Qualifying for tomorrow’s FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) Race of Germany on the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife concluded with Nick Catsburg leading the LADA SPORT ROSNEFT charge from within the top five (Friday 27 May).
The Dutch driver pushed his LADA Vesta TC1 to the sixth fastest time on the 25.3km circuit, which is nestled in Germany’s wild and picturesque Eifel Mountains, therefore he will start Saturday’s (28 May) Opening Race from P5 under the reversed grid rules and the Main Race from P6.
However, the strongest session for LADA SPORT ROSNEFT was undoubtedly FP2 on Friday morning, as all three LADA Vestas could be found in the top five positions, with Italian touring car star Gabriele Tarquini holding second, France’s Hugo Valente third and Catsburg fifth.
Unfortunately, the all-important qualifying session didn’t quite go to plan. The typical three-part qualifying format has been replaced with a single hour-long session for the WTCC’s Race of Germany on what is easily the world’s longest race circuit, but the track was also shared with competitors from the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC).
Crashes involving runners from both the ETCC and WTCC limited drivers to only a few flying laps, and Valente was one unfortunate casualty, when a tyre failure sent him spearing into the barriers at high speed close to the end of qualifying.
The Frenchman will subsequently start both races from 13th, one place behind LADA SPORT teammate Tarquini.
Сatsburg said: I pulled it out of the bag at the end of qualifying! I feel good, the car feels good and the result is good, if not a little disappointing. I think I might have been able to find one second or so, but I know I’m not five seconds off Jose Maria Lopez’s pace as a driver and I feel I got the most out of the car. It was nice to have some wet running with the LADA Vesta and I’m happy in those conditions, so I’m happy!
Tarquini added: Perhaps we didn’t find the best possible setup for qualifying. In FP2, we had some wet running and the car was totally different it felt great, but the problem was there when we came back to the dry setup today. I was sure we could make the top ten at the start of qualifying and then I made mistakes while trying to deal with some understeer. We have nothing to lose by experimenting with setup changes from 12th on the grid.
Valente said: The LADA Vesta is behaving very well here at the Nurburgring in both wet and dry conditions and that’s why I’m so frustrated to have had two tyres blow out. I was going quite slowly when the first one let go in free practice, but the second one happened while I was pushing on at 260kph on one of the fastest parts of the track. I was a passenger on both occasions and I just feel sorry for the guys in the team, who worked so hard to repair my car overnight. Confidence counts for a lot around here and these two offs won’t help when I go into tomorrow’s races!