WTCC makes Nordschleife debut ahead of 24 hour race

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The FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) took something of a step into the unknown this weekend as it took to the infamous Nordschleife configuration of the Nurburgring in Germany for the very first time.

However, the first running of the event appears to have gone very smoothly indeed, with two three-lap races being held as a curtain raiser ahead of the 24 Hours Nurburgring race, which kicked off on Saturday evening.

The Nordschleife circuit is one of the most notorious in global motorsport, featuring 150 corners that rank among some of the most iconic in the world.

The track has claimed the lives of 51 racers over the years, and stopped hosting Formula 1 races back in 1976 following Niki Lauda’s near-fatal accident in the German Grand Prix. The last world championship event to be held on the circuit was the World Sportscar Championship 1000km race in 1983.

WTCC enjoyed a successful return to the track with practice on Thursday, followed by qualifying on Friday which saw Argentinian driver Jose Maria Lopez claim pole position with a fastest lap of 8:37.327.

The Citroen driver followed this up with victory in the first race of the weekend, leading home teammate Sebastien Loeb by five seconds at the front of the field. Four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller completed the podium for the French marque, giving it a one-two-three finish.

Muller took the lead from reverse pole-sitter Tiago Monteiro at the end of the first lap, and managed to fend off a charging Lopez in the closing stages of the race to win by less than two-tenths of a second.

Following his victory, Muller spoke about the myth surrounding the Nordschleife circuit and how holding a WTCC event there was crucial for the series.

“For sure it’s a very important moment in the season,” Muller said. “It’s a mythical circuit and we could see since the WTCC announced the fact we would come here there was a lot of interest.

“We can see more journalists and for sure that’s very important. The WTCC is a good series from a sporting level. It’s still not at the level it should be in terms of media but it will come.”