Ultimate test of car and driver in store as 25.278-kilometre lap awaits
Top Gear presenter and Queen of the Ring Sabine Schmitz returns to WTCC
WTCC MAC3 team time trial to provide added drama and excitement
The FIA World Touring Car Championship will go from the shortest track in Marrakech to the longest of them all when the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife hosts WTCC Race of Germany for the second time next week (26-28 May).
It’s also the biggest challenge of them all with 64 heart-stopping turns lying in wait over the 25.278-kilometre lap, a combination of the grand prix circuit and the famous Nordschleife loop, which opened for business back in 1927.
Named the Green Hell by Sir Jackie Stewart due to its demanding and unforgiving layout, the Nürburgring Nordschleife offers the ultimate test for car and driver.
José María López, who leads this season’s WTCC standings in his quest for a third consecutive title, 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 counter last May.
The Citroën-driving Argentine then came within 0.173s of beating team-mate Yvan Muller to victory in the closing race following a thrilling slipstream battle for glory as he charged through from P10 on the grid.
“It was the most amazing race of the year,” said the 33-year-old. “Everything is special about this track, it’s 25 kilometres, it’s called the Green Hell, it’s different from anything you have experienced before. Last year was my first time and I really enjoyed it and to be able to win was something else. It’s something amazing to be flat out on this track. You have jumps, high-speed corners, a long straight, a long lap, it’s amazing.”
The Queen of the Ring returns
While López mastered the demanding Nordschleife in style last year, no driver can count on more experience of the track than local star Sabine Schmitz, who made history in 2015 when she became the first female to score a WTCC point in the championship’s current era. Schmitz, now a presenter on the hugely popular BBC Top Gear television show, will be returning for a one-off outing in the same ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1.
However, with her filming commitments keeping her away from Testing and Free Practice 1, Schmitz will be playing catch-up as she reacclimatises to her front-wheel-drive World Touring Car from the Porsche GT car she normally races.
“We have a very necessary studio shot to do for Top Gear I can’t miss. I must be crazy to measure myself against these guys without the same amount of time to practice. But they want me in the team so I’m back, no problem, although I will have a better chance if it rains so my hope is more water, more success!”
Double the touring car fun in store
A double treat is in store for touring car fans at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. In addition to the WTCC, the FIA European Touring Car Cup will provide plenty of bumper-to-bumper action, albeit with a twist. Rather than having their own races, the ETCC drivers will follow their WTCC counterparts over the 25.278-kilometre layout during two three-lap contests. It’s the first time the two championships, promoted by Eurosport Events, have joined forces and the spectacle will be eagerly anticipated with several WTCC drivers of the future in action.
More WTCC MAC3 magic for the Nordschleife
The Tour de France-inspired Manufacturers Against the Clock (WTCC MAC3) team time trial takes take centre stage following Qualifying on Friday afternoon and offers more drama and excitement. Citroën, Honda and LADA (Volvo-Polestar will participate when it enters a third car in 2017) nominate three drivers to take part in reverse championship order in three-minute intervals. As soon as a team’s three cars, which can be refuelled and fitted with new tyres prior to the start, leave the grid side by side, the clock starts and then stops once the last car completes one flying lap of the track. Failure to get all three cars over the line – or if the second or third car doesn’t finish within a maximum of 15 seconds after the first car – means no points. After Citroën won the inaugural WTCC MAC3 contest in France by 0.030s, the spectacle was raised even further when it tied on time with Honda in Slovakia, meaning both makes picked up 10 points towards their WTCC Manufacturers’ championship totals. Honda took a narrow win in Hungary after Citroën was penalised following a track limits infringement by Mehdi Bennani as the ethos of team competition came to the fore. With Norbert Michelisz making contact with a wall in Morocco, Citroën won ahead of LADA. WTCC MAC3 is timed by TAG Heuer and encapsulates the essence of the company’s #dontcrackunderpressure campaign with some of the best touring car drivers in the world vying to go as fast as possible but never cracking under pressure by putting in a faultless performance to deliver a winning team result.
TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy up for grabs
The driver setting the fastest lap of all during both races will win the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy and receive a TAG Heuer watch. TAG Heuer is the WTCC’s Official Timing Partner and an Official Series Sponsor.
World will be watching (thanks to 32 trackside cameras)
The WTCC’s first visit to the Nürburgring Nordschleife captivated television audiences in 188 countries worldwide with a cumulative audience of 37,397 million watching the action. Produced in partnership with _wige, the coverage is made possible through the use of 68 TV signals including 32 trackside cameras, 24 onboard cameras and two helicopter-mounted Cineflex cameras, one of which was flown by a crew who working on the Tour de France each year.
NEW FOR 2016
Hello Opening Race and Main Race!: Gone are Race 1 and Race 2 for 2016, in their place come Opening Race and Main Race with the reverse-grid now used for the first clash of the weekend and the grid for the second event based on the results of Qualifying.
WTCC Premium TV: Bringing the WTCC’s video content to fans through mobile apps (iOS and Android) and online, WTCC TV Premium TV is a high-quality, interactive subscription service costing €14.95 for a weekend or €99.95 for a season. Included in the package is the world feed plus a choice of 10 on-board cameras, no geo-blocking, video on demand, plus stats and facts.
WTCC Fan Village: There will be fast-paced entertainment on and off the track in the WTCC this season with the WTCC Fan Village featuring displays, meet the driver sessions, music, merchandising and a WTCC Hall of Fame. Entry is free.
New partnerships: TAG Heuer and OSCARO are welcomed as Official Series Partners. JVCKENWOOD’s renewed commitment will bring team radio to TV, Polestar will provide the Official Safety Car, the Volvo V60 Polestar, while a new alliance with the Goodwood Festival of Speed will bring WTCC ‘art cars’ to the annual motorsport extravaganza in June. DHL, the WTCC’s Official Logistics Partner, will present the DHL Pole Position Award at every event. The new TAG Heuer Best Lap award goes to the driver setting the weekend’s fastest race lap of all.
WHO’S ON TRACK IN 2016
Citroën: World champion José María López and Yvan Muller remain in factory C-Elysée WTCCs. Privateer squad Sébastien Loeb Racing expands to a three-car effort with Tom Chilton and Grégoire Demoustier joining Mehdi Bennani.
Honda: Independent champion Norbert Michelisz gets his big factory break, while Rob Huff joins from LADA. Tiago Monteiro stays put but there’s no drive for Gabriele Tarquini…
LADA: Gabriele Tarquini continues in the WTCC at LADA after leaving Honda. Hugo Valente is handed a dream works ride after impressing as a privateer. Nicky Catsburg gets a full season.
Polestar: Volvo’s performance brand begins its long-term WTCC campaign with two S60 Polestar TC1s for Scandinavian Touring Car aces Thed Björk and Fredrik Ekblom.
WTCC Trophy: Bennani, Chilton and Demoustier aside, Tom Coronel is back for WTCC season 12 in his privateer Chevrolet. John Filippi turned 21 in February and gets Yvan Muller as a driver coach. John Bryan-Meisner crosses over from single-seater racing, while Sabine Schmitz deputises for René Münnich, who is busy with his World Rallycross Championship duties, which he’s combining with his WTCC campaign. Zengo Motorsport will enter two Hondas for Hungarian teenagers Ferenc Ficza and Dániel Nagy.
José María López was the form man at the Nürburgring Nordschleife last season, claiming a win from the DHL pole position before coming within a whisker of making it a victory double. However, his Citroën team left the last round in Morocco winless as Honda dominated with a Qualifying top-three lockout and a 1-2-3 in the Main Race. Tom Coronel, the Opening Race winner in Morocco, has extensive Nordschleife experience and won’t carry any compensation weight in his privateer Chevrolet under the championship regulations. Thed Björk and Fredrik Ekblom’s Volvo S60 Polestar TC1s will also run at the minimum base weight in Germany, while LADA took two fastest laps in Morocco with Hugo Valente claiming the prestigious TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy.
