Nordschleife WTCC & GT action as Indy crashes go on

Weekend Racing Wrap

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The Nurburgring Nordschleife held its first world championship event for more than three decades on Saturday. The World Touring Car Championship held a pair of three-lap races on the daunting 25.9-kilometre circuit which includes the modern grand prix track.

There was more race action at another classic former grand prix venue in Europe – the Pau street circuit in France, which hosted a trio of European Formula Three races.

But America’s historic Indianapolis oval witnessed a difficult time for the IndyCar championship as a third major crash in the build-up to the Indy 500 forced organised to take steps to slow the cars.

World Touring Car Championship

Rounds seven and eight: Nurburgring Nordschleife, Germany

Jose Maria Lopez converted pole position to victory in race one ahead of Citroen team mate Sebastien Loeb. Hugo Valente didn’t make it as far as the actualy Nordschleife – he tangled with Norbert Michelisz and crashed out on the Schumacher S. Guest driver Sabine ‘Queen of the Ring’ Schmitz capitalised, taking a point for tenth place.

The partial reverse grid for race two produced more action but also brutally exposed the straight-line speed deficit of the Hondas, which the Citroen drivers could pass more or less as they pleased on the long straight out of Dottingher Hohe. That was where Yvan Muller took the lead from Tiago Monteiro and, on the final lap, Lopez shot past Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini as if the Citroen had DRS. The top four crossed the line covered by just seven-tenths of a second.

An increasingly ragged-looking Ma Qing Hua spun in race two and learned about the Nordschleife’s shortage of run-off the hard way. There’ll be no such trouble for him at the next round on the antiseptic Moscow Raceway.

European Formula Three

Rounds seven eight and nine: Pau, France

Jake Dennis took his maiden F3 victory in race one and came within five minutes of taking a hat-trick of wins around the narrow confines of Pau. Suspension damage in the final race put paid to those hopes, allowing Antonio Giovinazzi through for his second win.

That made it three podiums out of three for Giovinazzi, who now holds a 15-point lead over Charles Leclerc, who he passed for second at the start of race one. Those positions were reversed in race two, where Leclerc passed Maximilian Gunther following a Safety Car period. Giovinazzi’s subsequent moved on Gunther at Lycee prompted the traditional track-blocking tangle and subsequent red flag.

Gunther made amends with second in the final race for his first F3 podium. Leclerc was left to ponder how much better his results might have been with some better starts, and without the disadvantage of having to qualify in the slower of the two groups at a track where passing is extremely difficult.


Round six: Indianapolis 500 qualifying

Ed Carpenter became the third IndyCar driver to wind up with the sky underneath him after another alarming crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500. The series responded by imposing measures designed to keep a lid on speeds – requiring drivers to use their race set-ups for qualifying and reducing engine boost levels. The qualifying points allocation was also scrapped.

What role the new aero kits might have played in the accidents is unclear. There are common factors to all three: each was a single-car crash where the flip happened following contact with all and – perhaps significantly – all involved cars running the Chevrolet aero kit.

The same was also true of the top five qualifiers after Scott Dixon took pole position for Ganassi. He will share the front row with Penshe’s Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves – who also flipped in practice – complete an all-Chevrolet top five.

Honda’s highest qualifier is Justin Wilson, the ex-Minardi and Jaguar F1 driver who is out of a full-time IndyCar seat this year. Fellow F1 refugee Sebastien Bourdais is seventh, sharing row three with Marco Andretti and Josef Newgarden – the third driver to have suffered a major crash in the build-up to the race.

Carpenter, who took pole position for the last two Indy 500s, qualified 12th after his car was repaired. Juan Pablo Montoya lines up 15th ahead of last year’s race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. Tristan Vautier qualified the absent James Davison’s car in 21st – Davison will therefore start it from last place. With 34 entries for a 33-car field there was no room for 1996 race winner Buddy Lazier.

