Race preview: It's time for The Big One as WTCR aces prepare to tame the Nordschleife
Almost three weeks after tackling Pau’s challenging street circuit, the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup drivers and their teams are preparing to take on the toughest track of them all, the Nürburgring Nordschleife, from 26-28 May.
With a monster lap length of 25.378 kilometres, a layout akin to a high-speed rollercoaster ride, a straight 2860 metres long and a forest setting with the potential for changeable weather, the Nürburgring Nordschleife provides the ultimate test of driver and machine.
A thrill-seeker’s paradise, the Nürburgring Nordschleife has been part of the WTCR calendar since the series was unleashed in 2018 and hosts the second event of what is already proving to be a wide-open title chase with no fewer than 16 WTCR race winners in action.
Néstor Girolami is the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader on the back of his pole position and Race 1 victory at the WTCR Clean Fuels for All Race of France season opener earlier this month. The Honda-powered Argentine star, who drives for Germany-based ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, heads to the second weekend of the season safe in the knowledge that no driver has gone faster around the Nürburgring Nordschleife during a WTCR event than he.
The 32-year-old, who holds a six-point advantage in the title chase after two action-packed races in Pau, explained why he’s so quick on the world’s most challenging racing circuit.
“It’s a circuit where I always enjoy to drive because it demands everything from the driver,” Italy-based Girolami said. “I would not say I have plenty of experience there but it’s just my feeling with the track is really good. I feel the flow during the lap because I am getting so in touch with the track. It’s so important to get the confidence around the Nordschleife to get a good lap time. I feel confident with the car as well and this has allowed me to always be fighting for the pole.”
With Girolami’s legendary compatriots, Juan Manuel Fangio (1954, 1956 and 1957) and Carlos Reutemann (1975) both winning the German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the Goodyear-equipped racer is more than aware of the attachment the circuit has to his homeland.
“When you know both have won there it’s something special and, of course, there was the victory of the Torino [in 1969],” said Girolami. “When I was on pole position in a 1-2 with Esteban [Guerrieri in 2020], people in Argentina were so motivated to see that race because we always remember the victory of the Torino. It was such a special moment for motorsport in Argentina that victory and the fans are always following the stories from the Nordschleife and it always makes me so proud to represent Argentina at the Green Hell.”
While Girolami’s 8m51.802s effort is a Nordschleife lap record, victory at the Nürburgring has so far eluded him. However, team-mate and countryman Esteban Guerrieri has twice won at the track for their German squad, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, with his 2020 triumph coming after he completed one of the most impressive overtaking moves in WTCR history by passing Yvan Muller on the outside of the Aremberg corner in wet conditions.
LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler has also triumphed on home soil in the WTCR with Jean-Karl Vernay heading Luca Engstler in a 1-2 for the German outfit in Race 2 on the Nordschleife last June after Portugal’s Tiago Monteiro won Race 1 for ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport. Monteiro is now part of the Honda-equipped Engstler squad alongside long-term Hungarian team-mate Attila Tassi.
Swede Thed Björk and Frenchman Yvan Muller, who drive for Cyan Performance Lynk & Co and Cyan Racing Lynk & Co respectively, have also won in the WTCR on the Nordschleife, as have Nobert Michelisz (BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse) and Muller’s team-mate and nephew Yann Ehrlacher, the two-time WTCR title-winner and current King of WTCR.
Spaniard Mikel Azcona (BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse) is still chasing his first Nordschleife success but starts WTCR Race of Germany on a high after winning the second race in Pau, where China’s Ma Qing Hua and Uruguay’s Santiago Urrutia also finished on the podium.
HUFF HOLDS WTCR TROPHY ADVANTAGE
CUPRA-powered Rob Huff, the winner of the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship, heads the provisional WTCR Trophy standings after two rounds for Zengő Motorsport. The category for independent racers with no financial backing from a manufacturer, was introduced in 2020 and lists Jean-Karl Vernay and Gilles Magnus as its title winners. Huff won the category in Race 2 at WTCR Clean Fuels for All Race of France after Mehdi Bennani had triumphed in the opening counter for Comtoyou Team Audi Sport. Click HERE for the provisional WTCR Trophy standings.
