WTCR Qualifying flash: Girolami hits top gear on the Nordschleife
Néstor Girolami topped qualifying for the second year in a row on the Nürburgring Nordschleife as the Argentinian made the most of dry conditions to claim pole position for Race 2 at WTCR Race of Germany.
Young talent Attila Tassi set the pace on the first lap around the mammoth 25.378-kilometre circuit, managing a time of 8m59.285s in his ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR, with Esteban Guerrieri and Girolami making it three Hondas in the top four. Home hero Luca Engstler broke up the order with the third fastest time in his Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team Hyundai Elantra N TCR.
Girolami hit the top after the second laps as he set an impressive time of 8m54.791s, which was 0.780s faster than the next best, Jean-Karl Vernay (Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team). Guerrieri was now third fasest, but Tassi dropped down the order after a messy lap that included a big moment at Hatzenbach. But the 21-year-old certainly entertained as he drifted his Goodyear-equipped Honda through the turns.
Vernay gave his all to snatch pole position on his third lap but failed to improve, ensuring Girolami’s second tour was enough to remain on top.
“It’s unbelievable,” said a delighted Girolami. “I have very good memories from last year with an amazing lap and to repeat it this year was never going to be easy. I was improving on my last lap, but my team told me the last sector was a little bit damp. Even if Vernay had improved I would have been P2.”
Girolami also took the opportunity to dedicate his pole position to former grand prix driver and countryman Carlos Reutemann, who is currently battling illness.
“Good day for us,” said Vernay in his first qualifying performance in the new Hyundai. “We had a small issue in FP1 yesterday but it was fixed for FP2. It’s not going to be easy this year, but this was a good start.”
Behind Girolami and Vernay in the final order, Guerrieri was third fastest. “I’m more tired than happy, it was really tough,” said the Argentinian, who won Race 1 at WTCR Race of Germany last year. “You are really on the limit at this track.”
FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title contender Engstler was fourth fastest, ahead of Santiago Urrutia in the first of the Lynk & Co 03 TCRs. Gabriele Tarquini was next for BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse, with Tiago Monteiro (Honda) in seventh, Norbert Michelisz’s Hyundai in eighth and King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher in ninth.
Ehrlacher’s uncle and Cyan Racing Lynk & Co team-mate Yvan Muller qualified in P10, which means he starts the reverse-grid Race 1 from pole position – but it was mighty close. Tom Coronel, in P11, missed out by just 0.002s – the equivalent of 11 centimetres of the 25.378-kilometre lap – in the second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS, which is making its world debut at WTCR Race of Germany.
“I can be pleased with that particularly when you are 51 years old at this circuit and with the commitment you have to give,” quipped Muller. “Let’s see what the race will bring. We were lucky with the weather in this session, but tomorrow it can be everything at The Green Hell.”
Behind Coronel, Nathanaël Berthon was P12 in his Audi, ahead of Tassi, Gilles Magnus, Thed Björk and Frédéric Vervisch, who had topped the wet/dry second free practice on Thursday evening.
Rob Huff was in P18 on his qualifying return to the WTCR in Zengő Motorsport’s CUPRA Leon Competición, while brother-and-sister duo Andreas and Jessica Bäckman were in P17 and P20 respectively.
Race 1 at WTCR Race of Germany takes place on Saturday at 09h00 local time.