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Alain Menu wins opening World Touring Car race at Marrakech for Chevrolet

Alain Menu Chevrolet WTCC Marrakech 2012Alain Menu continued Chevrolet's domination of the 2012 World Touring Car Championship by leading a clean sweep of the podium positions for the RML-run Cruzes in race one at Marrakech.

The Swiss led every lap from pole position on way to his second WTCC victory in as many races, following his reversed-grid success at Valencia. Menu was untroubled by an early safety car period and executed a perfect restart to hold off his team-mate Rob Huff by a second at the chequered flag.

"We all know the importance of pole on a street circuit," said Menu. "I was braking a little early into most of the corners, but still not losing too much time as you then ease off the brakes. Still, you have to be on your best to beat team-mates of the quality I have."

Reigning WTCC champion and points leader Yvan Muller took third place after powering past the slow-starting ROAL BMW of Tom Coronel at the rolling start.

Muller edged closer to second-placed Huff on lap three, but there were no serious overtaking attempts staged among the Chevrolet trio.

"The rhythm of the three cars was similar and I don't think it would have been smart to have started fighting among ourselves and allowing the opposition to close up," said Muller.

Pepe Oriola fought off an early challenge from Tom Chilton's improving Arena Ford to take fourth place and the Independents' victory in his SUNRED SEAT.

Oriola gained pace throughout the race and used a strong slipstream from the Chevrolet train to close onto Muller's rear bumper at the finish.

WTCC rookie Chilton lost pace shortly after mid-distance, and was eventually overtaken by BMW runners Stefano D'Aste (Wiechers-Sport) and Franz Engstler (Team Engstler).

Chilton had earlier executed a fine outbraking manoeuvre on D'Aste at the final corner on lap four to briefly run fifth, the highest position the Focus S2000 TC has held in its debut WTCC season.

The second Arena car of James Nash was knocked into retirement after being tagged by Engstler at the exit of the first chicane on the opening lap.

Third starter Coronel was also caught up in first lap dramas. The Dutch racer, who scored two podiums at Valencia, was punted into a spin under braking at the second chicane by Alex MacDowall's snaking Bamboo Chevrolet.

To the disappointment of the Moroccan crowd, accident damage prevented local hero Mehdi Bennani from completing more than two laps. Bennani's Proteam BMW team-mate Isaac Tutumlu was another early race accident casualty.

Results - 12 laps:

Pos  Driver                Team/Car                Time/Gap
 1.  Alain Menu            Chevrolet             22m28.931s
 2.  Rob Huff              Chevrolet               + 1.074s
 3.  Yvan Muller           Chevrolet               + 1.554s
 4.  Pepe Oriola           Tuenti SEAT             + 2.268s
 5.  Stefano D'Aste        Wiechers BMW            + 5.713s
 6.  Franz Engstler        Engstler BMW            + 8.075s
 7.  Tom Chilton           Arena Ford              + 9.290s
 8.  Tom Coronel           ROAL BMW               + 16.069s
 9.  Norbert Michelisz     Zengo BMW              + 17.696s
10.  Darryl O'Young        Special Tuning SEAT    + 19.284s
11.  Gabriele Tarquini     Lukoil SEAT            + 26.413s
12.  Alex Macdowall        bamboo Chevrolet       + 38.647s
13.  Andrea Barlesi        SUNRED SEAT            + 44.139s
14.  Tom Boardman          Special Tuning SEAT    + 48.598s
15.  Alberto Cerqui        ROAL BMW               + 50.097s
16.  Aleksei Dudukalo      Lukoil SEAT            + 50.377s
17.  Pasquale di Sabatino  bamboo Chevrolet         + 1 lap

Did not finish:
     Tiago Monteiro        Tuenti SEAT               7 laps        
     Charles Ng            Engstler BMW              6 laps
     Isaac Tutumlu         Proteam BMW               2 laps
     Mehdi Bennani         Proteam BMW               2 laps
     James Nash            Arena Ford                0 laps
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