The FIA World Touring Car Championship will go from the shortest track in Marrakech to the longest of them all when the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife hosts WTCC Race of Germany for the second time next week (26-28 May). It’s also the biggest challenge of them all with 64 heart-stopping turns lying in wait over the 25.278-kilometre lap, a combination of the grand prix circuit and the famous Nordschleife loop, which opened for business back in 1927.
Named the Green Hell by Sir Jackie Stewart due to its demanding and unforgiving layout, the Nürburgring Nordschleife offers the ultimate test for car and driver.
José María López, who leads this season’s WTCC standings in his quest for a third consecutive title, became the first driver since Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass in 1983 to win a world championship race on the Nürburgring Nordschleife after claiming victory in the opening counter last May. The Citroën-driving Argentine then came within 0.173s of beating team-mate Yvan Muller to victory in the closing race following a thrilling slipstream battle for glory as he charged through from P10 on the grid.
“It was the most amazing race of the year,” said the 33-year-old. “Everything is special about this track, it’s 25 kilometres, it’s called the Green Hell, it’s different from anything you have experienced before. Last year was my first time and I really enjoyed it and to be able to win was something else. It’s something amazing to be flat out on this track. You have jumps, high-speed corners, a long straight, a long lap, it’s amazing.”
The Queen of the Ring returns
While López mastered the demanding Nordschleife in style last year, no driver can count on more experience of the track than local star Sabine Schmitz, who made history in 2015 when she became the first female to score a WTCC point in the championship’s current era. Schmitz, now a presenter on the hugely popular BBC Top Gear television show, will be returning for a one-off outing in the same ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1. However, with her filming commitments keeping her away from Testing and Free Practice 1, Schmitz will be playing catch-up as she reacclimatises to her front-wheel-drive World Touring Car from the Porsche GT car she normally races. “We have a very necessary studio shot to do for Top Gear I can’t miss. I must be crazy to measure myself against these guys without the same amount of time to practice. But they want me in the team so I’m back, no problem, although I will have a better chance if it rains so my hope is more water, more success!”
Double the touring car fun in store
A double treat is in store for touring car fans at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. In addition to the WTCC, the FIA European Touring Car Cup will provide plenty of bumper-to-bumper action, albeit with a twist. Rather than having their own races, the ETCC drivers will follow their WTCC counterparts over the 25.278-kilometre layout during two three-lap contests. It’s the first time the two championships, promoted by Eurosport Events, have joined forces and the spectacle will be eagerly anticipated with several WTCC drivers of the future in action.
More WTCC MAC3 magic for the Nordschleife
The Tour de France-inspired Manufacturers Against the Clock (WTCC MAC3) team time trial takes take centre stage following Qualifying on Friday afternoon and offers more drama and excitement. Citroën, Honda and LADA (Volvo-Polestar will participate when it enters a third car in 2017) nominate three drivers to take part in reverse championship order in three-minute intervals. As soon as a team’s three cars, which can be refuelled and fitted with new tyres prior to the start, leave the grid side by side, the clock starts and then stops once the last car completes one flying lap of the track. Failure to get all three cars over the line – or if the second or third car doesn’t finish within a maximum of 15 seconds after the first car – means no points. After Citroën won the inaugural WTCC MAC3 contest in France by 0.030s, the spectacle was raised even further when it tied on time with Honda in Slovakia, meaning both makes picked up 10 points towards their WTCC Manufacturers’ championship totals.
Honda took a narrow win in Hungary after Citroën was penalised following a track limits infringement by Mehdi Bennani as the ethos of team competition came to the fore. With Norbert Michelisz making contact with a wall in Morocco, Citroën won ahead of LADA. WTCC MAC3 is timed by TAG Heuer and encapsulates the essence of the company’s #dontcrackunderpressure campaign with some of the best touring car drivers in the world vying to go as fast as possible but never cracking under pressure by putting in a faultless performance to deliver a winning team result.
TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy up for grabs
The driver setting the fastest lap of all during both races will win the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy and receive a TAG Heuer watch. TAG Heuer is the WTCC’s Official Timing Partner and an Official Series Sponsor.
World will be watching (thanks to 32 trackside cameras)
The WTCC’s first visit to the Nürburgring Nordschleife captivated television audiences in 188 countries worldwide with a cumulative audience of 37,397 million watching the action. Produced in partnership with _wige, the coverage is made possible through the use of 68 TV signals including 32 trackside cameras, 24 onboard cameras and two helicopter-mounted Cineflex cameras, one of which was flown by a crew who working on the Tour de France each year.