WTCR Q&A: Benjamin Leuchter

WTCR Q&A: Benjamin Leuchter

12.06.2019: Ask home hero Benjamin Leuchter how many times he’s lapped the 25.378-kilometre Nürburgring Nordschleife and he’ll tell you 1000. But that was in 2013 and he stopped counting after reaching the milestone.

Ask home hero Benjamin Leuchter how many times he’s lapped the 25.378-kilometre Nürburgring Nordschleife and he’ll tell you 1000. But that was in 2013 and he stopped counting after reaching the milestone.



Since then, he’s added to that total quite considerably while racing in the VLN endurance series, and as a test and development driver and ambassador for Volkswagen, which is powering his maiden season in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO.



Ahead of WTCR Race of Germany the 31-year-old discusses his earliest Nordschleife memories, his winning debut at the track and the prospect of success for the SLR Volkswagen team.




What’s your earliest memory of the Nürburgring Nordschleife?


“My daddy went to some Formula One races at Hockenheim when I was five or six so I knew there was Hockenheim. But I also knew there was this most famous track, the Nürburgring. My family talked about this difficult and long track but I wasn’t so deeply into racing at this point, it was more kick-boxing until I started karting at eight.”




When did you complete your first lap of the track?


“My team manager in formula cars also ran some touring cars. He told me I needed to swap from formula cars because it was very expensive. I didn’t want to listen but back in 2007 he said ‘I’ve got a car and you need to be prepared next Saturday. Take your road car, do some laps of the Nordschleife because you will be racing at this track’.




I was like ‘What? At this difficult track? It’s crazy, I can’t do it’. But I went with my road car, did 15 laps, came back on Saturday and we won the race. It was completely different to what I’d seen on TV because when you are on the track you feel things you can’t possibly see.”




How did you learn the layout and all those corners?


“Back in 2007 simulators were not very big. There was video of course but I asked a team-mate who was very experienced. He showed me the track with my road car. The first time I was next to him I was a bit afraid because you would not expect you can go so fast. But after the second or third lap I start to fall in love with this track.”




Why is the Nordschleife such a challenge in your view?


“Things are changing so quickly, the weather condition is a tricky one, the up and down, the compressions you do not feel when you are looking on TV, you feel when you are in the car and this is just amazing.”




Given the track’s difficulty level, is it perhaps a surprise that it’s so popular?


“It’s really challenging but this is what I was searching for. When you race formula cars you always think about Formula One because this is the top of motorsport. When I jumped into touring cars I was not so excited but as soon as I went to the Nordschleife I was immediately excited and said I want to race on that track.”





What happened after that first race?



“We basically finished the whole endurance season and came P2 in our class, although we got a bit of bad luck during some races, technical stuff. But from the first race I was on the pace. It was awesome to fight the big guys because nobody knew me so it was really cool to be there. The first car I drove there was a Ford Fiesta, just 170hp. It was a five-gear H-shift thing and the straights were so long in that car – you could even drink a coffee before the braking. But when I knew it was Friday and I knew it was the Nürburgring coming the next day I was already excited and that was key.”





Do you know the Nordschleife off by heart?


“I know the corners, I know a lot of the track but what you never know is the weather and how things can change so quickly, it’s so unpredictable. I know the Tarmac changes, I know the kerbs, I know which you should take and which ones you should not take to preserve the car.


I stopped counting in 2013 how many laps I did after I reached the magical number of 1000 laps. But it’s a pity I stopped counting because since 2014 I’ve done a lot of road car development work for Volkswagen so it could be several thousand.”





So given your track knowledge you’ll win easily, right?!


“That would be nice but in the WTCR they all know what to do. Maybe I have a bit more track knowledge and maybe I have a bit more knowledge of how to set up the car and quickly because we don’t have much time. If it rains, I think I have a big advantage compared to the other guys.




But in normal conditions there are many strong drivers who have raced on the Nordschleife for many years. I think I can be in the top 10 but you have to be at the right point and at the right time, and so many things can play a role. But I will enjoy it for sure. I was at the track for the WTCR race last year just looking, so





 Richard Rodgers,  photos FIA WTCR

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/wtcr-benjamin-leuchter-interview---192213.html

12.06.2019 / MaP

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