SECOND QUALIFYING REPORT: FIA WTCR RACE OF GERMANY
Nürburgring Nordschleife, 10-12 May 2018
WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO, Rounds 7-9 of 30
BJÖRK EDGES DRAMATIC DHL POLE CHASE AT THE NÜRBURGRING NORDSCHLEIFE
*Swede fastest again with stunning lap for Yvan Muller Racing
*Vervisch flies to season-best in Comtoyou Racing Audi
*P10 for Oriola hands Team OSCARO by Campos pole for Race 2
Thed Björk secured his second DHL Pole Position in as many days at WTCR Race of Germany after winning a fantastic WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO qualifying battle on the Nürburgring Nordschleife on Friday evening.
The 2017 World Touring Car champion improved on each of his three laps to thwart a group of determined rivals who were all in contention for the top spot in a dramatic session.
“It’s not easy – I fought so hard,” said a delighted Björk at the end of an absorbing 40-minute qualifying. “I just went for it. There are so many emotions going through your head about how to handle the speed and everything else around here. I’m really happy to be first. Now I just need a better start in Race 3 than I had yesterday.”
How the battle for pole unfolded?
Björk set the pace on the first lap around the epic 25.378-kilometre circuit, with a time of 8m59.550s in his YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR, just 0.898s quicker than team-mate Yvan Muller. His lap was particularly notable because he caught championship leader Gabriele Tarquini during the second half of the lap and was forced to duke it out with the Italian along the Döttinger Höhe straight. Björk just edged ahead into the final chicane.
Behind the all-white Hyundai duo, Norbert Michelisz was third at this stage for BRC Racing Team ahead of impressive Nordschleife rookie Gordon Shedden in his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS 3 LMS. On his second lap, Shedden brilliantly held a big sideways moment at Hatzenbach while a puff of dust from team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay behind him showed how hard both Audi drivers were trying.
Björk was also showing his commitment and improved his pace-setting time to 8m57.977s on his next run. Muller went quicker too, but still came up 0.847s short. Then Muller found himself bumped down to third as Audi Sport Team Comtoyou driver Frédéric Vervisch put in a fantastic effort to jump up the order, just 0.765s shy of provisional poleman Björk.
Now it was Michelisz’s turn to improve – and in style. The Hungarian pushed Björk from the top of the timesheets with a stunning lap of 8m56.967s, just over a second quicker than the Swede. Meanwhile, Briton Rob Huff was up to third in his Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR. The track appeared to be getting quicker on a sunny late afternoon in the Eifel mountains.
Björk responded to Michelisz by improving once again on his third and final lap to leap back to the top with a lap of 8m55.085s. Yann Ehrlacher also put in a great effort to further demote Michelisz to go second, 1.664s off Björk. But Michelisz was still on his third lap. Could he snatch the fastest time and claim the Race 3 DHL Pole Position?
The Hungarian improved, but only enough to go second. The BRC Hyundai caught Mehdi Bennani’s Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen on the long straight, but couldn’t pass into the final chicane.
Then sensationally Vervisch crossed the line to demote Michelisz and fly up to second. The Belgian, who had put in his best WTCR qualifying performance by far, was just 1.040s off Björk’s benchmark. The Swede could finally breath in the knowledge his Race 3 DHL Pole Position was secure.
As Michelisz had to settle for third, he could at least take solace from out-qualifying Race 1 winner Muller in fourth. The four-time WTCC champion’s nephew Ehrlacher was next in his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR, ahead of Huff’s Golf.
Esteban Guerrieri was eighth fastest in his Honda, ahead of wildcard Audi entry René Rast, the home hero and DTM champion.
And in the crucial P10 slot was Nordschleife rookie Pepe Oriola, the Spaniard thus claiming the Race 2 reverse-grid DHL Pole Position in his Team OSCARO by Campos Racing Cupra TCR.
Vernay and Shedden eventually found themselves bumped down to P11 and P15 respectively, with Tarquini between them in P14.
Race 2 gets underway at 11h00 on Saturday 12 May with Race 3 following at 12h20. Both races will be run over three laps.