WTCR Marrakech: Tarquini denies Bjork to head Hyundai one-two

Gabriele Tarquini won the first race of the new World Touring Car Cup era, resisting Thed Bjork to head a Hyundai one-two in Marrakech

WTCR Marrakech: Tarquini denies Bjork to head Hyundai one-two

Tarquini jumped into the lead from second on the grid at the start of the race and expertly handled two safety car restarts to build an advantage that allowed him to defend his lead thereafter.

Rob Huff completed the podium in his Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi.

Tarquini made a better getaway off the line and was able to duck underneath polesitter Bjork on the approach to the first corner as the field bunched together in their wake.

Mehdi Bennani got into Esteban Guerrieri at the start, before Frederic Vervisch triggered an incident at the first corner when he braked late and went into the back of James Thompson's Honda Civic.

That contact put Thompson into a slide, before he was hit by the Audi again and half-spun, while Vervisch then also caught the Boutsen Ginion Civic of Tom Coronel as the Dutchman rejoined the circuit having run wide at the first corner.

Vervisch subsequently stopped his Comtoyou Audi on track, forcing the safety car to be deployed before a red flag was shown.

Tarquini leapt away on the full restart after a further lap behind the safety car, building a 1.338-second lead over Bjork.

But the race was quickly neutralised again when Tarquini's team-mate Norbert Michelisz - who had qualified second but dropped to the back of the grid after an engine change - stopped on track when a wheel fell off his Hyundai.

A further five laps behind the safety car followed before the race resumed.

Although Bjork once again allowed Tarquini to escape up the road by more than a second, the pair - with Huff for company in third - bunched up over the following lap.

The leading Hyundai cars slowly edged away from Huff and entered into a private battle for the lead, but Bjork struggled to get close enough to Tarquini to have a look at passing.

Tarquini therefore remained ahead until the finish, eventually beating 2017 WTCC Bjork over the line by half a second, with Huff a further two seconds back.

Jean-Karl Vernay, the 2017 TCR International Series champion, brought his Audi RS3 LMS home fourth over the line ahead of Bennani, although the Moroccan was later slapped with a 10-second penalty for hitting Guerrieri at the start that dropped him to ninth.

That meant Gordon Shedden assumed fifth on his first World Touring Car start, with Guerrieri sixth - some four seconds behind the Briton and with Munnich Motorsport team-mate Yann Ehrlacher on his tail.

Aurelien Comte was eighth in the revised classification in his DG Sport Peugeot 308TCR ahead of Bennani.

Result - 20 laps

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Gabriele Tarquini BRC Racing Team Hyundai 48m58.707s
2 Thed Bjork YMR Hyundai 0.729s
3 Rob Huff Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 2.823s
4 Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi 4.593s
5 Gordon Shedden WRT Audi 5.702s
6 Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda 10.136s
7 Yann Ehrlacher Munnich Motorsport Honda 10.784s
8 Aurelien Comte DG Sport Competition Peugeot 11.577s
9 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 15.025s
10 John Filippi Campos Racing Cupra 15.026s
11 Yvan Muller YMR Hyundai 16.556s
12 Nathanael Berthon Comtoyou Racing Audi 17.046s
13 Denis Dupont Comtoyou Racing Audi 18.039s
14 James Thompson Munnich Motorsport Honda 18.537s
15 Benjamin Lessennes Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 22.213s
16 Norbert Nagy Zengo Motorsport Cupra 25.096s
17 Zsolt Szabo Zengo Motorsport Cupra 53.666s
18 Pepe Oriola Campos Racing Cupra 1 Lap
19 Fabrizio Giovanardi Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 1 Lap
20 Gianni Morbidelli Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 3 Laps
21 Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 5 Laps
- Mat'o Homola DG Sport Competition Peugeot Retirement
- Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team Hyundai Retirement
- Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Racing Audi Retirement
- Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Racing Audi Retirement


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About this article

Series WTCR
Drivers Gabriele Tarquini
Author Jack Cozens
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