WTCC Race of Morocco - 06-08/05/2016
It’s all-change for Morocco’s round of the WTCC. Not only does the event switch from April to May, the Circuit Moulay El Hassan, located in the heart of Marrakech’s hotel district, has been transformed from a street circuit into a semi-permanent race track designed by Hermann Tilke’s renowned architecture agency and built to FIA Grade II standards. While the layout retains the Atlas Mountains and Marrakech city wall as its backdrop, the length has been cut from 4.6 kilometres to three kilometres. However, there will be no drop in support for home hero Mehdi Bennani, who enjoys a fervent following.
1: The WTCC’s arrival in Morocco in 2009 marked the first international car race to be held in the country since the 1958 Grand Prix at Casablanca, famously won by Stirling Moss, who nevertheless lost out on the title to Mike Hawthorn.
2: That first WTCC race in Morocco was won by current LADA ace Rob Huff in a Chevrolet after he’d also topped qualifying. He was then third in race two behind Yvan Muller (SEAT) and Nicola Larini (Chevrolet).
3: The title-winning Citroën team started as it meant to go on in 2014, with eventual champion José María López winning the first race of season prior to Sébastien Loeb’s breakthrough victory in race two.
4: The official languages of Morocco are Berber and Arabic. This distinctive group of Moroccan Arabic dialects is collectively called Darija. French and, to a lesser extent, Spanish and English are also spoken in the country.
5: The most popular sport in Morocco is still football, with the Moroccan national team becoming the first African and Arab country to make it to the second round of a FIFA World Cup back in 1986.
FLASHBACK 2015 (17-19 APRIL)
José María López and four-time title winner Yvan Muller were the street heroes of Marrakech, with the Citroën Racing aces coming out on top of two thrilling contests that formed Eurodatacar WTCC Race of Morocco. López bagged race one glory from pole with Muller repeating the feat in the second 14-lap chase for WTCC success. China’s Ma Qing Hua scored his first podium of 2015 with the runner-up spot in the opening race as Sébastien Loeb held off home hero Mehdi Bennani for third. Muller converted pole to victory in race two despite intense pressure from Loeb. López battled back from 10th to third to remain in control of the title race with a 17-point advantage after four rounds. Bennani’s fourth in race one gave him the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy laurels while Tom Chilton secured the category honours in the second event at the wheel of his privateer Chevrolet. Both rounds at the sun-baked Circuit Moulay El Hassan street course produced plenty of drama with Tom Coronel forced out of the first race following contact with Chilton. Coronel was also out of luck in race two when he clashed with Honda’s Tiago Monteiro at turn one following a bump from the pursuing Norbert Michelisz. Former champion Rob Huff was eliminated in the second race after a hefty hit from LADA team-mate Mikhail Kozlovskiy nearing the completion of the opening lap.Official Website
Name: Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan
Location: 47, avenue Mohamed V – Guéliz, 40000 Marrakech, Morocco
Length: 3.00 kilometres
Lap record (qualifying): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée) 1m43.393s (158.3kph), 18/04/15
Lap record (race): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée), 1m43.480s (158.1kph), 19/04/15
WTCC RACE OF MOROCCO WINNERS
2015: Race 1: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); Race 2: Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée)
2014: R1: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); R2: Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée)
2013: R1: Michel Nykjær (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Pepe Oriola (SEAT León)
2012: R1: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze)
2010: R1: Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León); R2: Andy Priaulx (BMW 320)
2009: R1: Rob Huff (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Nicola Larini (Chevrolet Cruze)
WTCC RACE OF MOROCCO VENUES
2009-Present: Circuit Moulay El Hassan, Marrakech