FACTS AND STATS
Race wins in 2016: López 3; Huff 2; Bennani, Coronel and Monteiro 1
Pole positions in 2016: López 2; Huff and Muller 1
Fastest laps in 2016: López 3; Huff 2; Muller, Tarquini and Valente 1
Laps led in 2016: López 39; Huff 38; Bennani 22; Catsburg 7; Valente 6; Monteiro 3
All-time race wins (top 5): Y Muller 47, Huff 29, López 24, Menu 23, Tarquini 20
All-time pole positions (top 5): Y Muller 29, Tarquini 17, López 16, Menu 15, Huff 12
All-time fastest laps (top 5): Y Muller 38, Huff 26, López 24, Tarquini 23, Menu 20
All-time laps led (top 5): Y Muller 565, Huff 344, Menu 297, Tarquini 274, López 262
WTCC RACE OF GERMANY WINNERS
2015: Race 1: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); Race 2: Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée)
2011: R1: Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Franz Engstler (BMW 320)
2010: R1: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Andy Priaulx (BMW 320)
2009: R1: Andy Priaulx (BMW 320); R2: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320)
2008: R1: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320); R2: Félix Porteiro (BMW 320)
2007: R1: Yvan Muller (SEAT León); R2: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320)
2006: R1: Andy Priaulx (BMW 320); R2: Jörg Muller (BMW 320)
2005: R1: Andy Priaulx (BMW 320); R2: Alex Zanardi (BMW 320)
WTCC RACE OF GERMANY VENUES
2015-Present: Nürburgring Nordschleife
DID YOU KNOW?
Niki Lauda was the first driver to achieve a sub-seven-minute lap of the Nordschleife when he qualified his Ferrari for the 1975 German Grand Prix in 6m58.60s. Ironically, the following year it was Lauda who made calls to boycott the grand prix on safety grounds. The race went ahead and the Austrian reigning world champion suffered life-threatening injuries after crashing his Ferrari coming out of the left-hand kink before Bergwerk. The badly burned Lauda famously returned to action six weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix. That accident, which partly inspired the making of the hit movie Rush, meant the 1976 Grand Prix was the last to be held on the Nordschleife.
THE BIG WTCC NUMBER: 1925
Construction work on the original Nürburgring, near the village of Nürburg in Germany’s Eifel mountain region, began on 27 September 1925 and was completed in the spring of 1927. It cost around 15 million Reichsmark and needed 3000 workers.
THREE WTCC FIRSTS
1 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 when the triumphed last season
2 Sabine Schmitz made history in 2015 when she became the first female to score a WTCC point in the championship’s current era by finishing P10 in the first race at the Nordschleife
3 Honda underlined its WTCC credentials with Rob Huff claiming the make’s first Main Race win of 2016 from the DHL pole position
HOW THEY STAND (after Round 8 of 24)*
Drivers: 1 López 138; 2 Monteiro 124; 3 Huff 98; 4 Michelisz 85; 5 Bennani 83; 6 Muller 79; etc. Manufacturers: 1 Citroën 347; 2 Honda 308; 3 LADA 171; 4 Volvo-Polestar 90 WTCC Trophy: 1 Bennani 78; 2 Chilton 57; 3 Coronel 54; 4 Filippi 34; 5 Demoustier 30; 6 Ficza 16; etc. WTCC Teams’ Trophy: 1 Sébastien Loeb Racing 128; 2 ROAL Motorsport 52; 3 Campos Racing 37; 4 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 27; 5 Zengo Motorsport 18. *Full standings are available athttp://media.fiawtcc.com/statistics
THEY SAID WHAT?
Thed Björk (Polestar Cyan Racing): “It’s the most amazing track in the whole world. It’s absolutely unbelievable and I’m so happy to be racing there in the WTCC. It’s an experience of a lifetime. If you are at least a little bit interested in cars, then you have to drive the track. It’s not scary but you have to be very, very aware of the risks. You need to pick the speed up as you go and try not to overdrive. Many people do mistakes there and it’s a track that can kick you into mistakes. But try to be calm and not go to the limit. It’s easier said than done but you need to have a lot of respect for the track. I know the track. I can write it in my sleep, every corner, every small thing, I love it. It took me a couple of laps to learn it but now I know it inside out.”
