WTCC season build-up: #1 Morocco

WTCC season build-up: #1 Morocco

08/01/2017 12:00

WTCC Race of Morocco opens the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship from 7-9 April. Find out everything you need to know right here.

Name: Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan
Location: 47, avenue Mohamed V – Guéliz, 40000 Marrakech, Morocco
Length: 2.971 kilometres
Lap record (qualifying): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); 1m22.024s (130.3kph), 07/05/16
Lap record (race): Hugo Valente (LADA Vesta) 1m23.087s (128.7kph), 08/05/16
WTCC appearances: Seven
Time zone: GMT +1 hours
Sunrise/sunset: To follow
Average temperature: To follow
Nearest airport: Marrakech Menara Airport (8 kilometres)

Transformed from street circuit to semi-permanent race track for 2016, Circuit Moulay El Hassan is located in the heart of Marrakech’s bustling hotel district. Built to FIA Grade II standards, the layout is the work of Hermann Tilke’s renowned architecture agency and offers impressive views of the Atlas Mountains and Marrakech city wall. But with a compact lap of 2.971 kilometres (down from its original 4.545 kilometres) and a sprinkling of tight, wall-lined turns, there’s no time for WTCC drivers to take in the scenery. Restored to season-opening status after two years, home hero Mehdi Bennani attracts a fervent following.

2016: Opening Race: Tom Coronel (Chevrolet Cruze); Main Race: José María López (Citroën)
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)

2009-Present: Circuit Moulay El Hassan, Marrakech

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 Rob Huff in a Chevrolet after he’d also topped qualifying. He was third in race two behind Yvan Muller (SEAT) and Nicola Larini (Chevrolet).
3: Title-winning Citroën started as it meant to go on in 2014, with eventual champion José María López winning the first race of season – and the first of TC1 era – 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: Morocco’s Mehdi Bennani became the first Arabic driver to win an FIA world championship motor race when he triumphed at WTCC Race of China in Shanghai in 2014.

Independent driver Tom Coronel ripped up the formbook by winning the Opening Race of FIA WTCC AFRIQUIA Race of Morocco after withstanding intense pressure from world champion and factory Citroën driver José María López for his first win since 2013. With former WTCC title winner turned team boss Roberto Ravaglia watching from the pits, Coronel didn’t crack after inheriting top spot from Hugo Valente when the LADA driver was ordered to serve a drive-through penalty following contact with DHL pole-sitter James Thompson. The Marrakech event then took a dramatic twist with rain before the start of the Main Race making for a slippery new-look Circuit Moulay El Hassan. But Rob Huff took the difficult conditions in his stride to lead home a Honda 1-2-3 with Norbert Michelisz second and Tiago Monteiro third. However, all Hondas were subsequently excluded for failing post-race technical checks, which handed victory to López, second to his Citroën team-mate Yvan Muller and third to LADA’s Gabriele Tarquini. Local hero Mehdi Bennani made up for his frustrating qualifying to take the WTCC Trophy honours in the Main Race and maintain his title advantage.

Opening Race DHL Pole Position: James Thompson (Chevrolet RML Cruze)
Main Race DHL Pole Position: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée)
TAG Heuer Best Lap: Hugo Valente (LADA Vesta), 1m23.087s (establishes lap record)
WTCC MAC3 winner: Team Citroën

The all-new WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup will benefit from a major agreement with FOX Sports Latin America in 2018 comprising extensive live race coverage, highlights programmes and driver interviews.

Tom Coronel wants to go from hunter to hunted when the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup fires into life in Morocco from 7-8 April.

Comtoyou Racing has revealed a graphic of the livery that will flank Aurélien Panis’s Audi RS3 LMS in the inaugural WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup.

Tickets are on sale for the opening weekend of the 2018 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup season in Marrakech.

Norbert Michelisz reckons the challenge he faces driving a new car for a new team in a new series represents a “great motivation”.

With less than 50 days to go until the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup gets underway in Morocco from 7-8 April, here’s a reminder of the drivers announced so far.