Three FIA World Touring Car champions fill Nordschleife podium after epic encounter

Three FIA World Touring Car champions fill Nordschleife podium after epic encounter

Yvan Muller, Thed Björk, start. WTCR
photo: Francois Flamand / WTCR

Touring car legend Yvan Muller beat YMR team-mate Thed Björk off the line in Race 1 at WTCR Race of Germany and held on to win as three world champions stood together on the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO podium after a thrilling show of close racing at the Nürburgring Nordschleife on Thursday evening.

Björk started from the DHL Pole Position, but Muller was faster off the line to take the lead into Turn 1. Björk chased his team boss all the way over three scintillating laps of the 25.378-kilometre circuit, but couldn’t find a way past the identical Hyundai i30 N TCR.

“A perfect day,” said four-time World Touring Car champion Muller after congratulating his team-mate. “I didn’t expect to be that fast. I gave everything I had. Even more. “I had a great start, but then had to manage my lead. It was tough, but I’m so happy and we have a team 1-2 as well.”

Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Rob Huff and BRC Racing Team’s Norbert Michelisz chased the all-white Hyundai pair all the way in a four-car train. Huff, starting fifth, made a strong start and passed Michelisz for third as they headed on to the Nordschleife for the first time.

The Hungarian tried everything to demote the Briton and was alongside for the final run up the long Döttinger Höhe straight, but Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR driver Huff held his nerve to ensure that three FIA world champions would stand together on the podium.

A little further back, Jean-Karl Vernay was fifth having started ninth in his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS 3 LMS, ahead of wildcard entry and team-mate for the weekend René Rast. The German DTM champion had lined up P15 after a 10-place grid penalty, incurred for not slowing sufficiently for yellow flags in qualifying.

Ring rookie Gordon Shedden completed a strong result for the Audi team with seventh place having also earned a grid penalty for the same reason.

Pepe Oriola was the first of the Cupra TCR runners in eighth for Team OSCARO by Campos Racing, ahead of Tom Coronel’s Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R TCR, while 18-year-old Belgian Benjamin Lessennes completed the top 10 in his Boutsen Honda.

“A perfect day,” said four-time World Touring Car champion Yvan Muller

There was a disappointment for championship leader Gabriele Tarquini, who still heads the points despite crashing out. The Italian was running sixth when he ran into the barrier at the final chicane at the end of the first lap.

Belgian Frédéric Vervisch will be another to be wondering what might have been. The Audi Sport Team Comtoyou driver was running competitively in sixth place when his Audi expired in a puff of smoke on lap two.

There was misfortune for regular frontrunners Esteban Guerrieri and Yann Ehrlacher, too. Guerrieri was tagged into a spin by Tarquini out of Turn 2 after the start, while fellow ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Ehrlacher also suffered contact and could only finish P19.