The toughest and most daunting race track in the world plays host to the fifth round and the halfway mark of the 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup, with a bumper field set to do battle over three races at the iconic Nürburgring Nordschleife.
|Location||Nürburg, Germany||Circuit Length||25.378 km / 15.769 mi|
|Opened||1927||First WTCR Event||2018|
|Direction||Clockwise||Race Lap Record||8:59.076 – Fréderic Vervisch (2018)|
Even though the FIA World Touring Car Cup plays a starring support act to the annual Nürburgring 24 Hours, there is no denying that the touring cars have provided action and thrills aplenty.
Dubbed ‘the Green Hell’ by Sir Jackie Stewart, the Nürburgring Nordschleife is one of the toughest circuits in the world, stretching over 25 kilometres and 64 corners as it plunges and rises through the Eifel forest. The circuit is perhaps better described as a high-speed roller coaster, with a seemingly never-ending series of sweeps, climbs and turns.
The 2019 Event
|2019 FIA WTCR presented by Oscaro – Race of Germany|
|Event Dates||20-22 June 2019||Free Practice Session 1||Thu 11:30-12:10|
|Free Practice Session 2||Thu 12:30-13:10||Race 1 Qualifying||Thu 15:30-16:10|
|Race 2 & 3 Qualifying||Thu 19:30-20:10||Race 1 (3 laps)||Fri 17:30-18:05|
|Race 2 (3 laps)||Sat 11:00-11:35||Race 3 (3 laps)||Sat 12:20-12:55|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (UTC/GMT + 2:00)
Rewind to 2018
Yvan Muller was the big winner in last year’s visit to the world’s toughest race track, adding third place in Race 3 to his victory in Race 1 and move to the top of the WTCR standings.
Argentine Esteban Guerrieri joined his compatriots, the great Juan Manuel Fangio and triple World Touring Car champion José María López, with his first Nürburgring Nordschleife victory following a thrilling drive in Race 2. Guerrieri finished ahead of Pepe Oriola, with Thed Björk claiming victory in the final race – holding off an impressive challenge from Audi rookie Frédéric Vervisch – to complete a memorable event for Muller’s YMR team.
Having won Race 1, Frenchman Muller claimed fourth in Race 2 before completing the podium in Race 3 in his Hyundai i30 N TCR. His performance, coupled with a weekend of woe for erstwhile title leader Gabriele Tarquini – who crashed out of Races 1 and 2 and then failed to make the start for Race 3 – put him on top of the standings by 19 points.
The Form Guide
A trio of three-lap races will decide who will be crowned this year’s ‘Lord of the Ring’, and the event could prove a game-changer in determining the outcome of this year’s exciting championship fight.
Everyone will be hoping that this weekend’s action will take on the track, rather than the behind-the-scenes politics that soured the previous round at Zandvoort. Discussions were heavily focused on the Balance of Performance and compensation weight changes introduced ahead of the field’s visit to the Netherlands which greatly benefited the Lynk & Co runners who went on to dominate the event.
It has led to a point where the compensation weight system – which is where weight adjustments are calculated based on each car model’s fastest laps in qualifying and race trim over the preceding two rounds – are being heavily abused. Winning is taking place at the slowest possible speed.
This was no more evident than at Zandvoort where the Lynk & Co quartet, having thrashed the field in qualifying, dropped to the bottom of the fastest lap sheets on race day. This was to counteract the increased compensation weight they would likely face at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, a circuit where every kilogram of ballast and the Lynk & Co’s poor straight aerodynamics could kill the outfit’s chances of a good result.
The Lynk & Co entries shouldn’t be singled out, however, as this practice is rampant among the customer teams considered to have quicker cars, which includes the Honda and Hyundai runners.
This weekend’s battle is likely to be a three-way fight between Münnich Motorsport Honda – the leaders of the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championship standings – Cyan Racing Lynk & Co and BRC Racing Hyundai. Between them, these three outfits have won ten of the season’s twelve races.
Esteban Guerrieri and Thed Björk, both winners here last year, will be looking to repeat the dose and continue their fight at the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings where they are separated by just 11 points. The key to success here is speed and consistency; any misadventure can have potentially devastating consequences for a championship campaign.
Images via FIA WTCR