Tom Coronel: Plenty of joy and good results in FIA WTCR Nürburgring
A fortnight after the FIA WTCR – World Touring Car Cup at Zolder in Belgium, the races on the support package of the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring marked the highlight of the season. “The coolest circuit in the world,” Tom Coronel said about the legendary Nordschleife, where he raced his Audi RS 3 LMS in the colours of DHL, run by Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport in the two races. The first race saw the Dutchman finish fifth overall and again winning the WTCR Trophy, the ranking for privateer drivers. In the second race, Coronel was classified eighth.
Coronel had a packed programme as, next to his participation in the two FIA WTCR races, he also raced in the 48th running of the annual 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. “Especially on the Thursday, with a pair of free practice sessions and qualifying for the WTCR and two qualifying heats for the 24-hour race, I was hopping from one car to another all the time. But I certainly didn’t mind, because being allowed to drive here is fantastic every time,” Coronel left no doubt about his enthusiasm.
Coronel had some issues in the free practice sessions, meaning that he was only able to drive two laps in the first and just one lap in the second session. “We changed many things, but it didn’t go the way we wanted”, he explained. In qualifying, however, things went considerably better: Coronel managed to post the fifth-fastest time, a fine achievement. “It was almost dark already when we got to drive, a special experience in WTCR. My first lap was good already and then I was on my way to an even better position. I was already two seconds faster than my previous lap, but then briefly came off the track and ran through the grass with all four wheels. Still, I am really happy with fifth place on the grid, that is giving me a lot of confidence for the race.”
While it was still dry during qualifying on Thursday, the first race on Friday afternoon was held on a wet track. It was also the first time for the drivers to race with the Goodyear rain tyres. “Prior to the race, we had made a lot of changes on the set-up: springs, dampers, roll-bars, alignment. We started behind the safety car, so a rolling start,” Coronel reported. As a result of the ‘reversed grid’ ruling and some penalties for other drivers, the Dutchman started from third place. “On the opening lap, I was able to tease Yvan Muller a bit, who had started from pole position, but soon lost the lead to Guerrieri. It was quite clear that the Lynk & Co cars with Muller and his teammates were really quick!”
That also became apparent on lap three as Björk with his Lynk & Co attacked Coronel and went past, albeit with some contact. “And Ehrlacher slipped through as well, so that I lost two places and was third. I also had the impression that they had slightly better traction,” Coronel explained. “At the Nordschleife, we were sliding a lot on the final lap, it was really slippery! Moreover, I heard noise coming from the driveshaft, an indication that there was a problem. Therefore, I tried to shift as little as possible to still make it to the finish. I drove the full middle part of the track in third gear.” The strategy played out: Coronel was fifth across the finish line and won the classification for privateer drivers. “A great result behind the factory Honda and the three works cars from Lynk & Co,” Coronel said.
The second race took place early on Saturday morning at a damp track and with a temperature of around seven degrees. Coronel started fifth and initially was able to maintain this position, but slightly came off the track at Aremberg and lost two positions. “Prior to that, I was briefly able to attack Björk, but after that off-track excursion, I was having difficulties,” Coronel reported. “The front wheels weren’t turning in really sharply, I was struggling under braking. It was super slippery and I lost quite a lot due to lack of traction. The fast corners went pretty well and that was where I was able to pull a gap. On the second lap, I had a nice battle with Jean-Karl Vernay, including some bodywork contact, but all fair, no problem at all. In the slower and medium-fast corners, I didn’t have a good feeling with the car. Eventually, Yvan Muller also had a fairly easy time getting past. On the final lap, I had a battle with Tiago Monteiro who ran into the side of my car twice, but I was able to keep my position. Thus, I ended up eighth and second-best privateer, so I scored a lot of points again in spite of the really difficult conditions. On top of that, I am the best-placed Audi driver which is also a nice feeling.”
“All in all, it was a bit more difficult than we had expected, but that was mainly because of the conditions,” Coronel concluded. “We will try to find an opportunity to go testing somewhere in the rain next week, because that will probably be quite important for the upcoming races this autumn.” The next FIA WTCR races will be held at the Slovakia Ring near Bratislava, 10 and 11 October.
Tom Coronel FIA WTCR
10-11 October: Slovakia Ring
17-18 October: Hungaroring
31 October – 1 november: Aragón
14-15 november: Adria
FIA WTCR, Nürburgring Nordschleife (Ger), 26 September 2020
1. Esteban Guerrieri (Arg), Honda Civic TCR, 3 laps in 31.14.425
2. Yvan Muller (Fra), Lynk & Co 03 TCR, +3.385
3. Yann Ehrlacher (Fra), Lynk & Co 03 TCR, +3.999
and 5. Tom Coronel (Nld), Audi RS3 LMS, +12.298
1. Yann Ehrlacher (Fra), Lynk & Co 03, 3 laps in 31.00.926
2. Thed Björk (Swe), Lynk & Co 03, +5.835
3. Attila Tassi (Hun), Honda Civic TCR, +11.971
and 8. Tom Coronel (Nld), Audi RS3 LMS, +31.253