Last-lap punctures for championship leader Tiago Monteiro and Néstor Girolami have propelled the latter’s Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo teammate Thed Björk into second place in the FIA WTCC Drivers’ Championship standings after the Swede claimed victory in Sunday’s Opening Race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
With the first race of the day seeing the fastest ten qualifiers’ grid positions reversed, Björk made a rapid getaway from sixth to claim third at the pack funneled its way through the opening complex of corners.
Girolami had managed to convert his pole position into the lead ahead of the Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën of Mehdi Bennani.
The pack ran with their positions unchanged until the two-mile Döttinger Höhe straight on the opening lap, whereupon Björk passed Bennani’s Citroën to claim second, while further behind Bennani’s teammate Tom Chilton passed Esteban Guerrieri’s Campos Racing Chevrolet for fourth and Rob Huff took his Münnich Motorsport Citroën ahead of Tiago Monteiro’s Honda to grab sixth.
Björk was clearly showing superior pace to teammate Girolami, and on the next lap he’d closed down the Argentine driver to ease into the lead at Döttinger Höhe. Huff did likewise to Guerrieri to move into fifth, with the top six runners doing well to avoid collecting a slow-moving ETCC class Honda Civic of Christjohannes Schreiber.
Ominously, Schreiber was limping back to the pits with a puncture. It was to be a portent of things to come as the action heated up on the final lap of the race.
As the field exited the Grand Prix loop, disaster struck Monteiro. For the second year running, the championship leader found himself eliminated from contention with a puncture.
As the Portuguese driver tried to limp back to the pits to ensure he could make the start for the Main Race and limit any further damage to his title lead, Girolami followed suit and slowed with his own tyre failure.
That propelled Bennani into second ahead of Chilton, who had Huff breathing down his neck for the final podium position.
Monteiro’s teammate and Main Race pole-sitter Norbert Michelisz immediately backed off to ensure he would not befall the same fate, handing sixth place to Nicky Catsburg’s Volvo.
Björk went on to claim victory by 2.5 seconds over Bennani, while Huff succeeded in passing Chilton for third place at the Döttinger Höhe straight.
Björk’s victory and Monteiro’s non-score meant he closed to within 22 points of the championship lead, while Catsburg lies third and a further five points back.
|2017 FIA WTCC Race of Germany – Opening Race Final Classification (3 laps)|
|1.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||26:24.961||MF|
|2.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 2.538||IND|
|3.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||+ 3.096||IND|
|4.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 3.732||IND|
|5.||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 8.487||IND|
|6.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 8.910||MF|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 16.946||MF|
|8.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 16.796||IND|
|9.||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 19.481||IND|
|10.||John Filippi||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 22.889||IND|
|11.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 23.380||MF|
|12.||Kevin Gleason||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 24.118||IND|
|13.||Aurélien Panis||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 34.158||IND|
|14.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 35.457||IND|
|DNF.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||Puncture||MF|
|DNF.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||Puncture||MF|
Images via FIA WTCC Media