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Race report: ETCC Nordschleife joy for Fulín, Stefanovski

2017-05-28

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Czech Petr Fulín moved to within a point of the FIA European Touring Car Cup title lead with his second win of the season in Race 1 at the Nürburgring Nordschleife as Igor Stefanovski took the Race 2 spoils, the Macedonian driver’s first triumph since the 2016 season finale.

But while Fulín and Stefanovski celebrated winning in their SEATs on the world’s toughest track, it proved a day of despair for Christjohannes Schreiber, who had qualified on pole but was soon in trouble. While the Swiss still tops the standings, his once comfortable margin of 16 points has been slashed to a single point after a puncture at high-speed in Race 1 sent him crashing into the barriers. Although he managed to limp his Rikli Motorsport Honda Civic to the pits, the damage was too great for him to continue.

“I was very cautious after the start but despite that white tyre smoke started to fill the car around the Hatzenbach corners so I got scared and slowed down and let Fulín past,” said Schreiber. “Then things suddenly improved and I started pushing again until the flat-out left-hander where Niki Lauda had his crash [in 1976]. Then I was a passenger.”

With Schreiber out, Fulín was able to race to the Race 1 victory by 8.646s with Stefanovski demoting Fábio Mota for second nearing the end of the two-kilometre Döttinger Höhe straight. Norbert Nagy took fourth with Peter Rikli fifth following contact with Zsolt Dávid Szabó, who dropped down to P10 with car damage. Mladen Lalušić finished sixth with Anett György scoring her first ETCC points in seventh, one place ahead of German driver Andreas Pfister.

Rikli was on course to win Race 2 only for a puncture to put him out on the final lap and hand top spot to the chasing Stefanovski and compound a frustrating weekend for the Rikli Motorsport team. Mota held off Fulín for second by 0.2s with Pfister, who started on the reverse-grid pole, taking fourth in his older-specification SEAT. Plamen Kravel, a non-starter in Race 1, finished sixth followed by Szabó and Lalušić. György span out of third place on the opening lap.

POST-RACE QUOTES:
Petr Fulín (Race 1 winner): “Firstly, I would like to thank my team because they made a great job. The car was really closer to what I like. It was really easy to find good set-up on this track in the morning, but afterwards, especially in this [warm] weather it’s difficult to find the right [tyre] pressure. Right now I can say that we found good [tyre] pressure for the race, although not in the qualifying. Concerning the first race, I pushed very hard for at least 30 or 40 per cent of this track, including the GP course, but Christjohannes braked us all and then I saw he had a tyre puncture. If you look at us [drivers in the press conference] it’s very easy to be here if you have SEAT and the right tyre pressure.”

Igor Stefanovski (Race 2 winner): “This is one of my best races in my career. For me it’s a great opportunity, also for my team because of their good work on my car set-up. This track is almost like a hill climb and I was two-time European champion. For me that was the race of my life today! Compliments to Fulín and Mota, I think that we [all] did a good job this weekend.”