Nurburgring WTCR: Muller claims first comeback win

Yvan Muller claimed his first victory for his eponymous Yvan Muller Racing outfit in the World Touring Car Cup in the opening Nurburgring Nordschleife race from teammate Thed Bjork.

Four-time WTCC champion Muller grabbed the lead at the start, and headed the way over the three-lap race distance on the 15.77-mile (25.38km) circuit despite heavy pressure from a trio of cars behind.

The win was Muller's first since returning full-time from retirement to contest the WTCR, having secured his previous win with the Citroen WTCC outfit at Motegi in 2016.

Having started second, Muller beat polesitter Bjork off the line into the first corner and kept his nose ahead on the left-handed cutback for Turn 2 to hold the lead onto the Nurburgring Grand Prix loop.

The Frenchman led an early YMR Hyundai breakaway as the field headed onto the Nordschleife for the first time, as Rob Huff squeezed his Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen into third ahead of Norbert Michelisz (BRC Racing Hyundai).

But Huff quickly closed up on the leading two, dragging Michelisz with him, as the quartet circulated within two seconds of each other over the remaining two and a half laps.

Bjork got close enough on two occasions on the final two laps to move out of Muller's slipstream on the long Dottinger Hohe back straight, but could not get past his teammate as Muller held on to win.

Huff ensured there was no Hyundai lockout of the top three positions, rebuffing two attempts from Michelisz to get back past into the Tiergarten complex to claim the final podium position.

Jean-Karl Vernay steered clear of incidents at the first corner to pick his way through to fifth from ninth on the grid in his WRT Audi, resisting the sister wildcard entry of Rene Rast on the final lap.

Gordon Shedden took seventh in the third WRT car, advancing from 17th on the grid after a 10-place penalty for not slowing significantly under yellow flags in qualifying - for which Rast received a similar penalty.

Overtakes on the pair of Boutsen Ginion Hondas netted Pepe Oriola eighth in his Campos Racing Cupra on the final lap, with Tom Coronel the leading Honda representative in ninth ahead of teammate Benjamin Lessennes. 

Points leader Gabriele Tarquini's race ended disastrously at the end of the first lap, when he hit a barrier at the Hohenrain-Schikane in his BRC Hyundai just before the run to the start/finish line while challenging Vernay for fifth.

Tarquini had earlier triggered one of the incidents at the first corner when he tapped fourth-place starter Esteban Guerrieri into a spin after the Honda driver had backed out of a challenge for Huff's fourth place.

Race results:

Pos.Driver Car  Time/Gap
 Yvan Muller Hyundai 27'08.139
 Thed Bjork Hyundai 0.331
 Rob Huff Volkswagen 0.853
 Norbert Michelisz Hyundai 1.288
 Jean-Karl Vernay Audi 8.112
 Rene Rast Audi 8.581
 Gordon Shedden Audi 13.468
 Pepe Oriola Seat 18.134
 Tom Coronel Honda 18.573
10   Benjamin Lessennes Honda 18.672
11   Aurelien Panis Audi 19.343
12   Denis Dupont Audi 25.367
13   Mehdi Bennani Volkswagen 25.816
14   Mat'o Homola Peugeot 26.205
15   Fabrizio Giovanardi Alfa Romeo 31.087
16   John Filippi Seat 31.916
17   Kris Richard Honda 32.728
18   Aurelien Comte Peugeot 33.750
19   Yann Ehrlacher Honda 34.286
20   Nathanael Berthon Audi 35.420
21   Norbert Nagy Seat 51.677
22   James Thompson Honda 52.428
Ret   Gianni Morbidelli Alfa Romeo
Ret   Frederic Vervisch Audi
Ret   Esteban Guerrieri Honda
Ret   Zsolt Szabo Seat
Ret   Gabriele Tarquini Hyundai
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About this article
Series WTCR
Event Nürburgring
Track Nürburgring
Drivers Yvan Muller
Teams Yvan Muller Racing
Article type Race report