The week started with 16 Toyota Racing drivers vying for Toyota GR Supra Gran Turismo One-Lap Challenge honors, and today the knockout tournament reached its head-to-head climax. In the end, ARCA wonderkid Jesse Love set a blistering time in his GR Supra RZ around the tight Tsukuba Circuit to edge out Formula Drift’s Fredric Aasbo by less than one second and emerge the overall winner.
“I was a little bit nervous before I posted the time,” says Love, who will jump back behind the wheel of his No. 19 Bill McAnally Racing Toyota Camry in the ARCA Menards Series when non-virtual racing gets going again. “I knew Fredric would be tough to beat, so I spent a couple of hours breaking down the lap to see where I could gain time and understand the gear ratios in order to get the best out of my GR Supra.”
On a track where even the smallest error can destroy a lap time, Aasbo’s 55.480sec marker looked stout enough to get the job done, but Love’s inch-perfect 54.682sec best moved the chains and gave the Californian teen a well-earned “W.”
What originated as a fun way to keep the contingent of Toyota Racing drivers active and engaged during the current pause in racing quickly turned into hardcore competition (surprise, surprise…). Like his final-round opponent, Aasbo applied himself to the challenge just as much as he would have in any real-world Formula Drift event.
“Hats off to Jesse. He’s been really, really fast the whole challenge,” says Aasbo, who will debut his Rock Star Energy GR Supra in Formula D this season. “I was quicker than him yesterday, so I worked really hard last night and today to improve my lap time around Tsukuba. I thought I’d landed a pretty fast lap, but in the end he found another nine-tenths (of a second).”
Both Love and Aasbo have thoroughly enjoyed a spot of welcome competition while grounded by current events.
“I’ve been staying at home with my fiancée and future mother-in-law, so it’s been an interesting journey trying to race amid the smell of baking and flowers and whatever the girls have been up to,” laughs Aasbo. “But, honestly, it’s been great to have a focus and some camaraderie with my fellow Toyota drivers and our followers on social media. I’m looking forward now to trying out some drifting on Gran Turismo.”
For his part, Love relished the challenge of solving the riddle of a whole host of new tracks.
“I went through the same process as I would with any other racecar and track,” he says. “I run a few laps, learning the strengths and weakness of the car at each point in the track, and then figure out how to adjust my driving and the car to really get the most out of it. I used the whole process the whole way through.”
Looking back as the overall winner, Love reflects on the cautious optimism he took going into the One-Lap Challenge.
“I was pretty confident at the start, but I know Max McLaughlin real well, so I knew he would be tough to beat,” says Love, who ended up eliminating McLaughlin in the Round of 8. “Then I started following the times that Daniel Suarez was running and I thought to myself, ‘what has this guy got figured out?’ So I hoped that Fredric would beat Daniel in the semi-final, and if he did I knew we would be pretty evenly matched in the final. In the end, it worked out well for me.”
And for a virtual racing champion, it’s only right that we present a virtual trophy. Apologies, Jesse – we’ll send you something a little more solid when things get back to normal…
The competition is over for the Toyota Racing drivers, but gamers everywhere now get the opportunity to enter the 2020 GR Supra GT Cup Series, which kicks off April 26. Find out more here.
Do the pros have any advice to offer the thousands of fans of Gran Turismo Sport getting ready to take part in the seven-round series?
“Do what I did,” suggests Love. “To get ready to race, run a lot of laps and then break then down to figure out where you can make the improvements. There were a lot of times when I found I could drop one second off my lap time just by analyzing a corner and figuring out what adjustments to make.”
Aasbo adds that the dynamics of the Gran Turismo Sport rendition of the GR Supra are very close to the real thing.
“The feel of the car in the game is mind-blowing,” he says, “so I can’t help but think that all these guys are in for a very real experience. My advice? Go out and drive it as you would in real life – hey, I’d love to join in if I could!”
That sounds like a challenge. Who’s in?