2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship rounds seven and eight of 24
Nürburgring Nordschleife (Germany): 14-16 May
José María López became the first driver since Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass in 1983 to win a world championship race on the Nürburgring Nordschleife after claiming victory in the opening WTCC Race of Germany – and then very nearly made it two wins from two in the second event.
Starting 10th on the grid for race two, the defending WTCC champion charged through the pack in a dramatic contest to close to within 0.173 seconds of Citroën team-mate Yvan Muller crossing the finishing line following a thrilling slipstream battle for glory.
The FIA World Touring Car Championship was making its first appearance on the 25-kilometre layout, which combines the modern Grand Prix Circuit and the legendary Nordschleife loop. López blasted into the lead at the start of race one and remained out in front on the back of an impressive display as fellow front-row starter Hugo Valente hit trouble, eventually crashing out on lap two.
Sébastien Loeb kept up his chase of López in the battle for WTCC title success with second place at the iconic Eifel mountain venue, while four-time champion Muller made it an all-Citroën podium, as Norbert Michelisz took fourth for Honda and the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy spoils.
Tiago Monteiro led away from pole in the reverse grid second race but was unable to fend off Muller on the two-kilometre-long Döttinger Hohe straight on lap one. Monteiro remained latched to Muller only for López to drag ahead on the final lap, having slipstreamed Gabriele Tarquini for third seconds earlier. The dramatic action was broadcast live on television around the world and thrilled the thousands of fans watching trackside.
Elsewhere, local ace Sabine Schmitz became the first female to score a WTCC point when she finished 10th in race one on her maiden appearance in the series after she resisted intense pressure from LADA driver Jaap van Lagen, who had gone fastest in Free Practice 1 on Friday to underline an impressive return to the championship following a five-year absence.
RACE ONE ROUND-UP: LÓPEZ WINS FOR ARGENTINA 35 YEARS ON FROM REUTEMANN
José María López made the most of his 10th WTCC pole position to win race one, 45 years after fellow Argentine Carlos Reutemann claimed victory in the 1970 German Grand Prix on the Nürburgring Nordschleife and 58 years since the great Juan Manuel Fangio won his last Formula One race at the historic track. The Citroën driver’s victory means he has now won the opening race of each WTCC weekend this season and extends his championship lead to 50 points as a result. Hugo Valente had been expected to challenge López after qualifying second in his Campos Racing Chevrolet but a slow getaway allowed the fast-starting Norbert Michelisz to draw alongside. Contact between them dropped Valente further back and left Michelisz’s Honda with damaged steering. Valente then clashed with Ma Qing Hua at turn one before a brush with Tom Chilton as the pack charged onto the Nordschleife loop caused further delay. Ma Qing Hua took fifth from Gabriele Tarquini on the final lap with Mehdi Bennani, Stefano D’Aste, Chilton and Sabine Schmitz completing the top 10. John Filippi took 12th behind Jaap van Lagen with Grégoire Demoustier 13th. Tiago Monteiro retired with a front-left puncture, the legacy of earlier contact. Tom Coronel and Rob Huff both dropped out with accident damage.
RACE TWO ROUND-UP: MULLER GOES AGGRESSIVE TO TRIUMPH IN GERMANY
Yvan Muller put his race two success down to an “aggressive” set-up that gave his Citroën C-Elysée just enough pace to come out on top of a thrilling three-lap contest. By reducing the amount of drag on his car, Muller was able to go faster on the long straight but ultimately struggled for grip in the closing stages of the race as his French machine became less precise through some of the corners. López narrowly avoided collecting the spinning Ma Qing Hua on the final lap to close up to and pass Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro in successive slipstream overtakes for second place with Monteiro finishing third ahead of Honda team-mate Tarquini. Sébastien Loeb was a frustrated fifth after he was baulked at the first corner with Mehdi Bennani sixth ahead of Rob Huff, Tom Coronel, Jaap van Lagen and John Filippi. Sabine Schmitz – carrying the colours of the FIA Women in Motorsport initiative – was 11th and Grégoire Demoustier 12th. Tom Chilton failed to start race two with an engine glitch, while damage sustained in race one to Hugo Valente’s Chevrolet could not be repaired in time for the youngster to take the second start. Stefano D’Aste and Norbert Michelisz retired following contact in separate incidents.
YOKOHAMA DRIVERS’ TROPHY: BENNANI BACK INTO CONTENTION WITH VICTORY
Victory for Mehdi Bennani in race two has put the Moroccan back into title contention following a troubled run in Hungary earlier this month. The Sébastien Loeb Racing driver is now three points behind Zengo Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz. Tom Chilton’s non-start in the second race means he drops to third in the table. Grégoire Demoustier, John Filippi and Sabine Schmitz scored points in each race but Stefano D’Aste, Tom Coronel and Hugo Valente all posted non-finishes.
RACE WINNER QUOTES (view the full transcript at media.fiawtcc.com)
José María López (race one winner): “I felt very good, the car was great and thanks to Citroën for the opportunity to be this competitive. I felt very confident and I really enjoyed the race. It was like driving in a tunnel through the hills. This circuit is amazing, I really wanted this victory.”
Yvan Muller (race two winner): “It wasn’t just the final lap of this race that I enjoyed but every lap. I was focused on my start and we went very aggressive with the downforce. It was very low, bad for sector four but fast in the straight and the strategy worked. It was nice to finish like this.”
All results are available to download at http://media.fiawtcc.com/race-
Race one pole position (presented by DHL): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
Race one Yokohama Performer: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
Race two pole position (presented by DHL): Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC)
Race two Yokohama Performer: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
Provisional standings are available to download at http://media.fiawtcc.com/race-
Rosneft WTCC Race of Russia, Moscow Raceway, 5-7 June. More information:http://moscowraceway.ru/en