Benjamin Leuchter was the winner of the final World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race at the Nurburgring this weekend. In doing so, the German doubled Volkswagen’s tally for the event.
It wasn’t all good news though for Volkswagen. Following heavy contact with the barriers in the previous race, Rob Huff was unable to take his starting position on the front row of the grid. And that wasn’t all.
As the lights went out, the tight midfield pack bunched together on entry into turn one. Unfortunately, this caught out the third and fourth Volkswagens of Johan Kristoffersson and Mehdi Bennani, while Tiago Monteiro and Augusto Farfus were also more seriously involved in a separate accident.
At the front though, Esteban Guerrieri initially took the lead but ran wide into the first corner, allowing Leuchter to regain control of the race immediately.
In the wider context of the field, the attrition rate on lap one was notably high. The aforementioned turn one accident ended Augusto Farfus’ race, while Yann Ehrlacher also picked up terminal damage. Norbert Michelisz was another retiree after supposed contact with Frederic Vervisch, as were the two Swedes Thed Bjork and Daniel Haglof, who were involved in separate incidents. Andy Priaulx made it three out of four Lynk & Co contenders to be hampered by damage early on. Like Bjork and Ehrlacher, the triple world champion also brought his car back to the pits, but did at least rejoin the race (albeit way out of contention by this point).
With the grid already significantly depleted, Attila Tassi then added himself to the list of retirements as his car overheated once into Sector 4 of the Nordschleife. It was a sad end to what had been something of a breakthrough event for the 20 year-old, having scored a career-best fourth place finish in Race Two.
Due to the extreme aerodynamic slip-streaming effect, the incredibly long Dottinger Hohe straight would be one of the key overtaking opportunities. On this opening lap, Guerrieri drew up alongside Leuchter for the lead of the race, but the German bravely defended into Tiergarten. Guerrieri was consequently compromised, allowing Vervisch to drag past on the start-finish straight for second place.
On lap two, Nicky Catsburg attempted to power past Yvan Muller at Kesselchen, but the Dutchman was squeezed onto the grass deep within the dangerous Nordschleife. Evidently frustrated on the team radio, Catsburg did at least manage to keep his Hyundai planted in a straight line. On the downside, he was then swarmed by the likes of Johan Kristoffersson and Gordon Shedden. Kristoffersson tried to get past on the inside line, but before he knew it he too was off on the grass. Kristoffersson’s venture into the greenery didn’t have quite such a happy ending though, with his Volkswagen bouncing heavily into the barriers on the other side of the track.
In the early stages of the final lap, it looked as though a four car battle for victory was in store. Benjamin Leuchter, Frederic Vervisch, Esteban Guerrieri and Jean-Karl Vernay had all closed right up together around the Grand Prix loop, but sadly, by the time the cars had reached the all-important Dottinger Hohe straight, they had all drifted apart again.
That, therefore, meant that the fairy-tale had been completed. Benjamin Leuchter crossed the finish line to take his first ever race victory in the World Touring Car Cup; in his native Germany on the track upon which he forged his entire career. Unquestionably, it was a thoroughly deserved result.
Frederic Vervisch topped off a very consistent weekend with second place in this race. His points tally from the Nurburgring has shot him up to fifth place in the standings, having started the weekend in eleventh.
Esteban Guerrieri is another driver whose consistency has made him stand out this year. Once again, the championship leader took a step on the podium, but crucially, he did so when most of his closest rivals fell by the wayside. Norbert Michelisz, Thed Bjork and Nestor Girolami all failed to score points in this race, making the fact that he did even more important. Guerrieri now has a 45 point advantage over Norbert Michelisz in the championship standings; the largest leading margin that anybody has had all season.
Tom Coronel also deserves recognition in this race. Top results have been hard to come by recently for “The Showman”, but sixth place in this one is certainly something to smile about. Likewise, his team-mate Aurelien Panis picked up a strong seventh, while Gordon Shedden also scored a highly valuable – and increasingly rare – top ten finish in ninth.
Top 15 Standings
|10th||Yvan Muller||Lynk & Co||6|
|11th||Kevin Ceccon||Alfa Romeo||5|
|14th||Antti Buri||Audi||0 (Wildcard)|
|15th||Ma Qing Hua||Alfa Romeo||2|