2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship rounds seven and eight of 24
Nürburgring Nordschleife (Germany), 14-16 May
José María López will start the opening WTCC Race of Germany at the head of the pack after he claimed his 10th FIA World Touring Car Championship pole position presented by DHL with a stunning lap around the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Argentina’s reigning WTCC champion took 8m37.327s to complete the 25.378-kilometre course, regarded as the toughest in the world, in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. Hugo Valente was a fine second fastest for Campos Racing – 1.252s slower than López – and the top Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy contender. Sébastien Loeb took third after a couple of off-track moments in his efforts to snatch pole. WTCC Race of Hungary winner Norbert Michelisz continued his recent run of form in fourth with China’s Ma Qing Hua fifth despite crashing out in the closing minutes of the session.
The long Nordschleife lap meant there was a break in WTCC tradition with the usual knockout format replaced by a single 60-minute qualifying session. López timed his benchmark run to perfection by clocking his fastest lap with seconds to spare to earn five WTCC points in his quest for a second world crown.
“I’m very happy,” he said afterwards. “If there was a pole I wanted it was this one. It’s something amazing to be on limit on this track and there is not a word to explain what I feel. I am enjoying a lot this car and this team. I knew it was the moment of truth because even though I was quickest in testing you never know if everything is going to go in the right direction. I knew how much the track [times] had improved and it’s a good feeling to do my fastest lap on the last lap.”
Behind Ma, Yvan Muller was sixth with Mehdi Bennani seventh, Gabriele Tarquini eighth, Tom Coronel ninth and Tiago Monteiro 10th for Honda. Monteiro’s performance means the Portuguese ex-Formula One driver will line up on ‘pole’ for Saturday’s reverse grid second race. Tom Chilton was 11th with 20-year-old Corsican John Filippi, the WTCC’s youngest driver 12th fastest.
After going quickest in Free Practice 1, WTCC returnee Jaap van Lagen had been counting on a strong showing in qualifying only for an engine-related issue to prevent him from completing a flying lap in his Vesta. The Dutchman’s British team-mate Rob Huff was also in trouble, stopping on-track later in the session with a similar problem. “We don’t know exactly what happened but the engine lose power so it could be the electronics,” said LADA Sport Rosneft’s Victor Shapovalov. “Both cars do the same so we need to investigate.”
Elsewhere, Stefano D’Aste was 14th quickest with ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team-mate Sabine Schmitz 15th on her first appearance in the WTCC. Local hero Schmitz, known as the Queen of the ‘Ring for rapid performances around the track, is promoting the FIA Women in Motorsport initiative this weekend. Meanwhile, Grégoire Demoustier was 16th for Craft-Bamboo Racing. Coronel, Bennani, Demoustier and Filippi will all take grid penalties for Saturday’s opening encounter for changing engines.
Saturday’s action consists of two three-lap races with the first event getting underway at 11h15 local time followed by the second race at 12h15. WTCC drivers will also get a 30-minute warm-up session from 08h15. Both races will be broadcast live on television around the world and online via the Eurosport Player.
José María López: 5pts
Hugo Valente: 4
Sébastien Loeb: 3
Norbert Michelisz: 2
Ma Qing Hua: 1
Saturday 16 May
07h00-19h00: Media Accreditation Centre open
07h00-24h00: Media Centre open
07h55-08h00: WTCC pre-grid
08h05-08h35: WTCC Warm-Up
10h15-10h25: WTCC pre-grid
10h25: Pit lane open
10h35: Pit lane closed
11h05: Five-minute board displayed
11h10: Start of formation lap (Grand Prix Circuit)
11h15: WTCC Race 1 (3 laps)
11h50: WTCC refuelling time starts
11h55: WTCC repair time starts
12h00: Pit lane open
12h10: Pit lane closed
12h15: WTCC Race 2 (3 laps)
13h00: WTCC podium
13h15 (approx.): WTCC post-race press conference (Media Centre)