WTCR Free Practice 2 flash: Vervisch heads Engstler
Frédéric Vervisch marked his first weekend back in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup since 2019 by setting the fastest time in the second free practice session at WTCR Race of Germany, in tricky wet/dry conditions on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Following the dry first session, the 40-minute early evening practice forced teams and drivers to try a mixture of slick and treaded Goodyear tyres in an attempt to search for optimum grip around the great 25.378-kilometre circuit.
Norbert Michelisz, the 2019 King of WTCR, set the early pace by managing a time of 9m46.949s in his BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR, before Vervisch bettered his mark for Comtoyou Team Audi Sport.
The Belgian, one of four drivers giving the second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS its world debut this week, posted a lap of 9m44.908s, although he then went off the circuit nearing the end of the running.
His team-mate and FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title contender Gilles Magnus was out of luck when he clattered a barrier just before the long Döttinger Hohe straight and was forced to park up, bringing out double yellow flags and then a Code 60 speed limitation while his Audi was recovered.
Vervisch’s time remained the benchmark to the end of the session as he headed local hero Luca Engstler in his Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR by just 0.876s. As in the first session, all five of the WTCR customer racing brands were represented in the top 10.
“It was very difficult for sure,” said Engstler. “It was about taking risks and I don’t like taking risks in practice! Qualifying tomorrow will be about who is last on track. In this session I was on full slicks and I passed Esteban Guerrieri who was on full wets, but then he came back past me again. It feels like a rally.”
Behind the leading Audi and Hyundai, Michelisz ended up third fastest ahead of the quickest of the ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCRs driven by Tiago Monteiro. Santiago Urrutia was fifth in his Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Lynk & Co 03 TCR, ahead of the second best Audi RS 3 LMS: Tom Coronel’s Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport entry.
Yvan Muller made up for his crash at the end of the first session by managing the seventh fastest time for Cyan Racing Lynk & C0, ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay who completed his first laps of the Nordschleife for new employer Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team. Attila Tassi (Honda) and Mikel Azcona (Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición) rounded out the top 10.
Rob Huff, another WTCR returnee, was P11 in what is his first event driving for Zengő Motorsport and the CUPRA Leon Competición. He headed first practice pace-setter and King of WTCR Yann Erhlacher, Nathanaël Berthon (Audi), Guerrieri (Honda) and Gabriele Tarquini’s BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse-entered Elantra N TCR.
FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title contender Andreas Bäckman was in P17 on his WTCR debut driving Target Competition’s Hyundai, while his sister Jessica was two places further back. Jordi Gené, in his Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA, split them in P18.
Qualifying at WTCR Race of Germany takes place on Friday at 14h05 local time.