Michel Nykjaer denied Honda's new World Touring Car project a first victory by defeating Gabriele Tarquini in a truncated opener on the streets of Marrakech.
The Italian had led away from pole but soon came under heavy pressure from Nykjaer's Nika Chevrolet, which had slipped ahead of James Nash and into second as the field ran through Turn 1-3 for the first time.
Several times Nykjaer managed to pull alongside Tarquini on the straights, only for the Italian to resist his advances into the braking zones, but on lap six he finally found a way through on the run down to the final chicane to take his maiden WTCC win.
Nash also found a way past on the following straight, but had to cede position due to yellow flags flying as Tarquini's Honda team-mate Tiago Monteiro hit the wall and pulled to a halt at Turn 2 (pictured below).
That brought out the safety car and allowed the pack to close, with Nykjaer leading Tarquini, Nash and the RML Chevrolet of Yvan Muller.
The two Munnich SEATs of defending champion Rob Huff and Marc Basseng were also running well in fifth and seventh respectively, split by the second Bamboo Cruze of Alex MacDowall.
Tom Chilton had also been part of the group until lap six, when he was forced to pit due to overheating issues caused by damage when he and Muller touched in the opening corners.
With two laps to run the safety car finally dived in, but rather than attack Nykjaer, Tarquini was forced onto the defensive as Nash tried to find a way past.
That allowed Nykjaer precious breathing space, which he ultimately converted into a winning margin of just over half a second.
Behind him Tarquini and Nash's struggle allowed Muller, Huff and MacDowall to close, with the five cars effectively running nose to tail throughout the final lap.
Nash prevailed to take his first WTCC podium, holding off Muller on the outside of the final hairpin.
The Frenchman's line gifted Huff an opportunity to steal ahead on the race down to the line, but the Briton fell short by just 0.024s. MacDowall was less than a quarter of a second down the road in sixth.
Basseng and Tuenti's Pepe Oriola made it three SEATs in the top eight, while Tom Coronel (ROAL BMW) and Lada's James Thompson rounded out the top 10.
Results - 13 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Michel Nykjaer Nika Chevrolet 28m51.561s 2. Gabriele Tarquini Honda + 0.566s 3. James Nash Bamboo Chevrolet + 1.612s 4. Yvan Muller RML Chevrolet + 2.224s 5. Rob Huff Munnich SEAT + 2.248s 6. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet + 2.476s 7. Marc Basseng Munnich SEAT + 3.201s 8. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT + 3.565s 9. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW + 5.270s 10. James Thompson Lada + 5.881s 11. Fernando Monje Campos SEAT + 7.078s 12. Darryl O'Young ROAL BMW + 7.879s 13. Fredy Barth Wiechers BMW + 8.485s 14. Charles Ng Engstler BMW + 9.298s 15. Rene Munnich Munnich SEAT + 14.192 16. Mikhail Kozlovskiy Lada + 15.333s 17. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW + 33.246s 18. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW + 1 lap Retirements: Tiago Monteiro Honda 5 laps Norbert Michelisz Zengo Honda 5 laps Tom Chilton RML Chevrolet 5 laps Stefano D'Aste PB BMW 1 lap Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT DNS