It was double celebrations for the Sébastien Loeb Racing, with Benjamin Leuchter backing up teammate Johan Kristoffersson’s victory in Race 2 to win the third race of the FIA WTCR’s visit to the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Unlike Kristoffersson’s relatively easy run to his Race 2 victory, Leuchter was pushed all the way and survived a four-car fight on the final lap to win ahead of Comtoyou Racing Audi driver Frédéric Vervisch, Münnich Honda driver Esteban Guerrieri and WRT Audi’s Jean-Karl Vernay.
The quartet was covered by barely 2.5 seconds at the end of an incident-filled race which saw almost half a dozen drivers out with collision damage before the field had even left the Grand Prix segment of the circuit.
Leuchter started his race from pole position, alone on the front row of the grid due to teammate Rob Huff being unable to take the start with heavy damage thanks to being turfed into the barriers in Race 2 by Gabriele Tarquini.
Despite his advantage, Leuchter almost lost his lead at the start to the championship leader Guerrieri who overcame concerns about a slipping clutch when he stuttered off the grid on the formation lap.
Leuchter, Guerrieri and Vervisch emerged 1-2-3 out of the Turn 1/2 chicane, but behind there was carnage as a number of drivers came together in the mid-pack. Leuchter’s SLR stablemate Mehdi Bennani spun under braking and almost collected Race 2 winner Kristoffersson, while KCMG Honda’s Tiago Monteiro hit the PWR Cupra of Daniel Häglof to end the Swede’s wretched weekend.
Three of the field’s four Lynk & Co drivers were out before the field made it to the start of the Nordschleife section of the circuit. Thed Björk and Andy Priaulx banged wheels, while Yann Ehrlacher was spun into the pit lane entry by Tom Coronel’s Comtoyou Racing Cupra. Also out was BRC Racing’s Norbert Michelisz, with the Race 1 winner retiring his Hyundai after contact with Vervisch.
Behind the top-three the Attila Tassi was fourth in his KCMG Honda – although his race would also come to an end on the opening lap when his car overheated and caught fire – while Jean-Karl Vernay navigated his WRT Audi through the chaos to run sixth from sixteenth on the grid.
Guerrieri stuck diligently to the back of Leuchter on the opening lap and on the blast down Döttinger Höhe he tried to pass the German for the lead. Leuchter held firm and bravely defended his position with some ultra-late braking, forcing Guerrieri onto the kerbs and slowing his exit onto the start/finish straight which was enough to allow Vervisch through into second place.
The second lap of the race produced the biggest drama. Yvan Muller – in the sole remaining Lynk & Co – ran Nicky Catsburg’s BRC Hyundai wide while they disputed eighth place at Kesselchen. As Catsburg fought to recover and regain speed, the chasing Kristoffersson tried to capitalise but he too was forced into the grass in avoidance and had an enormous accident when his VW Golf GTI was launched over the kerbs and into the barriers.
Leuchter led what had become a four-car battle – Vernay by now was up to fourth and closing fast – although the order remained unchanged on the final sprint to the finish line. Vervisch finished second to claim back-to-back podium finishes, while Guerrieri – thanks to the retirements of his main title rivals Michelisz and Björk, as well as a non-score for teammate Néstor Girolami – extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to 45 points.
Gabriele Tarquini finished as the lead Hyundai in fifth, chased over the line by the two Comtoyou Cupras of Tom Coronel and Aurélien Panis who picked up their best finishes of the season to-date. Catsburg finished eighth ahead of Gordon Shedden’s WRT Audi and Muller.
With the season officially at its halfway mark, the next round of the FIA World Touring Car Cup takes place in two weeks’ time at the Vila Real street circuit in Portugal.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Germany – Race 3 Final Classification (3 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Benjamin Leuchter||SLR Volkswagen||3||27:23.485||26|
|2.||Frédéric Vervisch||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||3||+ 0.495||20|
|3.||Esteban Guerrieri||Münnich Motorsport||3||+ 1.885||16|
|4.||Jean-Karl Vernay||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||3||+ 2.505||13|
|5.||Gabriele Tarquini||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||3||+ 7.179||11|
|6.||Tom Coronel||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||3||+ 8.623||10|
|7.||Aurélien Panis||Comtoyou Team DHL Cupra Racing||3||+ 11.014||9|
|8.||Nicky Catsburg||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||3||+ 13.099||8|
|9.||Gordon Shedden||Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport||3||+ 14.191||7|
|10.||Yvan Muller||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||3||+ 14.524||6|
|11.||Kevin Ceccon||Team Mulsanne||3||+ 15.342||5|
|12.||Niels Langeveld||Comtoyou Team Audi Sport||3||+ 15.664||4|
|13.||Mikel Azcona||PWR Racing||3||+ 17.198||3|
|14.||Antti Buri (WC)||AS Racing||3||+ 20.626|
|15.||Ma Qing Hua||Team Mulsanne||3||+ 21.146||2|
|16.||Mehdi Bennani||SLR VW Motorsport||3||+ 21.566||1|
|17.||Tiago Monteiro||KCMG||3||+ 44.546|
|18.||Néstor Girolami||Münnich Motorsport||2||+ 1:37.527|
|19.||Andy Priaulx||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||3||+ 4:33.505|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Johan Kristoffersson||SLR Volkswagen||1||Accident|
|DNF.||Thed Björk||Cyan Racing Lynk & Co||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Norbert Michelisz||BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse||0||Driveshaft|
|DNF.||Augusto Farfus||BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Yann Ehrlacher||Cyan Performance Lynk & Co||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Daniel Haglöf||PWR Racing||0||Collision|
|DNS.||Rob Huff||SLR VW Motorsport||Collision|
- The top fifteen classified finishers (excluding wildcard entries) and their respective teams are awarded championship points on a 25-20-16-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale.
- Ma Qing Hua – who was provisionally classified 13th – was awarded a 5-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Niels Langeveld.
Images via FIA WTCR Media
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