the first major weather shift after 15 minutes.
A break in the rainfall brought the cars that had either started on slicks or changed tires in the first couple of laps right onto the tail of the wet runners.
Italy’s Gianluca Roda made light work of the mid-pack and even overtook Lewandowski for third, before making a mistake and scuffing the right-front corner of his Ferrari against the tire barriers.
The slick-shod cars from Russia, Australia and Kuwait also charged into the top five, but their lap time advantage was cut short when the rain returned just after the 20-minute mark.
This handed momentum back to those who had kept their wet tires on through the drying spell, most notably Japan, Thailand and Poland.
Despite having to do one more lap than his nearest rivals because of his timing against the pit window, Hamaguchi came in and swapped with Sasahara without losing the lead.
The car that had been running second – Thailand’s Porsche – was eliminated from contention during the pit window when Inthraphuvasak spun off at Turn 3.
This produced a safety car and bunched up the field with Sasahara leading Miguel Ramos (Portugal), Artur Janosz (Poland), Steffen Goerig (Germany), Nico Verdonck (Belgium) and Brenton Grove (Australia) to the green flag.
An incident shortly after the restart in which Verdonck tapped Goerrig into a spin off-track at Turn 5 triggered a second safety car, which stayed out until the end.
Verdonck was given a 30-second time penalty for the contact, which relegated the Belgium Audi to 10th behind United States driver Spencer Pumpelly.
Poland’s Janosz took second from Ramos – who dropped to 11th – in the brief green spell to secure the silver medal, while bronze went to Australia’s Brenton and Steven Grove in their Herberth Motorsport-prepared Porsche 911 GT3 R.
In fourth and fifth were the Mercedes-AMG GT3s of France and China, ahead of Hong Kong’s Honda NSX GT3 Evo and the Russian-entered Ferrari 488 GT3.
Russia Tops Overall Medal Table
The inaugural FIA Motorsport Games ended with Russia provisionally topping the medal leaderboard across the six categories of GT, Touring Car, Formula 4, Digital and Drifting.
Klim Gavrilov won the Touring Car Cup gold medal on aggregate by winning the weekend’s second race, while Russian entries claimed bronze medals in drifting and the slalom karting competition.
Third place in the GT Cup was enough for Australia to climb from third to joint second in the standings, on a par with Italy.
The Netherlands, Japan and Ukraine claimed a gold medal each to finish joint third, while Belgium finished fourth with two silver medals in Karting and Touring Car.
Costa Rica, Germany and the Czech Republic each earned a single silver to end up joint fifth as Finland and Slovakia’s single-bronze scores placed them in sixth.
RESULTS: FIA Motorsport Games GT Cup