The first round of the WTCC saw two action packed encounters around the streets of Marrakech. The first race would see a strong start for Tom Coronel and Esterban Guerrieri off the front row. Further down the field, a whole host of drivers had poor starts. The Volvo of Nestor Girolami and John Filippi’s Citroens would be extremely slow off the line, Yann Ehrlacher would run into the back of the latter, ending his race early. Further contact on the opening lap would see suspension damage to Ryo Michigami’s car, ending his race. With cars littering the circuit, the safety car was brought out.
Under safety car, there was bad news for Huff, he pulled into the pits with an overheating engine. As the pulled into the pits, the rest of the field followed, thinking the straight was still blocked. This split the field as the cars took the restart. Coronel continued to lead, trying to prevent the chasing pack from challenging him. The Marrakech circuit is hard on brakes and tyres, so management is key to victory. Further behind, Daniel Nagy lead the second pack with Chilton struggling to find a way passed. However, they were starting to catch the leading pack, with Nagy setting fastest laps. As the laps ticked away, Coronel started to struggle. He continued to lock his brakes, costing him time and allowing Guerrieri to catch.
At just over half distance Guerrieri was trying to make a move for the lead. He also had to fight off Thed Bjork’s Volvo. By lap 12 it was all over for Coronel, as he hit the brakes, the car didn’t stop. Coronel ran wide before managing to get the car under control. This promoted Guerrieri into the lead with Bjork still chasing hard behind him. After showing pace during the early part of the race, the Honda started to fade, allowing Chilton and Girolami to pass him. While trying to catch up, he would clip the wall breaking his rear suspension and ending his race.
This would leave just 10 cars to take the finish, with rookie Esterban Guerrieri taking his first win in the WTCC. Thed Bjork would come home second for Volvo with Mehdi Bennani’s Citroen completing the podium. Coronel would manage to bring the car home in 8th. It would also see the first points for rookie driver Aurelien Panis who came home 10th.
The second race would see Honda’s Tiago Monteiro would line up on pole with Volvo’s Nestor Girolami alongside him. Off the line, Girolami would drop back, allowing Michelisz to move into second. Bennani would momentarily get up into third, before the pack of Volvos would shuffle him back down the order. Bennani tried a late dive on Catsburg into the hiarpin, but made contact with the Cyan Racing car. He would be awarded a 2 second penalty after the race for that move.
Further down the field, Rob Huff was desparately trying to make up for lost time, fighting with Ryo Michigami for 9th. After 5 laps of trying, Huff managed to get passed Michigami. Back towards the front, the top 4 had managed to break way, with the Hondas unable to pull away from Bennani and Girolami. Behind them, Catsburg was pushing hard to keep his team mate Bjork behind him in fifth. Then the only retirement of the race would see Panis stop at Turn 5 with damaged suspension on one of the larger kerbs. This brought out the safety car for a second time.
At the restart, Monteiro got the jump on Michelisz, however Michelisz quickly closed up. Further down Huff was again trying to make progress by trying to pass Coronel. Disaster would strike for race 1 winner Guerrieri, as he would be issued a drive through penalty for a pitlane infringement, dropping him out of the points. The rest of the field appeared to hold station, all finding it difficult to overtake on the tight street circuit.
This meant Honda would end the race with a 1-2 as Monteiro won infront of Micheilsz. This pushed both into a 1-2 in the driver’s championship. Behind them, Girolami would put Volvo on the podium for a second time. Behind them was Bennani, Catsburg, Chilton and Bjork. Coronel managed to hold off Chilton for 8th, with Michigami scoring his first points in 10th.
This result left Honda and Volvo tied on points in the manufactures championship while Monteiro holds a 7 point advantage over Michelisz. Volvo’s Nicky Catsburg sits third a further 8 points behind. The WTCC Trophy would see familiar names at the top, with Chilton and Bennani tied on points. Sebastien Loeb Racing also lead the teams championship by 19 points to Campos.
The next round sees the WTCC make it’s return to Monza on April 30th. Huff proved his has pace down the long Italian straights, can he translate that into race pace.?