Jessica Bäckman claims Vice-Champion title in TCR Germany
After an unlucky start of the final round at Hockenheimring, Jessica Bäckman was able to turn her weekend around and completed a great recovery to second place – which gave the Comtoyou driver the Vice-Championship title in TCR Germany!
The final round of the 2022 TCR Germany season took place at the well-known F1 racetrack Hockenheimring, after five out of the seven rounds being contested on German soil and two on Austrian tracks. The champion was already crowned – with Martin Anderson (Liqui Moly Team Engstler) securing the title last time out.
Jessica Bäckman (Comtoyou Racing) on the other hand, approached the final round just ahead of Szymon Ladniak (Liqui Moly Team Engstler); with a gap of 38 points from the Polish driver, Bäckman aimed to bring home to Sweden the runner-up position in the championship.
Albert Legutko (Albert Legutko Racing) will also battle for the front-running positions in the season finale, after the Polish driver from Berlin had only joined the first round at Oschersleben before. Both practice sessions went underway on Friday, as well as the first qualifying of the weekend that assigned the first points. "I am looking forward to driving again at Hockenheim", said Bäckman before the event, "the last time I drove there was in 2019 in TCR Europe and TCR Germany and it went well both times. Now I hope for another good weekend with good speed right from the start. Then I will do everything I can to end a very successful season on top." – she continued. A very wet and grey morning opened the racing weekend for the drivers of TCR Germany, who went out on track first. And it wasn't an easy session for the thirteen drivers on the grid, which ended with newly-crowned champion Martin Anderson on top of the timesheets, ahead of Karklys (NordPass) and René Kircher (ROJA Motorsport by ASL Lichtblau). Jessica Bäckman (Comtoyou Racing) had a troubled session and finished 10th, with only ten laps completed. The second practice session after the lunch break saw different conditions: the rain had stopped, but the track was still slippery for slick tyres. Jessica Bäckman set some early fast laps in the session but then had an unfortunate accident and the red flag was brought out. The team tried to fix the car in time for the first qualifying session later in the day, in a race with time. Andersen had another great session and topped the second practice as well, ahead of Karklys and Ladniak (LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler). An overcast first day ended with qualifying 1, as the TCR Germany drivers battled out to set the grid for race 1 – as well as for the first points of the weekend for the top eight drivers. But there was drama already for Jessica Bäckman, who could not join the other drivers until the session time clocked down to 5 minutes, after the team had managed to fix the car. Despite the effort, she couldn't get a timed lap in time, as a red flag at the end ruined her chances. At sunset, Karklys scored pole position ahead of Ladniak and Radermecker. The first race of the weekend took place on a golden October Saturday at midday: Jessica Bäckman would have to start from the back of the grid. Albert Legutko's weekend was already over due to technical difficulties and he would not compete for the rest of the event. Ladniak had the best start and pulled away as soon as on the first lap, preceding Karklys and Andersen – while the rest of the grid battled behind. Jessica Bäckman made up two positions in the first lap – and she didn't stop there: the Swede set fastest sector times and she managed to pass more cars quickly. Ahead, Ladniak kept a 3 second gap ahead of Andersen, who moved up to second; Radermecker also gained back third place after he had dropped down shortly after the start. Andersen would then find some speed to shorten the gap to the lead with 9 minutes to go. Jessica Bäckman meanwhile moved up to 6th and was right on Kircher's tail. She hunted him down and finally passed him for fifth place, then quickly closing in on Karklys with approximately 5 minutes to go. But then something totally unexpected happened: Jessica Bäckman had a rear suspension failure that sent her into a spin, while one of her rear wheels departed from the car. The race ended under Safety Car conditions, with victory by Ladniak ahead of Andersen and Karklys. After an amazing recovery from last to fifth – and with fourth in sight – Jessica retired, continuing a bad luck streak. The fast Swede though has one more chance later on Saturday, with qualifying 2 to make up for the disappointment, as her focus remained on the second spot in the driver's championship standings. The sun set over Hockenheimring with the last qualifying of the season, setting the stage for Sunday's race 2: the final dance before winter break.
"I came to Hockenheim with a 38-point lead over the guy who was third in the championship. But he ate up those points quickly when I had setback after setback. Before Race 2 on Sunday, only one thing mattered. If Ladniak won the race, I had to finish at least 2nd otherwise he would win the Vice title in the championship."
The second qualifying went underway as the sun set over the Hockenheimring – this time with Jessica Bäckman making it to the track. The field, though, lost Albert Legutko, who retired from the weekend for technical difficulties.
It was again a good session for Ladniak, who clinched pole position after his victory earlier that day, ahead of Andersen and Jessica Bäckman. The Swedish driver's gap to Ladniak was now down to 7 points, as the battle for the runner up title heated up.
On a sunnier yet slightly cold Sunday, the final race of the 2022 TCR Germany season went underway at midday.
Ladniak won comfortably the start and led the field into the first corner while Jessica Bäckman had a great start and jumped ahead of Andersen to claim the second position. Ladniak pulled away quickly and opened a gap to the Swedish driver, as the latter had a tough job to keep Andersen behind.
At the back of the field, a few battles and contacts made the race entertaining for the spectators. Eventually, Ladniak took victory in race 2 at Hockenheimring, finishing ahead of Bäckman and Andersen. Two points were enough for Jessica to grab the Vice-champion title in her first year in TCR Germany. And it was a history day, as she became the first ever female driver to finish in the Top-3 in the championship rankings.
"I had a very good season, but was repeatedly slowed down by technical problems." – said Jessica. "Today's race was one of the toughest of my life."
"It's not easy when Martin is behind you all the time. I'm very happy to have finished the season in second place. It would have been very disappointing to end a season in which I fought for the title for a long time on P3.” – she concluded. Jessica Bäckman's season indeed started on a high, as she won the first race at Oschersleben – the first round of the 2022 season. She followed up with a double victory at the Red Bull Ring which set the tone for the first half of the year. Salzburgring saw another victory by the fast Swede; at Nürburgring, she finished two times on the podium, with third and a second place finishes. At Sachsenring, Bäckman changed team and brand: she switched to an Audi RS 3 LMS TCR gen 2 and competed together with Comtoyou Racing. Despite her small experience with the car, she was again twice on the podium. Due to some technical issues – mainly in qualifying, with the top eight scoring championship points, Bäckman lost out to Andersen, who was more consistent in the second part of the season and eventually claimed the title on the penultimate round. At Hockenheimring, the last round of the season, she was met with bad luck with a retirement – as well as redemption in the last race, which ended Jessica's season on a high with a good recovery and another podium. An experienced touring car driver with starts – and podiums – in TCR Europe, WTCR and STCC, there is certainly more to come in the future of this young star of TCR.
"It was a really tough weekend, but I'm incredibly proud of myself and the whole team that we managed to turn everything around in the last race of the season, nice to take home the Vice Championship from this season which has been my best ever but at the same time a season with a lot of setbacks. It bodes well for the future." So far, the Sweden National team driver has not announced yet where she will compete in next season.