WTCR Marrakech: Panis leads frantic first practice ahead of Vernay

Aurelien Panis ended first practice for this weekend's Marrakech World Touring Car Cup 2019 season opener fastest after a frantic finish to FP1 at the Moulay El Hassan street circuit

WTCR Marrakech: Panis leads frantic first practice ahead of Vernay

Overnight rain meant the track was greasy come the start of the 45-minute session, with few drivers venturing out for competitive laps in the first 20 minutes.

But an increasingly dry line appeared as more and more drivers headed out, and times tumbled in the final 10 minutes.

Panis, the son of 1996 Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier, first shot to the top of the times with a 1m26.386s with a little more than a minute left on the clock.

While he was briefly bumped back to third by Yann Ehrlacher and Nicky Catsburg, he reclaimed top spot with his final effort.

Comtoyou Cupra driver Panis' best lap was a 1m25.841s, which was only a second and a half shy of Gabriele Tarquini's WTCR qualifying record from 2018 despite the imperfect track conditions.

The WRT Audi RS3 LMS of Jean-Karl Vernay ended up second, 0.101 seconds slower than Panis, while Catsburg's briefest of benchmark times ultimately left him third in his BRC Hyundai i30 N.

Ehrlacher ended the session fastest of Cyan's new Lynk & Co 03 runners in fourth, 0.357s down, ahead of the best-placed Honda of Tiago Monteiro.

KCMG driver Monteiro completed 13 laps in his first session since returning full-time to World Touring Cars following his testing crash at Barcelona in 2017, and was 0.415s off the pace.

Munnich Motorsport's Esteban Guerrieri was sixth in his Honda Civic Type R ahead of Yvan Muller's Cyan Lynk & Co, while Daniel Haglof (PWR Racing Cupra), the Comtoyou Audi of Frederich Vervisch and BRC's Norbert Michelisz rounded out the top 10.

In his first World Touring Car practice session since 2010, Andy Priaulx was 11th in his Lynk & Co, 0.732s off the pace, and just ahead of compatriot Rob Huff in the fastest of Sebastien Loeb Racing's Volkswagen Golf GTIs.

The order was as tight as pre-season predictions had suggested, with less than a second separating Panis from World Touring Car returnee Augusto Farfus in 18th.

FP1 times

Pos Driver Team Car Gap Laps
1 Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Cupra Cupra 1m25.841s 12
2 Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi 0.101s 18
3 Nicky Catsburg BRC Racing Team Hyundai 0.185s 11
4 Yann Ehrlacher Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 0.357s 17
5 Tiago Monteiro KCMG Honda 0.415s 13
6 Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda 0.599s 7
7 Yvan Muller Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 0.618s 12
8 Daniel Haglof PWR Racing Cupra 0.630s 22
9 Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Audi Audi 0.648s 12
10 Norbert Michelisz BRC Squadra Corse Hyundai 0.712s 12
11 Andy Priaulx Cyan Performance Lynk & Co 0.732s 20
12 Rob Huff SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen 0.779s 9
13 Gabriele Tarquini BRC Squadra Corse Hyundai 0.788s 7
14 Thed Bjork Cyan Racing Lynk & Co 0.808s 16
15 Mehdi Bennani SLR VW Motorsport Volkswagen 0.926s 14
16 Johan Kristoffersson SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen 0.958s 13
17 Mikel Azcona PWR Racing Cupra 0.985s 20
18 Augusto Farfus BRC Racing Team Hyundai 0.998s 15
19 Gordon Shedden WRT Audi 1.008s 14
20 Niels Langeveld Comtoyou Audi Audi 1.263s 23
21 Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 1.274s 21
22 Tom Coronel Comtoyou Cupra Cupra 1.299s 6
23 Nestor Girolami Munnich Motorsport Honda 1.667s 6
24 Attila Tassi KCMG Honda 1.718s 25
25 Benjamin Leuchter SLR Volkswagen Volkswagen 2.175s 17
26 Ma Qinghua Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 3.848s 18


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