Nicky Catsburg (LADA Sport Rosneft): “You have so much diversity and as a driver you can really make the difference. To set the comparison with other tracks, Eau Rouge, the fast corner at Spa, is always a challenge and always a corner people speak about but it’s so easy. You go out on your fast lap, you try to take it flat but if it’s not possible you take the run-off and you have found the limit. On the Nordschleife you cannot do that anywhere. If you go off, you are in the wall or the trees even. What makes it even more difficult is that you have so many of these high-speed turns where you really have to take risks. The other thing is you only see those turns once every eight minutes so it’s really difficult to be on the limit immediately. But I just love it, it’s such a cool track. I’m always a big fan of high-speed corners and this track has it all. And the atmosphere with the fans, I always look forward to going there.”
Tom Coronel (ROAL Motorsport): “It’s the best race track on planet earth. It’s the most challenging track, it’s changing all the time. You can never do a lap perfectly. Every lap you have at least 10 times a near narrow escape and I don’t think anybody knows the track 100 per cent because that’s impossible. Whenever somebody asks me if I want to drive the Nürburgring Nordschleife I get an automatic smile on my face which I don’t get with anything else that I can do on planet earth. So you can imagine how far it goes. You have to be scared because if you don’t respect this track then you don’t respect anything on planet earth. This is the most challenging thing a race driver can find. It’s always in your mind that there is something scary but at the same time you feel privileged that you are allowed to drive this track.”
José María López (Citroën Total WTCC): “It was the most amazing race of the year last year and I’m really looking forward to going back. Everything is special about this track, it’s 25 kilometres, it’s called the Green Hell, it’s different from anything you have experienced before. Last year was my first time and I really enjoyed it and to be able to win was something else. It’s something amazing to be flat out on this track. You have jumps, high-speed corners, a long straight, a long lap, it’s amazing. Of course with Fangio winning there and Carlos Reutemann winning there, the track has a strong connection with Argentina, my country, and it’s a very special place for Argentinian people.”
Tiago Monteiro (Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team): “It’s the biggest challenge. It’s definitely the hardest track in the world to learn, to be fast on and to be able to attack. I wanted to race there for ages but I never had the opportunity, so when they announced it I took the opportunity to go and test as much as possible. I went there three or four times and it was just amazing. Like Macau, the Nordschleife is a top challenge and that’s why we race there.”
Name: Nürburgring Nordschleife (www.24h-rennen.de)
Location: Otto-Flimm-Straße, 53520 Nürburg, Germany
Length: 25.278 kilometres Opening Race distance: 3 laps Main Race distance: 3 laps
Lap record (qualifying): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée) 8m37.327s (176.60kph), 15/05/15 Lap record (race): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée), 8m40.688s (175.40kph), 16/05/15
WTCC appearances: Eight
Time zone: GMT +2 hours Sunrise/sunset: 05h27/21h33 (Saturday 28 May)
Average temperature: 8°C-18°C (May)
The venue: Germany returned to the WTCC calendar last year for the first time since 2011. However, gone was relatively-tame-in-comparison Oschersleben and in its place came the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife, complete with its daunting 25.378-kilometre lap and 64 heart-stopping corners. Supporting the famous ADAC Zurich 24h Rennen, the event produced two dramatic contests with Yvan Muller beating race-one winner José María López to race-two glory by 0.173s, the closest finish in the 2015 WTCC. This year’s event will feature a split grid with the FIA European Touring Car Cup drivers joining their WTCC counterparts on track for the two three-lap encounters.
The timetable: ?Thursday’s itinerary includes a 60-minute test and Free Practice 1. Friday’s track activity is made up of Free Practice 2, Qualifying and WTCC MAC3 with the two three-lap races held on Saturday (at 11h20 and 12h45) prior to the ADAC 24h-Rennen. For WTCC Race of Germany, Qualifying is held over 60 minutes rather than split into three sections.
