Thed Bjork took pole position for the opening World Touring Car Cup race at the Nurburgring, which takes place later today. Alongside him on the front row will be his YMR team-mate, Yvan Muller, after having secured a 1-2 result in qualifying. Despite the updated balance of performance (BoP) adjustments that had been published in the past week, Hyundai remained on top, with Norbert Michelisz making it three i30N TCR cars in the top three.
Before qualifying, however, all eyes were on Rene Rast. The reigning DTM champion is entered as a wildcard for the Nurburgring round of the World Touring Car Cup, but it didn’t take long for him to prove his class. Behind the wheel of an Audi RS3 LMS TCR, Rast was fastest in both free practice sessions earlier in the day. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t quite translate that early pace into pole position. The Audis have looked strong so far on home soil, no doubt benefitting from the BoP adjustments, and at times during qualifying looked like genuine contenders to be at the front. Rast could only manage sixth place in the standings, however, as the fastest of the Audi drivers.
Keeping with Audi, Gordon Shedden can walk away from this qualifying session rather pleased. After completing very few laps in free practice, the Scotsman had plenty of ground to make up on the rest of the field. At times it looked as though a top five result was on the cards, but eventually, Shedden would have to make do with eighth place. This is nothing to be sniffed at though, as his more fancied team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay could only manage a time good enough for twelfth position.
Elsewhere, Tom Coronel put in a good showing to go ninth fastest, just ahead of his young team-mate, Benjamin Lessennes. Esteban Guerrieri was the fastest of the Hondas in fourth place, while Rob Huff was the top Volkswagen driver in fifth.
Championship leader, Gabriele Tarquini didn’t have things all his own way this time around; the Italian ending up posting the seventh fastest lap time. That said, he can take heart from the fact that his closest rival in the championship standings, Yann Ehrlacher, will be starting the opening race behind him in eleventh.
Towards the back of the grid, Zsolt Szabo didn’t make it on to the track after sustaining damage in free practice. The Hungarian youngster will therefore start from last place in the opening race, while his Zengo Motorsport team-mate Norbert Nagy gave the team’s engineers more work to do after his car had to be towed back to the pit-lane.
The second wildcard entry, Kris Richard, struggled with an engine problem in his Honda. However, the Swiss still managed to go fast enough for 21st place on the grid out of twenty-seven competitors.
Edit: Since this article was written, the WTCR stewards have awarded penalties to three drivers. Due to failing to slow down sufficiently under yellow flag conditions, Rene Rast and Gordon Shedden have been awarded a ten-place grid penalty for the opening race. As such, they will drop down to 15th and 17th on the starting grid, respectively. The third driver to be punished is Benjamin Lessennes, who was deemed to block another car during qualifying. His subsequent three-place grid penalty his dropped him down to eleventh.