Nurburgring WTCR: Girolami takes Nordschleife pole
Nestor Girolami claimed his second successive World Touring Car Cup pole position on the Nurburgring Nordschleife after topping a dry 40-minute session at the opening round of the 2021 season.
The Argentinian, who was also fastest in qualifying on the Nordschleife last year, will start the second race on Saturday from pole, with Yvan Muller claiming the top spot for the reverse-grid race one after setting the 10th fastest time.
Munnich Motorsport Honda driver Girolami set his benchmark, a lap of 8m54.791s, on his second attempt of the session. Jean-Karl Vernay, in his first appearance in Engstler Hyundai’s new Elantra N TCR, was second quickest, 0.78s down on Girolami. The Frenchman failed to improve on his third and final attempt, which secured Girolami the top spot.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I have very good memories from last year with an amazing lap and to repeat it this year was never going to be easy. I was improving on my last lap, but my team told me the last sector was a little bit damp. Even if Vernay had improved I would have been P2.”
Girolami also took the opportunity to dedicate his pole position to former grand prix driver and countryman Carlos Reutemann, who is currently battling illness.
“Good day for us,” said Vernay after his strong performance in an all-new car and for his new team. “We had a small issue in FP1 yesterday but it was fixed for FP2. It’s not going to be easy this year, but this was a good start.”
Behind Girolami and Vernay in the final order, Esteban Guerrieri made it a 1-3 for Honda. “I’m more tired than happy, it was really tough,” said the Argentinian, who won race one on the Nordschleife last year. “You are really on the limit at this track.”
Reigning champion Yann Ehrlacher was ninth fastest, just ahead of his uncle Muller, who was pleased to secure the reverse-grid pole. But it was mighty close. Tom Coronel, in P11, missed out by just 0.002s – the equivalent of 11 centimetres of the 15.77-mile lap – in the second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS, which is also making its debut at the Nurburgring.
“I can be pleased with that particularly when you are 51 years old at this circuit and with the commitment you have to give,” quipped Muller. “Let’s see what the race will bring. We were lucky with the weather in this session, but tomorrow it can be everything at The Green Hell.”
Former World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff, who is making his return to the WTCR this year in a Zengo Motorsport Cupra Leon, was 18th fastest of the 22. He split brother-and-sister duo Andreas and Jessica Backman, who were 17th and 20th respectively.
Both races take place on Saturday morning, ahead of the start of the Nurburgring 24 Hours.
Vernay: Jumping between ICE, electric Hyundai "biggest challenge"
Nurburgring WTCR: Vernay holds off Engstler for first Hyundai win