The fans at the flagship German circuit were treated to a fascinating qualifying race on Saturday, and Sunday will not have disappointed either. Garage 59’s McLaren clinched victory at the Nürburgring by 2 seconds ahead of the impressive René Rast.
It was Enzo Ide and Christopher Mies who tasted success during the first race and the former started on pole ahead of Rob Bell. A good start would have been vital if Ide had any chance of another race win.
It was Bell who got the dream start though as he jumped Ide immediately from the rolling start on the pit straight.
Going into turn 1, Marlon Stockinger went wide, meaning that the three cars trailing Bell were the WRT Audis of Ide, Will Stevens and Nico Müller.
Müller quickly found himself under attack by Jules Szymkowiak’s Mercedes at the start of lap 3 but he managed to hold on. He had been running relatively slowly ever since the start and had by now found himself narrowly leading a vast train of cars from 4th backwards. Part of that train were Norbert Siedler and Dominik Baumann, and at turn 1 of lap 4, Siedler in the #333 Ferrari pulled off a superb move on his Austrian competitor as he went around the outside of him. The Ferraris are notoriously quick in a straight line but his car also demonstrated wonderful grip to make the move stick.
Whilst Siedler was making moves, Will Stevens was busy taking the easiest pass of his life as he nudged ahead of Enzo Ide as he was clearly the quicker driver. This now meant that the Brit could work on chasing the lead McLaren down more effectively.
The #333 Ferrari was flying during the early starts and Siedler, again, found himself in a position to make a move – this time on Alex Sims. He tried to repeat the move which had seen him pass Baumann but failed to make it stick. Towards the end of the lap, he had a glance at the chicane too. Eventually, he made it work on lap 7, turn 1. That first corner proving to be the favourite passing place on the track by a country mile.
By lap 8, with clear track ahead, Stevens in the #28 Audi had begun to lap quicker than Rob Bell and was closing the gap bit by bit. Further back, Nico Müller was still behind Enzo Ide in 4th position but unbeknown to him, Siedler – having already completed two impressive overtakes – was now closing on Szymkowiak. The HTP racer, despite that pressure, managed to overtake Müller though, which pushed the Audi man onto the nose of the rapid Ferrari. Siedler in turn overtook Müller at turn 12 on lap 13. Szymkowiak would also overtake Ide’s Audi on lap 13 as the Belgian began to look ragged and was dropping like a stone having started on pole.
At this point, it was clear to see that Bentley were having a torrid time, with the #8 car of Andy Soucek spotted with very loose bodywork flapping around. The #7 would also retire from the race.
Further back, the relatively quiet Frédéric Vervisch-driven #1 Audi moved into 8th position on turn 1 of lap 18 but failed to carry the position into turn 2 as he found his exit unfavourable, handing the place back.
Norbert Siedler found himself in 4th place, 13s behind the race leader, at the entrance to turn 2 on lap 16 as he shrugged his way past Müller. This was shortly before the pit window and Will Stevens was just 4s behind Bell too.
Among the first to pit were the Audis of Nico Müller and Enzo Ide. The two replaced by Dries Vanthoor and Christopher Mies respectively. It didn’t take Mies long to start eating away at the leader’s (now Will Stevens after Bell pitted on lap 18) time either, as he took a 3s chunk out of him on just the second lap of his stint.
Eventually, Stevens pitted on lap 21 and hadn’t opened up enough of a gap in the time he’d spent out on track whilst Bell pitted. As Rast took the reins of the #28 and left the pitlane, it was clear that Alvaro Parente in the #58 was going to beat him into turn 1, and he did.
Following the stops, the order was now Parente – Rast – Schneider – Mies – Seefried – Buhk – L. Vanthoor – Martin – Eng – Valsecchi.
Rast was lapping very quickly in his chase and despite being held up by a Mercedes backmarker, managed to reduce Parente’s lead to 1.4s. The problem was that after a while, his consistency waivered and the gap began to grow, the longer the race went on.
At the conclusion of lap 41, the #58 Garage 59 car of Alvaro Parente and Rob Bell took the chequered flag and won the race by seconds from Rast. This was the British team’s first Sprint Cup win of the season and an emphatic one at that.