Girolami the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader heading to Nürburgring’s high-speed rollercoaster
German Engstler and Münnich teams have race-winning pedigree on world’s toughest track
Vastly experienced Nordschleife racer Coronel one of four Audi-powered stars in action
Huff holds WTCR Trophy advantage after season-opening weekend
Find out why 3 (laps) is the magic number in the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup
Two 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.
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
WTCR DRIVER LINE-UP 2022
ALL-INKL.COM MÜNNICH MOTORSPORT (Germany)
Car: Honda Civic Type R TCR
Drivers: #29 Néstor Girolami (Argentina), #86 Esteban Guerrieri (Argentina)
WTCR race wins: 16 (Girolami 6, Guerrieri 10)
BRC HYUNDAI N SQUADRA CORSE (Italy)
Car: Hyundai Elantra N TCR
Drivers: #5 Norbert Michelisz (Hungary), #96 Mikel Azcona (Spain)
WTCR race wins: 11 (Michelisz 7, Azcona 4)
COMTOYOU DHL TEAM AUDI SPORT (Belgium)
Car: Audi RS 3 LMS
Drivers: #17 Nathanaël Berthon (France), #33 Tom Coronel (Netherlands)
WTCR race wins: 2 (Berthon 1, Coronel 1)
COMTOYOU TEAM AUDI SPORT (Belgium)
Car: Audi RS 3 LMS
Drivers: #16 Gilles Magnus (Belgium), #25 Mehdi Bennani (Morocco)
WTCR race wins: 2 (Bennani 1, Magnus 1)
CYAN PERFORMANCE LYNK & CO (Sweden)
Car: Lynk & Co 03 TCR
Drivers: #11 Thed Björk (Sweden), #12 Santiago Urrutia (Uruguay), #55 Ma Qing Hua (China)
WTCR race wins: 12 (Björk 8, Ma 1, Urrutia 3)
CYAN RACING LYNK & CO (Sweden)
Car: Lynk & Co 03 TCR
Drivers: #68 Yann Ehrlacher (France), #100 Yvan Muller (France)
WTCR race wins: 15 (Ehrlaher 7, Muller 8)
LIQUI MOLY TEAM ENGSTLER (Germany)
Car: Honda Civic Type R TCR
Drivers: #9 Attila Tassi (Hungary), #18 Tiago Monteiro (Portugal)
WTCR race wins: 3 (Monteiro 2, Tassi 1)
ZENGŐ MOTORSPORT (Hungary)
Car: CUPRA Leon Competición
Drivers: #79 Rob Huff (Great Britain), #99 Dániel Nagy (Hungary)
WTCR race wins: 3 (Huff 3)
Total race wins: 64 (and counting)
WTCR FAST TALK: DRIVERS ON NÜRBURGRING NORDSCHLEIFE
Thed Björk (Cyan Peformance Lynk & Co / Lynk & Co 03 TCR): “Like Macau the Nordschleife is one of the most challenging tracks in the world. The layout is completely crazy. You can enjoy it but only after you’ve put the lap together and because you want to have that feeling. But as you are doing the lap you are pretty scared! There is no such thing as a perfect lap because it’s so challenging to do the perfect lap. Instead, it’s the one who makes the almost perfect lap who gets the pole position and it’s also about getting the timing right, which is just crazy. In 2018 when I had pole there I did a small mistake just when I started on the Nordschleife after the Grand Prix loop. I told my engineer the car feels a little too oversteering, but my engineer just said, ‘go for it’, so I went for it because it’s not like one small mistake when you lose two or three tenths and it costs you the lap completely like on other circuits. I then did the best sector four that I ever did in my life, and I had the pole position. That’s what can happen there. I believe we will be competitive because all our drivers have good experience of the track and our car can be strong.”
Tom Coronel (Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport / Audi RS 3 LMS): “Nürburgring is not a great track, it’s the best on planet earth. There is nothing so insane, so intense a feeling that you have when you drive on the Nordschleife. It’s a circuit I’ve always loved but you need to respect the track and understand each other because it’s such a long lap and it’s so difficult to connect everything. You need to know the right points, where to speed up, where to behave because otherwise you destroy the car. I’m the most excited about the Nordschleife, always, I already did a VLN race there this year so I am the best prepared than ever. There are some corners, which I’m still improving on since the past. I did so many laps, I’m so good on that circuit but I did things I’ve never done before. After the test we had recently I told my engineer that I felt so good with the car, the tyre and the circuit that I want to go there now, now! I did corners flat out that I’ve never done flat out, which is not normally possible and I was surprised but that’s why I feel so well prepared.”