CORONEL’S BIG BUT NOT QUITE SO BIG WEEKEND
Tom Coronel will put his full focus behind his WTCR bid with Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport after confirming he won’t be taking part in the 50th ADAC TotalEnergies 24H Nürburgring, which follows WTCR Race of Germany on next weekend’s billing. Dutchman Coronel is a regular in the day and night spectacular but this year a commitment at the Monaco Grand Prix has ruled out another appearance by the Nordschleife expert.
WTCR RACE OF GERMANY ESSENTIALS
Rounds: 3 and 4 of 20
Date: May 26-28
Venue: Nürburgring Nordschleife
Location: Otto-Flimm-Straße, 53520 Nürburg, Germany
Track length: 25.378 kilometres
Race 1 distance: 3 laps (76.134 kilometres)
Race 2 distance: 3 laps (76.134 kilometres)
WTCR qualifying lap record: Néstor Girolami (Honda Civic Type R TCR)
8m51.802s (171.7kph), 24/09/20
WTCR race lap record: Jean-Karl Vernay (Hyundai Elantra N TCR)
8m53.608s (171.2kph), 05/06/21
Thursday May 26:
14h30-15h10: Free Practice 1 (Live on Facebook, YouTube, Eurosport Player)
19h00-19h40: Free Practice 2 (Live on Facebook, YouTube, Eurosport Player)
Friday May 27:
13h00-13h40: Qualifying (Live on Eurosport Player and broadcasters around the world)*
Saturday May 28:
10h00: Race 1 (3 laps, 76.134kms) Live on Eurosport Player and broadcasters around the world
10h40: Race 1 podium
12h35: Race 2 (3 laps, 76.134kms) Live on Eurosport Player and broadcasters around the world
13h15: Race 2 podium
*Commentary feed available at FIAWTCR.com, full broadcast details available HERE from next week
WTCR RACE OF GERMANY FORMAT EXPLAINED
The Nürburgring Nordschleife’s 25.378-kilometre lap length means there’s no time for the WTCR’s normal three-phase Qualifying elimination format so one 40-minute session is scheduled instead with the fastest five drivers scoring points on a 10-8-6-4-2 scale.
Previously the partially-reversed-grid race, drivers in Race 1 will line up for action according to the results of Qualifying. The top seven finishers will get more points than previously with drivers scoring as follows: 1st = 30 points; 2nd = 23; 3rd = 19; 4th = 16; 5th = 14; 6th = 12; 7th = 10; 8th = 8; 9th = 7; 10th = 6; 11th = 5; 12th = 4; 13th = 3; 14th = 2; 15th = 1.
Race 2 becomes the partially-reversed-grid race for 2022. That means the driver who qualifies P10 starts from pole position with the ninth fastest driver lining up second and so on. Positions 11 downwards are based on the results of Qualifying. Points are awarded as follows: 1st = 25 points; 2nd = 20; 3rd = 16; 4th = 13; 5th = 11; 6th = 10; 7th = 9; 8th = 8; 9th = 7; 10th = 6; 11th = 5; 12th = 4; 13th = 3; 14th = 2; 15th = 1.
DID YOU KNOW?
*WTCR race distances have been changed for 2022 with Race 1 scheduled for 30 minutes + 1 lap and Race 2 for 25 minutes + 1 lap. However, at WTCR Race of Germany, both races are scheduled for 3 laps due to the 25.378-kilometre track length.
*Esteban Guerrieri is the WTCR’s most successful driver in terms of race wins with the Honda-powered driver triumphing 10 times for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport.
*Twelve drivers won WTCR races during a wide-open 2021 season with all five customer racing brands winning more than once.
*Yann Ehrlacher is the only two-time winner of the WTCR title. Meanwhile, his uncle and Cyan Racing Lynk & Co team-mate Yvan Muller won the FIA World Touring Car Championship four times.
*The Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition as the Official Safety Car of the WTCR for a third season.