‘Better than expected’ weekend for Bäckman siblings on WTCR début

Jessica and Andreas Bäckman enjoyed a ‘better than expected’ début in the FIA World Touring Car Cup on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, as Jessica secured her first points in the series.

The Swedish siblings joined the World Touring Car grid for the first time last weekend, having graduated from racing in TCR Europe for the past two seasons.

The duo would go into their first WTCR event at the deep end, however, as they had to contend with the formidable 25 km circuit as well as a new car in the Hyundai Elantra N TCR.

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In qualifying, Andreas performed the strongest, putting himself in 17th in the 22-car field, just over nine seconds off the pole time. Jessica was 20th quickest, 15.6 seconds adrift of pole, after unspecified technical issues limited her chance to push.

Andreas admitted that his qualifying result on Friday had surprised him somewhat.

“I had a few misses on my qualifying lap,” admitted the 26-year-old, “but I still think it was above my expectations to qualify in 17th and beat several of the world’s best drivers who also have more experience on this track.”

In race one, Andreas just edged out his 24-year-old sister, with the pair finishing in 20th and 21st out of the 21 drivers who finished the race.

Race two saw Jessica come home in 14th as the last of the classified drivers, although she picked up her first WTCR points in the process.

For Andreas, race two had barely begun when he was involved in a multi-car crash at the exit of the first corner, eliminating him from the race.

Despite coming home as the last of the classified drivers in race two, Jessica was still pleased with her performances that saw her pick up two championship points.

“After the technical problems in the qualifying, I am very pleased that I managed to get my first World Cup points in the season premiere,” continued Jessica.

“I am also glad that I managed to improve my lap times so much, it shows that there is good capacity.

“It takes a while to learn the new car, tyres, and this track, as it is classified as the world’s toughest track.

“So, considering the circumstances, the weekend went much better than I had expected.”

Andreas felt that he could not have avoided the accident in race two, which was triggered when Mikel Azcona tagged Norbert Michelisz, with Azcona then sent spinning into the path of Andreas by Rob Huff, who had in turn been hit by Andreas himself.

“In the first race I got a really bad start and was out at the back after the start,” said Andreas. “But I drove up a few places and the speed in the car felt good.

“For the second race, we made some adjustments to the car to make it even faster, but unfortunately, I got involved in a start crash already into the second corner on the first lap.

“I did not have time to avoid the car in front of me and the car got damaged which meant that I had to stop the race.

“So, it was a shame, but we will have to come back stronger again in the next race.”

Despite his retirement, Andreas was also pleased with how his performances stacked up against the opposition.

“The track is one of the toughest tracks in the world. We have not driven on the track as much as our competitors, so considering this, it was positive what progress we made during the weekend.”

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