The fun and games are over; the serious stuff starts here as Toyota’s pro racing family gets ready to rumble in the Toyota GR Supra Gran Turismo One-Lap Challenge. Starting this week, it’s a win-or-go-home competition pitting 16 drivers from across the Toyota Racing spectrum in head-to-head bracket action. It’s NASCAR vs. NHRA vs. Formula Drift vs. ARCA and more, with some major in-house bragging rights at stake.
As the title says, it’s all about who’s fastest over one lap in a GR Supra RZ on Sony PlayStation’s Gran Turismo Sport racing game, and to keep the playing field level, each driver is equipped with a Playseat Evolution gaming chair and Thrustmaster T300 RS GT steering wheel and pedals. In the end, it will come down to skill, nerves and inch-perfect performances. You win, you progress to the next round. You lose, you’re going home – well, staying home anyway…
For the past couple of weeks, the Toyota Racing drivers, along with X Games BMX vert legend Jamie Bestwick and NASCAR TV fave Rutledge Wood, have been throwing down their own one-lap challenges on social media. Now, the pros have been placed in a bracket that will decide an overall champion over four rounds of knockout competition – and to make things even more interesting, the Round of 16 pairs many of the drivers according to series: NASCAR vs. NASCAR, NHRA vs. NHRA, and so on.
“There’s no chance to redeem yourself now – this is won or done,” says NHRA Funny Car ace J.R. Todd. The 2018 champ is accustomed to the intensity of knockout competition – it’s the format for every NHRA race day – but taking on NHRA Top Fuel racer Shawn Langdon in the opening round is way outside of his usual 300mph comfort zone. “I haven’t played Gran Turismo since the first edition, so I’ve had to get back into it and it’s been a lot of fun until we can get back out there racing for real. I know I’m giving the edge to the younger players, but in the first round, there’s no way I’m laying down to Shawn, that’s for sure.”
Those intra-series head to heads certainly add an extra level of competitive intensity to the early rounds, and as Toyota drift racer Ken Gushi notes, finding any and every performance edge could be crucial. He takes on fellow Formula D star Fredric Aasbø in a juicy Round of 16 clash that’s brought out the fighting talk in Gushi.
“Fredric often beats me at the track, but this time I’m going to throw down and turn the tables on him,” says Gushi, who claims to have a strategy for coming out on top that can’t be revealed. A self-proclaimed obsessive gamer, he’s taken full advantage of options within Gran Turismo Sport that allow for refinement of the GR Supra RZ’s setup. “I’ve maxed out power and weight on the Supra and dialed in the suspension settings, roll stiffness, damper rebound, and more to get it right there in the sweet spot for these challenges.”
Over in NASCAR world, the Round of 16 includes an intriguing Cup Series vs. Xfinity Series showdown between Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota Camry driver Daniel Suarez in the Cup corner and Joe Gibbs Racing young gun Brandon Jones from the Xfinity ranks. For Suarez, rediscovering Gran Turismo has been a joy, but his competitive instincts mean he’s fully focused on the imminent head to head.
“This takes me back to when I was younger, spending all night racing Gran Turismo against my friends,” says Suarez. “It took me several hours (of playing GT Sport) to get the feeling back, but now I like where I’m at. I feel like the speed is there and I’ve found a good balance. The natural setup of the GR Supra is a little free, so I’ve made a small adjustment to secure the back of the car. Now it’s good, so I’m working on myself.”
Listening to the drivers analyzing their virtual machinery, it’s hard to tell they aren’t at the track, downloading every thought and nuance to an attentive race engineer. But a race car driver is always a race car driver and, like we said, the fun and games are over. It’s time to go put on that race face and give it the max.
Competition gets underway Monday, April 20 with the Round of 16. In each of the four bracket rounds, RACER and Toyota select the track and conditions. The first two tracks have already been revealed to the drivers: Dragon Trail — Gardens, daytime/fine weather for the Round of 16, and Kyoto Driving Park — Yamagawa + Miyabi, afternoon/ clear weather for the Round of 8. To increase the challenge, we’re keeping our choices for the Round of 4 and Final under wraps for now — but stay tuned for updates.
We’ll be updating the bracket after each round, so follow RACER.com and our social media channels for the latest news and results. And you can follow the participating drivers on their own social media channels (see below), too, as well as @ToyotaRacing.
|DRIVER (SERIES)||TWITTER/INSTAGRAM HANDLES|
|Denny Hamlin (NASCAR Cup)||@dennyhamlin / @DennyHamlin|
|Daniel Suarez (NASCAR Cup)||@Daniel_SuarezG / @Daniel_SuarezG|
|Rutledge Wood (Our fave TV dude)||@RutledgeWood / @rutledgewood|
|Antron Brown (NHRA Top Fuel)||@AntronBrown / @AntronBrownTF|
|J.R. Todd (NHRA Funny Car)||@JRTodd373 / @J_R_Todd|
|Shawn Langdon (NHRA Top Fuel)||@ShawnLangdon333 / @ShawnLangdon333|
|Harrison Burton (NASCAR Xfinity)||@HBurtonRacing / @harrisonburton12|
|Riley Herbst (NASCAR Xfinity)||@RileyHerbst / @rileyherbst|
|Brandon Jones (NASCAR Xfinity)||@BrandonJonesRac / @BrandonJonesRac|
|Ken Gushi (Formula DRIFT)||@kengushi / @kengushi|
|Fredric Aasbo (Formula DRIFT)||@FredricAasbo / @fredricaasbo|
|Derek Kraus (NASCAR Trucks)||@derek9kraus / @derek9kraus|
|Christian Eckes (NASCAR Trucks)||@christianeckes / @christianeckes|
|Chandler Smith (NASCAR Trucks/ARCA)||@CSmithDrive / @csmithracing26|
|Jesse Love (ARCA)||@jesselovejr1 / @jesselovejr|
|Holley Hollan (ARCA/USAC)||@Holley_Hollan / @Holley_Hollan|
|Max McLaughlin (ARCA/USAC)||@MaxMcLaughlin_ / @MaxMcLaughlin_|
|Jack Hawksworth (IMSA GTD)||@jackhawkrace / @jackhawkrace|
|Jamie Bestwick (BMX legend)||@jamiebestwick / @jamiebestwick|
- The GR Supra GT Cup Series is back for a second season in 2020, and the first races will kick off in late April. The competition is an official Toyota e-Motorsports activity presented by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and is open to owners of PlayStation4 consoles and the Gran Turismo Sport game. Like last year, the GR Supra GT Cup will use Gran Turismo Sport’s Toyota GR Supra RZ, and will feature an online series comprised of seven rounds, beginning April 26 at Fuji Speedway. The top ranked players will take part in a live final in November to determine the series champion.
Find out more HERE.