Luca Engstler does the double with stunning Sachsenring success
Luca Engstler has moved back into the lead in the TCR Germany standings after emerging victorious in a stunning second race of the weekend at the Sachsenring.
Having taken victory in the opening race of the weekend with a fine lights-to-flag performance, the teenager went into Sunday’s race facing a greater challenge from tenth on the grid but would emerge on top of a titanic battle for honours through the closing laps to make it two wins from the weekend and give him a slender championship lead with just one round still to go.
From pole, Niels Lageveld had held the lead into turn one at the start, with Michelle Halder slotting into second spot despite the best efforts of Niko Kankkunen – who would drop back down the order when his move for position failed to come off.
It wouldn’t take long before the Safety Car was deployed however, with contact between Dominik Fugel and Benjamin Leuchter seeing Leuchter end up in the gravel, and the Renault Megane of Alex Morgan grinding to a halt on track. There would also be early disappointment for title hopeful Mike Halder, with contact forcing him off through the gravel before he retired to the pits; his championship hopes taking a huge hit as he lost serious ground on the leaders.
Once the cars of Leuchter and Morgan had been recovered, racing resumed on the fifth with Langeveld catching Halder sleeping to build an immediate lead of more than a second, with points leader Harald Proczyk sitting in third.
Behind however, it was Engstler who was making up serious ground early on, and a fine move into turn twelve on the fifth lap saw him take fourth from the Audi of Max Hesse before he set about chasing down Proczyk ahead.
Engstler soon fixed himself onto the rear of the HP Racing-run Opel as the two title rivals went head-to-head on track, which gave Halder some breathing space ahead as she attempted to chase down Langeveld out front.
Behind the fight for third, Hesse then found himself under pressure from the second of the Engstler-run Hyundais in the hands of Theo Coicaud, with Justin Häußermann, Pascal Eberle and Luke Wankmüller making up a five car train fighting for the position – although the latter would eventually drop out of contention as he slipped down to finish well outside the points.
Into turn twelve on the ninth lap, Coicaud would repeat the move Engstler had made earlier to take fifth, with Hesse then losing out to Eberle into turn one after a move around the outside for Häußermann proved to be the wrong one – the VW instead dropping back from seventh to eighth.
Out front, Langeveld continued to lead into the second half of the race but his advantage was coming down, with Halder, Proczyk and Engstler all closing in – with a four-way fight for the win developing by the 14th lap.
Engstler then made his move for third on Proczyk to take third spot, running his rival wide on the exit of the final corner, before a stunning move around the outside of Halder at turn eleven at the end of the 16th lap saw him take second spot.
That left Langeveld to try and make his Audi as wide as possible to keep the charging Engstler at bay through the final five minutes of the race, with the young German taking a look into turn one at the start of lap 18 and then briefly getting alongside later in the lap.
Into turn one on the next lap, Engstler did manage to get ahead but carried so much speed into the corner that Langeveld was able to cut back immediately to reclaim top spot. Engstler would then edge ahead through turn twelve at the end of the next lap when the Audi ran slightly wide but Langeveld had the inside line into turn one at the start of the next lap to keep the position – with Halder briefly nudging her car up the inside of Engstler to try and steal second.
Engstler was almost pushing the Audi along as the clock ticked down and on the penultimate lap, a small mistake from Langeveld saw the rear of his car step out of line through turn eleven which gave Engstler the chance he needed to take the lead, with Halder following him through into second.
The loss of momentum meant Langeveld was then under pressure from Procyzk into the final corner but Procyzk’s decision to go for the outside line would prove to be the wrong one as it allowed Eberle to dive up the inside in his Cupra to take both drivers in one move and climb up to third.
Out front, Engstler duly wrapped up a second win of the weekend through the final lap to pick up maximum points from the weekend and reclaim the points lead, with Halder taking second spot to match her best result of the season. Eberle crossed the line in third, with Proczyk able to get ahead of long-time leader Langeveld to secure fourth.
Coicaud crossed the line in sixth spot ahead of Häußermann and Hesse, with Kankkunen surviving race long pressure from Antti Burri’s Audi to take ninth spot.
The result means Engstler now sits eight points clear of Proczyk and 14 ahead of Langeveld, with Mike Halder’s DNF meaning he is now 62 points in arrears in fourth with the season finale at Hockenheim still to come.