A LAP OF THE TRACK WITH SABINE SCHMITZ
The FIA World Touring Car Championship is returning to the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife from 26-28 May for WTCC Race of Germany. Queen of the Ring and local resident Sabine Schmitz, who will drive a Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, is your guide to the 25.278-kilometre track, The Green Hell.
“The Grand Prix Circuit part of the track is not too tough on the suspension like the Nordschleife but it’s all about traction for the shorter straights and having a stable car on the brakes so you don’t lose time at the start of the lap.
“Onto the Nordschelife and the first left into the Hatzenbach is really important because you have a very, very quick section and you need to carry the speed. We don’t brake here, just lift off a bit. The balance of the car has to be really easy to handle and you can’t be too quick on the steering wheel. Then we have a couple of tight corners through Hocheichen. The rear tyres will lift off a couple of times and then there will be dust as well to deal with because the WTCC drivers love to cut the first sharp right-hander and they are leaving a big mess, so when I arrive it’s very slippery!
“For Quiddelbacher Hohe we are close to being flat but this is a question of practice because there is a lot of movement in the chassis. Be careful how you correct the wheel because the car can go very light here so you have to make sure it has a good balance.
“Flugplatz is a very quick section and it really helps to have good downforce. You need to be good on the brakes for Aremberg and when you are on the brakes the car must be settled down. The Fuchsrohre is the compression, it’s very tricky when you have a soft set-up so you have to lift off a little bit. Then you have the Adenauer Forst chicane where the chassis is doing big, big movement from right to left, left to right. Metzgesfeld is a very fast left-hander but it’s really flat so not a big deal.
“Then we go down Kallenhard, a very sharp one with a steep braking area as it goes down very much. The weight will be in the front more than in other corners so you have to make sure the car is very well balanced. When you turn in, turn in very gently, which is the same as in Wehrseifen, a heavy downforce section.
“Ex-Mühle is a very big compression. It’s a steep hill and you need traction there because all the weight goes to the rear end and when you accelerate the weight goes even more to the rear end. You need really to keep the tyres on the ground and keep the speed out of Exmuhle because there is a long straight to Bergwerk, which is quite easy, flat with good Tarmac.
“Then we have the long, long uphill section – not so difficult to drive – to the Karusell. It’s very hard for the suspension but you are only doing 80kph because if you jump out you will end up in the barrier very easily, so you are fighting the car a bit. It’s necessary to go gentle out of the Karusell because of the grip at the front.
“Hohe Acht is next and it’s where we have good Tarmac. It’s not a big deal but the Wippermann is a little more tricky because of the kerbs, which you are quite hard on. You need to be very gentle on the steering wheel otherwise you might have a bad time when you go across the kerbs. Then we enter Eschbach, a very steep downhill braking area.
“At Brünnchen you have to wave to the fans and remember not to crash because your fan base will be gone! But it’s good Tarmac here and lots of grip. Next it’s down to down to Pflanzgarten where we have a big jump and because of the soft suspension of the front-wheel-driven Chevrolet you will lift off a little bit, all four wheels. But you have good downforce so maybe after landing we jump up again!
“Then we have a long right-hander but this is full speed over a crest into a left-hander. The car will be very light again so you have to be gentle on the wheel to make sure the balance is in good shape. Schwalbenschwanz is after this. It has good Tarmac, good grip and is very flat. For the little Karusell that follows, again you can’t be too aggressive on the wheel when you exit. Let the front tyres do their job.
“It’s very, very necessary to catch a good line and be gentle on the exit in Galgenkopf because you’ll need every single rev to have good speed for the long, long Döttinger Höhe straight, which is two kilometres long. Hopefully you are on your own with not too many cars around you at this point because the track is getting tighter and tighter as you get closer to the finish line.”
WTCC FLASHBACK 2015 (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 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 WTCC 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.