The scorecards will show that the Citroën Racing outfit rather predictably came out on top in the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s inaugural visit to the Nürburgring Nordschleife – reigning champion José María López and teammate Yvan Muller claimed a win apiece – but the final result perhaps fails to capture just what an outstanding event this was.
Few expected that we would see such close racing around the 25-kilometre ‘Green Hell’, but the WTCC delivered in spades with some thrilling wheel-to-wheel action, particularly in the second leg.
After dominating qualifying and claiming pole position on Friday, reigning champion José María López had a fairly relaxed – if you could call it that – run to victory in the opening race of the Saturday build-up to the 24-hour sports car race that would follow.
The Argentine driver was effectively handed victory on a plate when his fellow front-row starter, Hugo Valente, threw away his outstanding qualifying result with a rather predictable incident just seconds into the race.
This time, the Frenchman’s adversary was the Honda of Norbert Michelisz, whom he tried to shove into the pit wall after a slow getaway from the line. By the time he reached the first corner, he had lost several places and then found himself tipped into a half-spin by Ma Qing Hua at Turn 2.
The drama allowed a fast-starting Sébastien Loeb straight through to second, and an even quicker starting Yvan Muller slotted into third place from sixth on the grid.
Further down the order, both Tom Coronel and Rob Huff – who had both started at the tail of the field following respective engine change penalties – would retire with damage before the field had even exited the Grand Prix loop of the circuit.
Huff’s stand-in teammate Jaap van Lagen was having no such troubles, with the Norschleife expert making his own way up the order and enjoying much of the TV air-time in the process. The Dutchman disposed of Gregoire Demoustier’s Craft-Bamboo Chevrolet on the first lap, and then John Filippi’s Campos Chevrolet on Lap 2 before he came upon Sabine Schmitz’s Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet.
The pair staged an entertaining scrap for the final points’ position, with Schmitz showing her prowess around the circuit by successfully blocking the faster LADA at every opportunity.
Further ahead, Valente was trying to stage his own recovery, passing Tiago Monteiro’s Honda with considerable ease midway through the first lap before the Portuguese driver showed the nimbleness of his Civic by retaking the position in the twistier Grand Prix loop when Valente ran wide at the Shell hairpin, which was momentarily doused by a rain shower.
Failing to show adequate caution in the slippery conditions, Valente finished the job and binned his car a few corners later when he lost control on a damp kerb and hit the tyre barriers.
Up at the front, López eased away from Loeb and Muller to take a comfortable first victory at the iconic circuit and claim another 1-2-3 for the factory outfit. The result meant that López’s championship lead now extended to 42 points over Loeb.
Despite his start-line contact with Valente, Michelisz hung on to claim the Independent class victory by finishing fourth, narrowly holding out against Ma, Gabriele Tarquini and Mehdi Bennani in the rush to the finish line.
You can watch the full recording of Race 1 by clicking here.
|2015 FIA WTCC Race of Germany – Race 1 Final Classification (3 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||3||26:02.550|
|2.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||3||+ 4.930|
|3.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||3||+ 8.759|
|4.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||3||+ 9.918|
|5.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||3||+ 10.516|
|6.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||3||+ 10.789|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||3||+ 11.389|
|8.||Stefano D’Aste||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 12.755|
|9.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 21.910|
|10.||Sabine Schmitz||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 35.348|
|11.||Jaap van Lagen||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||3||+ 35.726|
|12.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 36.572|
|13.||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 47.474|
|14.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||2||+ 1 lap|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1||Accident|
|DNF.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||0||Damage|
|DNS.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||0||Suspension|
If the organisers and the fans were happy with the action in Race 1, then they would have been ecstatic with what was to immediately follow in the second three-lap run.
With the ten fastest qualifiers starting in reverse order, there was guaranteed on-track action as many expected to see the fastest Citroëns tussle their way through the field.
Race 2 pole-winner Tiago Monteiro led the chasing pack into the opening complex of corners, while fellow front row starter Tom Coronel quickly found himself shuffled a few spots down in his repaired ROAL Motorsports Chevrolet.
Yvan Muller, meanwhile, had quickly worked his way into third place behind the second Honda of Gabriele Tarquini, passing the Italian into Turn 3 before overhauling Monteiro on the long straight that ended the opening lap.
Muller needed to get into the lead and gap the chasing field quickly, for Race 1 winner López was making his own way up the order, having climbed from tenth to sixth by the end of the first lap.
But the four-time WTCC champion wasn’t able to do so, thanks to some smart teamwork by teammates Monteiro and Tarquini, who kept themselves in the hunt with some smart slipstreaming work to help peg the gap to Muller’s C-Elysée.
Their problem, however, was the even quicker pack behind, comprising the other four Citroëns of Loeb, Ma, López and Mehdi Bennani, as well as the Chevrolet of Coronel and the repaired Lada of Rub Huff.
The top ten cars were covered by just ten seconds as the field began its final lap, which would prove to be the most dramatic and thrilling of the season to date.
Having held off López for fifth for two laps, Ma finally let the pressure get the better of him and crashed out as he exited Flugplatz – miraculously avoiding getting hit by his teammate – which allowed the reigning champion to stage a late charge on the top-three.
By the time they came to the Karussell, it was really anyone’s game, as Muller was still unable to make a break over the more nimble Hondas through the twistier sections of the lap.
Onto the mile-long back straight and López made his move, slipstreaming by Tarquini before getting a further tow from Monteiro to vault into second place. In Muller’s wake, and with much more straightline speed thanks to the double tow the Hondas had given him, he ran out of track to do the job and claim an extraordinary victory, crossing the line just 0.173 seconds behind Muller.
The top four runners were covered by just 0.6 seconds, while Loeb crossed the line in fifth after demoting Mehdi Bennani to sixth on the final lap. Impressively running just behind them was Huff, who showed great pace in the Lada to cross the line in seventh; he and teammate van Lagen sandwiched eighth-placed Coronel.
You can watch a full recording of Race 2 by clicking here.
|2015 FIA WTCC Race of Germany – Race 2 Final Classification (3 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||3||26:17.149|
|2.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||3||+ 0.173|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||2||+ 0.539|
|4.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||3||+ 0.694|
|5.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||3||+ 3.402|
|6.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||3||+ 4.062|
|7.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||3||+ 5.365|
|8.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 8.865|
|9.||Jaap van Lagen||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||3||+ 10.000|
|10.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 18.077|
|11.||Sabine Schmitz||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 32.769|
|12.||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||3||+ 33.311|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||2||Accident|
|DNF.||Stefano D’Aste||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||1||Damage|
|DNF.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||0||Suspension|
|DNS.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||0||Radiator|
|DNS.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||0||Damage|
Images via XPB Images