Engstler stakes his claim to FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title with home win
Luca Engstler is the driver to beat in the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title rankings after the season-opening WTCR Race of Germany earlier this month.
The 21-year-old, driving a Goodyear-equipped Hyundai Elantra N TCR, was the leading category finisher in the second of two races on the 25.378-kilometre Nürburgring Nordschleife on June 5. However, with Gilles Magnus taking the laurels in Race 1, just two points separate the young chargers heading to WTCR Race of Portugal at Circuito do Estoril from June 25-27.
“It was difficult at the Nordschleife bringing everything together,” Engstler said after finishing second overall to team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay in Race 2. “I was attacking from the first to the last lap, I wanted this victory and to be honest I was probably a bit too young and stupid in over-driving. But we are here with a one-two.”
Engstler’s overall podium was the best performance of his short WTCR career by far and the Bavarian was quick to praise the work of his Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team.
“Big thanks to the team, to Hyundai, for giving us an amazing car this weekend,” Engstler said. “I think [raceday] definitely was a gamble and we gambled in the right spot, we put everything on dry [weather]. But I think if there had been some rain drops we would definitely have been far back and we decided to put everything on the dry car. That’s the reason why we were there.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming events, Engstler added: “We come to tracks I’ve never been before. I just want to keep working hard, I want to keep the momentum. I just enjoy being a driver preparing for races and I will keep doing that.”
Although he matched Engstler’s performances in the races, Comtoyou Team Audi Sport’s Magnus is two points behind Engstler in the title chase because he scored fewer points in qualifying. Nevertheless, it was a strong weekend in Germany for the 21-year-old Belgian.
“The start in the first race was good and the first laps were pretty okay,” said the RACB National Team-supported driver. “I was in P12 [from P14 on the grid], everything went fine until I had some contact. It was a racing incident but it completely destroyed the tow on the car in front, the car was really undrivable after that and I lost three positions and finished P15, so I was disappointed.
“Race 2 was really good actually, starting P14 again, a good start, good first laps, a clean overtake on [Tiago] Monteiro and in the end we finished P9, which was not bad and the guys did the perfect job. On such a difficult track I am pretty satisfied after all.”
Bence Boldizs (Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA Leon Competitión) and Jessica Bäckman (Target Competition Hyundai Elantra N TCR) were third and fourth respectively out of the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title contingent in both races.
WTCR Rookie Title renamed WTCR Junior Title for 2021
From 2021 the FIA WTCR Rookie Driver Title becomes the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title to further the highlight the participation of young drivers in WTCR. To be eligible, drivers must be 24 or under on January 1, 2021, and must not haven taken part in any WTCR or FIA World Touring Car Championship events prior to 2019. WTCR Junior Title contenders are eligible for overall WTCR points and score points towards the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title on the same basis as the overall classification.