Photo: Team Engstler

Max Hesse claims title after controversial photo-finish with Antti Buri

Team Engstler’s Max Hesse, driving a Hyundai i30 N TCR, claimed the 2019 TCR Germany championship title following a sensational photo-finish with LMS Racing’s Antti Buri at Sachsenring. Buri won the race by eleven thousands of a second and finished on the same points as Hesse in the championship, only to receive a post-race penalty and dropped to third position.

Lubner Motorsport 2’s Philipp Regensperger started from the reversed grid pole position at the wheel of his Opel Astra TCR, with Team Halder’s Marcel Fugel alongside him. Championship leader Hesse was the best-placed championship contender on the grid, starting from fifth place.

Marcel Fugel took the lead at the start of the race ahead of Münnich Motorsport team owner and driver René Münnich. Hesse moved forward to third place during the opening lap. Likewise, reigning champion Harald Proczyk, who started from eighth place on the grid for HP Racing International, climbed to fifth position.

The fight for the lead between Fugel and Münnich continued for the first couple of laps, with Hesse making contact with the leading duo as they started the third lap. A tough fight between Fugel and Hesse saw the Hyundai driver claiming the lead as the duo made contact several times.

Münnich went wide and fell to seventh place, leaving Proczyk in third place. Further back, championship contender LMS Racing’s Antti Buri had climbed to sixth position.

Fugel made a mistake and went wide on lap six, with Proczyk and Team Honda ADAC Sachsen’s Mike Halder overtaking him. Fugel went wide again, losing to Team Engstler’s Theo Coicaud and Buri.

Audi driver Buri got his elbows out to overtake Coicaud at Turn 2 on lap seven, with the four title contenders now in the first four positions.

Buri made contact with the leading trio with ten minutes left on the clock, with the top four now within less than two seconds. The Finn didn’t waste time, overtaking Halder for third place on lap as the Honda Civic Type-R FK8 TCR driver made no attempt to block him.

Buri’s push forward prompted Proczyk to launch an attack on Hesse, closing the gap to half a second as the Finn was rapidly approaching the leading pair.

The safety car was called into action as Sophie Hoffmann beached her Cupra TCR in the gravel trap with just over three minutes left on the clock.

The field was let go for a final nail-biting lap.

Buri claimed second place from Proczyk with a decisive move as the race resumed and now had his focus on race leader Hesse.

Buri overtook Hesse for the lead as they headed for the final couple of corners. But the Team Engstler driver fought back and the duo went side-by-side through the final corner and towards the finishing line. LMS Racing driver Buri crossed the line first to take the win by a mere eleven thousands of a second, a result that had the two title rivals on the same points in the standings.

But it was only for a short while as Buri received a penalty for a contact with Hyundai driver Proczyk when claiming second place on the last lap, dropping him to third position behind Hesse and Proczyk.

Hesse would have claimed the title without the penalty as he had the most second place-finishes, with the duo tied on the number of victories.

Fugel Sport team-mates Halder and Dominik Fugel finished fourth and fifth, both driving Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCRs.

Coicaud finished in sixth position, with Julien Apotheloz, driving for TOPCAR Sport, in seventh and Pascal Eberle next, also driving a Cupra TCR.

Mitchell Cheah, driving a Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR of VW Team Oettinger, finished ninth, with Marcel Fugel completing the top ten.

Hesse claimed the title on 438 points, followed by Proczyk a further seven points behind. Buri claimed third in the drivers’ championship, twelve points behind Hesse, with Mike Halder fourth, 39 points adrift. Team Engstler claimed the teams’ championship title.