WTCR Marrakech: Thed Bjork leads Hyundai trio in qualifying

World Touring Car champion Thed Bjork grabbed the first ever WTCR world cup pole position ahead of the season opener in Marrakech, heading a Hyundai 1-2-3 in qualifying

YMR driver Bjork eclipsed Norbert Michelisz's long-standing benchmark by 0.136 seconds in the final five minutes of the session to snatch pole.

Gabriele Tarquini was the first of the Hyundai contingent to show his hand at the start of the 40-minute session on the Moulay El Hassan street circuit, setting an initial best time of 1m25.942s.

That was then comfortably beaten by both Bjork and Tarquini's team-mate Michelisz before the majority of the field headed back to the pits after their first runs.

Bjork briefly went fastest once again after returning for the track before Michelisz reclaimed top spot with a fastest lap of 1m24.834s, only to stop on track moments later after his engine failed.

That led to a delay of 10 minutes while his car was recovered, and also meant drivers took time to make any improvements when the session resumed, with dust laid down through Turns 2 and 3 to cover oil dropped by Michelisz's BRC Racing i30.

But Bjork was able to improve in the final minutes, finding four tenths of a second over his previous best lap to end the session fastest with a 1m24.698s lap.

Michelisz, who also stopped in FP2 with a suspected electrical issue, remained second in the times but has been sent to the back of the grid after BRC was advised to change the engine in the Hungarian's car.

Any engine changes automatically result in the driver in question being sent to the back of the grid for the following race.

Tarquini completed the top three in qualifying, and was 0.361s slower than Bjork, but will start the race from the outside of the front row courtesy of Michelisz's penalty.

WRT driver Jean-Karl Vernay was the fastest non-Hyundai in his Audi RS3 LMS and will now line up third, ahead of Rob Huff's Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi and the leading Cupra of John Filippi.

Second practice pacesetter Esteban Guerrieri was the leading Honda representative in seventh in the session, 0.832 seconds away from pole in his Munnich Motorsport Civic, while Gordon Shedden will start his first World Touring Car race from the fourth row in the second WRT Audi.

Huff's SLR team-mate Mehdi Bennani was next up on his home circuit, ahead of Yvan Muller in the fourth Hyundai i30. James Thompson will start his first race for more than a year 10th.

Aurelien Comte was 12th in the fastest of the DG Sport Peugeot 308TCRs, while Fabrizio Giovanardi was the leading Alfa Romeo representative in 21st - 1.686s off the pace.

The first qualifying session sets the grid for Saturday afternoon's opening race, with a separate second qualifying session on Sunday morning - following the previous three-stage WTCC format - helping to form the grids for the second and third races.

Starting grid

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thed Bjork YMR Hyundai 1m24.698s
2 Gabriele Tarquini BRC Racing Team Hyundai 0.361s
3 Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi 0.558s
4 Rob Huff Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 0.596s
5 John Filippi Campos Racing Cupra 0.707s
6 Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda 0.832s
7 Gordon Shedden WRT Audi 0.879s
8 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 0.960s
9 Yvan Muller YMR Hyundai 0.981s
10 James Thompson Munnich Motorsport Honda 1.031s
11 Aurelien Comte DG Sport Competition Peugeot 1.170s
12 Yann Ehrlacher Munnich Motorsport Honda 1.219s
13 Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Racing Audi 1.248s
14 Pepe Oriola Campos Racing Cupra 1.249s
15 Nathanael Berthon Comtoyou Racing Audi 1.334s
16 Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 1.407s
17 Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Racing Audi 1.558s
18 Mat'o Homola DG Sport Competition Peugeot 1.673s
19 Denis Dupont Comtoyou Racing Audi 1.681s
20 Fabrizio Giovanardi Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 1.686s
21 Zsolt Szabo Zengo Motorsport Cupra 1.775s
22 Norbert Nagy Zengo Motorsport Cupra 2.010s
23 Benjamin Lessennes Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 2.367s
24 Gianni Morbidelli Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 2.690s
25 Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team Hyundai 0.136s

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