Néstor Girolami (ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport / Honda Civic Type R TCR): “Everybody knows the history of the Nordschelife, the stories like the accident of Niki Lauda and the wins for Juan Manuel Fangio, so of course you have to respect it. And when you go there you know it’s not a normal circuit and you know you have to put in something more than you would put at a normal circuit. You need to know where you have to take a risk or not take a risk. Once I am clear in my mind I go for a lap without thinking of the difficulties of the Nordschleife, which is important for feeling the flow. 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.”
Rob Huff (Zengő Motorsport / CUPRA Leon Competición): “I’ve done quite a lot around the Nordschleife, including the 24 Hours, the WTCC and WTCR races. It’s one of my favourite circuits and I love that style of track, but it’s just the most ridiculous thing. We normally make the set-up of the cars as positive and reactive as possible. Of course at the Nürburgring you don’t need a reactive car because half the time you’re in the air! It’s a very, very challenging circuit, not only mentally but physically as well because you are fighting the car so much. Every time you go airborne and you land you want to go one way and the car wants to go the other so there is a lot of wrestling and three laps around there in a touring car is harder than a GT car so it is massively, massively challenging. Nürburgring is one of the weekends where we could have a good result overall. I know the track pretty well, I’m pretty confident with what we’ve achieved so far with the car and the improvements we’ve made so we’re going there with a positive attitude and a positive outlook. My job is to upset the big boys, let’s say and we know we’re perfectly capable of doing that and we’ve got to make the most of every opportunity and hopefully come away with some good results.”
Norbert Michelisz (BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse / Hyundai Elantra N TCR): “For me it’s the toughest circuit I’ve been to. It’s completely different to a street track, to a permanent track, it’s proper old-school, fast and flowing which requires a different approach. What I’ve found is if you underestimate the challenge of the track it can bite you very quickly and very hard and from that moment it’s very difficult to gain the confidence back. Every year you learn something new and it’s a process with this circuit that never ends. You understand something more in the dry but especially in wet conditions. I don’t feel that even if I do this race for the next 10 years I won’t come close to the end of this process and it’s why this track requires a different approach. You cannot be 100 per cent all of the time because you are running the risk of crashing hard. Last year was one of the best events for us because the car was working well and the circuit suits the Elantra N TCR. We did some improvements in winter testing and I’m sure we can fight for strong points-scoring finishes because the car should work well. But even with the reverse-grid win for Mikel [Azcona in Pau], we were still missing some pace so you can see that the other teams were not sleeping during the winter. Although it will be a good circuit for the Elantra N TCR I expect the others to be as strong. It will be a tough and very exciting weekend.”
HOW THEY STAND?
WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for Drivers: Provisional standings after Round 2 of 20
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader: Néstor Girolami, 49 points
2 Esteban Guerrieri, 42 points
3 Mikel Azcona, 41 points
4 Santiago Urrutia, 30 points
5 Ma Qing Hua, 30 points
WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for Teams: Provisional standings after Round 2 of 20
1 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, 91 points
2 BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, 48
3 Cyan Racing Lynk & Co, 47
4 Cyan Performance Lynk & Co, 37
5 Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, 29
WTCR Trophy: Provisional standings after Round 2 of 20
1 Rob Huff, 17 points
2 Tom Coonel, 13
3 Dániel Nagy, 12
4 Mehdi Bennani, 10
Click HERE to view the full provisional standings
WTCR − FIA WORLD TOURING CAR CUP 2022 CALENDAR
Rounds 1 and 2: WTCR Race of France, Circuit de Pau-Ville, May 7-8
Rounds 3 and 4: WTCR Race of Germany, Nürburgring Nordschleife, May 26-28
Rounds 5 and 6: WTCR Race of Hungary, Hungaroring, June 11-12
Rounds 7 and 8: WTCR Race of Spain, MotorLand Aragón, June 25-26
Rounds 9 and 10: WTCR Race of Portugal, Circuito do Vila Real, July 2-3
Rounds 11 and 12: WTCR Race of Italy, Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi, July 23-24
Rounds 13 and 14: WTCR Race of Alsace GrandEst, Anneau du Rhin, August 6-7
Rounds 15 and 16: WTCR Race of Korea, Inje Speedium, October 8-9
Rounds 17 and 18: WTCR Race of China, Ningbo International Speedpark, November 5-6
Rounds 19 and 20: WTCR Race of Macau, Circuito da Guia, November 18-20