Thed Björk claimed his first win of the season at WTCR Race of Germany as the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO put on another thrilling display of racing on the Nürburgring Nordschleife on Saturday.
The Swede became the seventh different winner of an increasingly competitive WTCR season after converting his DHL Pole Position Award into a convincing victory.
Björk’s YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR held off a determined Frédéric Vervisch in Audi Sport Team Comtoyou’s rapid Audi RS 3 LMS. The Belgian almost took the lead on the third and final lap, but 2017 World Touring Car champion Björk would not be denied.
“The Audi was so fast on the straight, but I tried to make a gap and it worked,” said a delighted Björk. “Good work from Frédéric. He got really close at Turn 3, but I was on the right side to defend.”
Björk made a clean start and swooped right to defend his lead from fellow front row starter Vervisch into Turn 1, as Yvan Muller and Norbert Michelisz went door to door behind them. Muller emerged in third as Michelisz lost another position to Yann Erhlacher. The Hungarian was shuffled further down the order at Aremberg when Esteban Guerrieri muscled his way past, but the Race 2 winner earned himself a 10-second penalty for the move. Michelisz ended lap 1 a lowly P11.
At the front, Björk worked hard to establish his lead on lap one and broke the tow to Vervisch’s rapid Audi as they headed down the long Döttinger Höhe straight for the first time. Behind them, Muller led his nephew Ehrlacher, Rob Huff, the penalised Guerrieri, 18-year-old Belgian Benjamin Lessennes and Comtoyou Racing’s Nathanaël Berthon.
On lap 2, Ehrlacher chased Muller for third, with Huff and Guerrieri keeping a watching brief behind them. Meanwhile, Björk did all he could to keep out of reach of Vervisch.
But the Audi had its chance at the start of lap 3. Vervisch was right on the white Hyundai into Turn 1 and it was the Audi that had the momentum out of Turn 2, only to be thwarted by Björk’s defiant defence.
Behind them on this final lap, Muller was free of Ehrlacher’s pressure when the Honda pulled off into retirement before they headed on to the Nordschleife. Meanwhile, Huff was in trouble, losing out in a duel with Guerrieri. The Briton then reported he was losing power.
The Golf was vulnerable to attack out on the Nordschleife, and then Huff endured a dramatic moment. A recovering Michelisz made contact with the Sébastien Loeb Racing as he made a move to pass. As both cars hit the barrier, Dutchman Tom Coronel somehow managed to miss a head-on collision with the spinning Hyundai of Michelisz and inched past to race on to an eventual P10 on the road behind Guerrieri.
At the flag, Björk held a scant 0.793s advantage over Vervisch to claim his victory and become the weekend’s third different winner. Muller added a podium to his Race 1 triumph and now leads the championship from Gabriele Tarquini, who did not start Race 3 after his accident in the previous counter. Muller heads the Italian on 137 points to 118, with Björk just a further six back in third.
Lessennes and Berthon finished fourth and fifth in their Audis, ahead of Race 2 second place finished Pepe Oriola. Jean-Karl Vernay was next in his Audi, with Mehdi Bennani claiming eighth in his Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR. Behind Guerrieri and Coronel, Aurélien Panis and Mato Homola impressed in P11 and P12 respectively. Denis Dupont, Gordon Shedden and Fabrizio Giovanardi completed the top 15.
The WTCR heads back into action next weekend with the WTCR Race of Netherlands at Zandvoort.
World Touring Car Cup
WTCRRace of GermanyWTCRSEASON 2018SportCircuit1SportWorld Touring Car CupCircuitWTCRSEASON 2018WTCRRace of Germany00Saturday, May 12, 2018 – 2:56pmSaturday, May 12, 2018 – 2:56pm