Alain Menu wins opening World Touring Car race at Marrakech for Chevrolet
|By Peter Mills||Sunday, April 15th 2012, 13:34 GMT|
Alain 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