Nurburgring 24 Hours

The Audi R8 LMS of Christopher Mies, Edward Sandstrom, Nico Muller and Laurens Vanthoor shared victory, covering 156 laps and crossing the line 40 seconds clear of the BMW Z4 GT3 of Maxime Martin, Lucas Luhr, Markus Palttala and Richard Westbrook.

World Rallycross Championship

Round three: Mettet, Belgium

Topi Heikkinen’s Marklund Volkswagen won ahead of championship leader Petter Solberg. The Ford Olsbergs driver of Reinis Nitiss took the final podium place.

Solberg was lucky to make the final, after jump-starting in his semi-final, resulting in the stewards awarding an extra joker lap penalty. Despite this, he still managed to come second with a storming drive, giving him a spot in the final.

In the European Championship race, it was Jerome Grosset-Janin who took the win in his Peugeot supercar. Fredrik Magnussen won the Touring Car class, and Janis Baumanis took Super 1600 honours.

Next is the British round at the home of rallycross, Lydden Hill next weekend.

Guest series: Formula Four Northern European Zone

Rounds one, two and three: Ahvenisto, Finland

What do you get if you cross the Nordschleife with Suzuka? Possibly Finland’s unusual Ahvenisto circuit, which held the first round of the Formula Four NEZ championship.

Local racer Aleksanteri Huovinen won race one and two, fellow Finn Niko Kari the third. The opening race concluded behind the Safety Car after a pair of crashes: Nikita Troitckii pitched Joel Eriksson into a spin, and Niclas Nylund was put onto a barrier by Semen Evstigneev.

The series will support the World Touring Car Championship at Moscow Raceway next.

Thanks to @mathers who contributed to this article as @bradley13 is away.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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22 comments on “Nordschleife WTCC & GT action as Indy crashes go on”

  1. Another win for Laurens Vanthoor, if he doesn’t get a LMP1 drive soon I don’t know how blind Audi are…

    WTCC was another bore fest put don’t be worried. There was plenty of action on two wheels this weekend in al Moto classes.

    1. @xtwl

      WTCC was another bore fest

      I absolutely loved seeing the cars on the Nordschleife. With a track that good I don’t care if the cars stay single file all race long. And I say this as someone who watched this series pretty often when it was the ETCC but have gradually turned off in the WTCC era.

      When you look at some of the dross that series visits like Beijing Goldenport and Moscow Raceway, they deserve praise for taking on the challenge at racing on the track of tracks.

      1. @keithcollantine Oh I agree it was nice seeing them take on the track. But that was also the case in practice and qualy. I enjoy seeing them drive the track, push themselves but for a race it was aweful once more.

        Alongside that was the brilliant 24 hours who showed racing on this track IS possible.

        1. @xtwl I saw passes, I saw mistakes, I saw drivers at the limit on a demanding circuit. I’ve no doubt there was more of that in the 24 hour race because the duration was far greater, the field was far larger and so was the performance difference within the field.

          This is why I keep saying the number one thing F1 needs to do to improve its competition is to have more, better-quality entrants. It’s not far from the level the WTCC is at right now in terms of having a thin field comprised mostly of cars which are unlikely to challenge for a podium, let alone a win.

          1. @keithcollantine not just the car, the guy driving one of the top cars is a flawless beast of a touring car driver.

            But yeah, that track itself, without a single car, is as shocking to see than any other race track with a full grid.

      2. @keithcollantine I agree, even though overtakes were few and far between, seeing them drive the Nordschleife was amazing. Made me dream of F1 cars going full blast there one day, but I realise that this will (probably) never happen.
        The drafting on the long straight was fantastic. I think it was the last lap of race two where Monteiro lead Muller and Lopez on the straight, Lopez being quite a bit behind but got a huge draft, resulting in both Citroens taking Monteiro.

        I can’t help but feeling a bit underwhelmed by Schmitz’s performance. She qualified second from last, got a decent start in race 1 but acted as moving road block. Only Demoustier was slower than her… She did keep it on track though, which can’t be said for all of them. Valente and Ma Qing Ha had big offs.

  2. “World’s greatest racecourse” Lol.

    1. It should have properly been addressed as the oldest still operating permanent race track in the world which, thus, has the largest heritage of all.


    2. Yes, that made me tick as well… It seems to me that US Americans have that tendency to auto-congratulate and consider that all things American are automatically the “world’s best”.
      In the same category as labelling the NBA champion (Basket-ball) “World champion”… A bit rude that one… But maybe it’s just me. And in all fairness the French are quite good at that too ! ;-)

      1. @gwenouille same with baseball’s World Series and american football’s World Championship Game :P

  3. Wow, it really puts it into perspective when you see that IndyCar video. F1 has problems, but if F1 turned up to an oval, sounding like those cars, looking like those cars and with no one in the grandstands imagine the uproar? Also, it looks like an F1 car could lap that track faster if they ran less downforce than Monza they would certainly be going faster.

    1. @williamstuart The grandstands at Indy are never that full during practice/qualifying (Which goes on for a week remember), Especially when you consider that the weekend was heavily rain affected (They don’t go out in the rain on ovals) which further reduced the crowds. Next Sunday for the race there expecting over 300,000.

      In terms of speed, The Indycar’s were just under 240Mph at the end of the backstretch before they reduced the qualifying boost yesterday after Ed’s accident to slow them down to around 230Mph.

      I woudl also point that that Indycar fans are happy with the sound & there certainly isn’t the whining about it which you seem to hear from some F1 fans. In fact contrary to F1 the Indycar fans were happy to get away from the Non-turbo V8’s which were been used prior & glad to see the move back to turbo’s.

      I’d agree the cars look weird, But the racing in Indycar since the introduction of these new cars in 2012 has been fantastic (Much better than F1 in terms of pure racing & overtaking) so any grumblings about the look of the cars has gone.
      Also note there running in oval speedway trim at Indy, They look a bit different for the road/street circuits.

      1. Looks like they made the correct decision yesterday leaning toward safety turning down the boost and using race trim aero for the final practice and qualifying. At least there were no more incidents anyway. Not much scarier in racing than watching a car get lift instead of downforce.

        I think the racing in IndyCar has improved over the last few years. I’ve been watching a lot more and still know more IndyCar fans than F1 fans here in the US.

      2. Nice reply PeterG

  4. Just for the sake of punctuality, Hugo Valente did make it onto lap 2 at the Nordschleife during the first WTCC race – he crashed out at the beginning of the second tour. And it was the Citroens, not the Chevrolets passing the Hondas at will at Dottinger Hohe in the second race.


    1. And he was fined a thousand Euro for abandoning his car..xD

  5. @keithcollantine

    Gunther made amends with second in the final race for his first F1 podium.

    It’ll be great if and when that happens, but I believe the young German is still in F3 ;)

  6. Rallycross is pretty amazing, massive horse power, exciting races. But I feel that they need to simplify the rules a little bit, too many qualifying sessions…

  7. Impressive speed in the 24h. The GT3 cars were lapping two seconds a lap faster than last year, despite the speed restrictions put in place around the Flugplatz. They were saying without it, the cars would have been around 8 seconds a lap quicker than last year which is a pretty decent improvement! The new R8 is looking like a very decent bit of kit!

  8. On another note, the Continental Tire Sports Car Championship was at Laguna Seca this weekend with a remarkable result in the Street Tuner class. Liam Dwyer is a US Marine who lost his leg in Afghanistan and was told he would never be able to race cars again…seems to be working well enough for him now! He and his teammate Andrew Carbonell passed their other team car on the last lap at Laguna Seca this Sunday to take the win. Check out the story here:

  9. I can’t believe I’d never heard of that Finnish circuit before. It looks like a fantastic little track.

  10. Thanks Keith for putting this up. I’ve been really concerned with the type of crashes that we’ve seen during practice at Indy. Hinchcliffe’s accident today was really brutal and he was lucky just to get an injury in his leg. From the accidents it seems the crash structures seem to hold up well but is it time for Indycar to set up some kind of aero restrictions…

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