This weekend, the Sébastien Loeb Racing drivers, Mehdi Bennani and Rob Huff, were competing on the legendary Northern loop of the Nürburgring in Germany in the third round of the World Touring Car Cup.
Huff and Bennani at the wheel of their Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs put on a strong performance from the start of practice and finished second and third respectively in the first session held on a wet track.
In the second run in atrocious conditions due to the arrival of a storm, the two drivers opted for caution rather than performance and the Briton clinched seventh place and the Moroccan, twenty-second.
Huff made a great start to his weekend and finished the first race in third place on the podium after a ding-dong battle with Yvan Muller and Thed Björk in their Hyundai i30 Ns. The 2012 FIA WTCC champion started in fifth place on the grid, moved up to fourth, overtook Norbert Michelisz and held on to third place till the chequered flag. Bennani was handicapped by the rain in practice, which prevented him from really getting to grips with the circuit, and he finished the first race in 16th place.
The Nordschleife has a reputation of being a particularly tricky circuit as Huff found out. In race 2 he was tagged by René Rast in the third corner and went off, but managed to limp back to the Sébastien Loeb Racing pits. Bennani was slowed by the various accidents and came home in 11th place in the second heat.
Thanks to the excellent repair work carried out by the whole Sébastien Loeb Racing team, the British driver made it onto the grid for the start of race 3. On the first lap he was lying fifth, but suffered a power loss and slipped down the time sheets until he was punted into the wall! Bennani, who improved from the start of the event, drove a steady race and clinched eighth place.
After this weekend, Huff is sixth in the drivers’ championship with 82 points and Bennani tenth with 43. The team from Alsace is still in fourth position.
« It was a difficult weekend on a circuit that’s well known for its challenging nature. The team and I did a lot of work to find a setup and a driving style that suited the Nordschleife as quickly as we could. As practice took place in the rain I wasn’t able to find the right setup by the end of the first day, and it wasn’t until the end of race 1 that I felt more comfortable. But I’m pretty happy to have finished in the top 10 and my times prove that the car showed constant improvement. It’s been a difficult weekend that finished on a positive note. A great training session before the next round at Zandvoort in six days. » Mehdi Bennani.
“As you can imagine it’s been a pretty low-key weekend for me despite the fact that it got off to a good start with third place. I wasn’t too far off Thed Björk’s second spot, but I preferred to play it safe and ensure third in front of Norbert Michelisz. It was one of my best races and this podium was a big reward for the whole team! Things got a bit tricky after that. I was held up on several occasions in qualifying and I didn’t really find the right setup, but even so the car felt good. In race 2, René Rast hit the rear of my car very hard and the impact damaged the suspension. The team did a really incredible job to repair it in time. I made a good start to the race and from seventh on the grid I quickly moved up to fifth until I suffered a power problem. I did my best to finish the race, but I fell down the classification. Even though Norbert Michelisz was given a penalty he passed me hitting my door in the process, which sent us both off the track. It’s really a pity for the car as it could have been avoided and I’d like to have scored big points in the championship. The team’s now faced with a lot of work to get it ready before Zandvoort. I can’t wait to take my revenge!