- Fifth round of the season in the spectacular surroundings of the 24h Nürburgring
- Sébastien Loeb Racing and Volkswagen aiming to continue upward trend in the Eifel
- Portrait of a local hero: Benny Leuchter knows his way around the Nordschleife
Volkswagen Motorsport and the Sébastien Loeb Racing team are looking forward to a highlight of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup calendar this weekend: from 20 to 22 June, Mehdi Bennani (MA), Rob Huff (GB), Johan Kristoffersson (S) and Benjamin Leuchter (D) will be driving their Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR on the legendary Nürburgring-Nordschleife (D). The WTCR drivers will be competing as part of the supporting programme for the 24h Nürburgring and 200,000 fans are expected to line the 25.378 kilometres of the combination of Grand Prix circuit and Nordschleife. After claiming the first podiums of the season at the last race in Zandvoort (NL), Volkswagen can approach the home race with plenty of confidence: this is especially true of local hero Leuchter. The Duisburg native knows the Nordschleife better than any other driver in the 27-strong starting field.
“After the successful record attempt with our ID.R electric race car, we are of course happy to be returning to the Nürburgring,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “The Golf GTI TCR is the right car for us to be battling for podium finishes in the three races on the Nordschleife. Last year, Rob Huff proved that by finishing third and with Benny Leuchter in our team, we have a real Nordschleife expert. Of course, we would like to be competitive at our home race this year, even if the climbs and the extremely long ‘Döttinger Höhe’ ensure that the Nordschleife contains plenty of challenges for us.”
Highlight of the motor racing year for Benny Leuchter
Conducting a paddock poll would reveal that the fifth race in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup at the Nürburgring is a special event on the calendar for all the drivers. It is the highlight of the motor racing year for Volkswagen driver Benjamin Leuchter. It was in March 2008 that the Duisburg native first got to know the circuit that changed his life. A flashback: driving a Ford Fiesta 1600, Leuchter celebrates the class win at the first attempt in the VLN Endurance Championship Nürburgring. “That was just mega,” says Leuchter. “The Nordschleife was just the challenge I had always been looking for in formula racing.”
By this point, Leuchter had already completed a tough apprenticeship in the sport. In 2003, he made it into the BMW Junior team after competing in an assessment day held by the Munich carmaker. Just eight talented young drivers enjoyed this support. Across the whole of Europe. Leuchter was one, and Sebastian Vettel was another. However, the two German youngsters went their separate ways more quickly than envisaged. Vettel continued to climb the career ladder all the way to the Formula 1 world championship title, while the first year confirmed to Leuchter that his family could not make the financial commitment required for a career in formula racing. He decided to switch to touring car racing and has been enjoying success there.
Competing in the WTCR represents a childhood dream come true for Leuchter. It is no surprise that the only German driver in the 2019 starting field is taking on the challenge with Volkswagen. Alongside his involvement as a driver, the 31-year-old is also a brand ambassador and motorsport representative for Volkswagen. And not just that: this year, Leuchter is celebrating his tenth anniversary with the brand. He had started work as an instructor in the Volkswagen Driving Experience team in 2009 – and continues to do that job to this day. He is also intensively involved in the testing and development programmes of new production cars for the brand. Leuchter has been familiar with his WTCR competition car since day one. He was involved in development of the Golf GTI TCR in 2015 and has since completed every winter test for further development.
Leuchter still proud of record lap
20 April 2016 is one of the main reasons why people at Volkswagen like to call him “one of us”. Leuchter is aiming to set a new lap record for front-wheel drive production cars on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife – with the Golf GTI Clubsport S. This is not just any record attempt. It is a race against the clock on one of the toughest racetracks in the world. Leuchter’s favourite track. Volkswagen had been working on the setup for the compact sports car for months. One lap. 20.832 kilometres. A flying start. The clock stops at 7:49.21 minutes – mission accomplished! “I am still unbelievably proud of the record,” says Leuchter, who improves on his own best time by two seconds not long afterwards.
Leuchter does not know how many laps he has now completed on the Nordschleife. “I stopped counting after I reached the magic number of 1,000 laps in 2013,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “That’s a shame, as my involvement in the Volkswagen test and development programme for production cars means that I have added plenty of laps since then. It must be several thousand by now.” Another nine should be added to the list in the three WTCR races from 20 to 22 June – and Leuchter would like to complete these faster than ever before in the Golf GTI TCR.
Facts and Figures for Benjamin “Benny” Leuchter
Date of birth 22 November 1987
Place of birth Duisburg (D)
Place of residence Duisburg (D)
Marital status single
Height/weight 1.65 m/60 kg
Motor racing since 2001
Favourite circuit Nürburgring-Nordschleife
Hobbies Crossfit, karting, kickboxing, poker
Race series WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup / VLN Endurance Championship Nürburgring
Teams Sébastien Loeb Racing / Max Kruse Racing
Car Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR