It was soaking wet at Monza a fortnight ago, and we learned that the Chevrolets are still quick and the LADAs like to crash into one another. That’s hardly how the second installment of the FIA World Touring Car Championship is likely to play out when they go racing on the streets of Marrakech in Morocco…
|2013 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF MOROCCO
|Date:||5-7 April 2013|
|Venue:||Circuit Moulay El Hassan, streets of Marrakech, Morocco|
|Race Lap Record:||1:44.617, Pepe Oriola (SEAT León WTCC) – 2012|
|Event Schedule:||Open Test Session||Fri 14:00-14:30|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:00-09:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 12:15-12:45|
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 15:30-16:00|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 16:05-16:20|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 09:45-10:00|
|Race 1 (12 laps, 55km)||Sun 15:20-15:50|
|Race 2 (12 laps, 55km)||Sun 16:20-16:50|
|Past Winners:||Robert Huff (Chevrolet Cruze LT)||2009 (Race 1)|
|Nicola Larini (Chevrolet Cruze LT)||2009 (Race 2)|
|Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León TDI)||2010 (Race 1)|
|Andy Priaulx (BMW 320si)||2010 (Race 2)|
|Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2012 (Race 1)|
|Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2012 (Race 2)|
Located just outside the walls of Marrakech’s ancient Red City in the middle of the modern Agdal hotel district, the Moulay El Hassan Circuit – renamed in the honour of the country’s heir to the throne – is a unique and challenging addition to the World Touring Car Championship calendar.
Designed by the same group who created the much-heralded Surfers Paradise street circuit layout, the 4.5-kilometre circuit comprises two parallel straights, punctuated by a sequence of fast and tricky chicanes with huge kerbs.
Despite the circuit’s several lengthy straights, overtaking is a tough ask on the circuit, and the slightest mistake will often result in car embedded in one of the 2,500-odd cement blocks laid to line the makeshift circuit. The best overtaking opportunity is into the final corner, a tight left-hand hairpin.
The field remains largely unchanged from last fortnight’s season-opener at Monza, although the grid has shrunk from 24 to 23 cars after French rookie Jean-Philippe Dayraut and the ANOME team opted not to ship their BMW across the Mediterranean for this weekend’s round.
The other major change is in the LADA team’s line-up. The Russian team has elected to bench Aleksei Dudukalo after the Russian’s spectacular own-goal in qualifying at Monza (where he eliminated himself and teammate James Nash from the remainder of the weekend), and replace him with his 23-year-old compatriot Mikhail Koslovskiy.
Here’s this weekend’s provisional entry list:
|1.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Castrol Honda WTCC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||Gabriele Tarquini|
|5.||Zengõ Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||Norbert Michelisz|
|6.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Franz Engstler*|
|7.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Charles Ka-Ki Ng*|
|9.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alex MacDowall*|
|10.||LADA Sport Lukoil||LADA Granta||James Thompson|
|11.||LADA Sport Lukoil||LADA Granta||Mikhail Koslovskiy|
|12.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|14.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||James Nash*|
|15.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Tom Coronel|
|17.||NIKA Racing||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Michel Nykjær*|
|18.||Castrol Honda WTCC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||Tiago Monteiro|
|19.||Campos Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Fernando Monje*|
|22.||Special Tune Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Tom Boardman*|
|23.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Tom Chilton|
|25.||Proteam Racing||BMW 320 TC||Mehdi Bennani*|
|26.||PB Racing||BMW 320 TC||Stefano D’Aste*|
|37.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||René Münnich*|
|38.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Marc Basseng|
|55.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Darryl O’Young*|
|73.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Fredy Barth*|
|74.||Tuenti Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Pepe Oriola|
* Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
With Chevrolet sweeping to victory in both of the races in Italy a fortnight ago, it would be a brave fan who would suggest that the Cruzes wouldn’t be featuring at the pointy end of the field this weekend.
Yvan Muller again showed he is the man to beat with two comfortable and assured wins in the Cruze 1.6T, which seems to still be the benchmark car in the field despite Chevrolet’s withdrawal of its works’ support from the WTCC.
But the Marrakech circuit – with its high-speed straights and high-kerbed chicanes – is itself a unique beast, and its characteristics could play nice into the hands of a few of the Chevrolet’s rivals.
The new Honda Civics looked particularly handy at Monza – with Gabriele Tarquini claiming a podium on his maiden outing in the car – and the Japanese carmaker will no doubt be hoping that the Civic’s short wheelbase design could help it navigate the Marrakech’s circuit’s tight chicanes this weekend.
Another outfit hoping for a solid showing will be LADA, which had a potentially solid Monza weekend go belly-up after after its two drivers collided in qualifying. The new Granta – armed with its ORECA engine – looked very quick on Monza’s high-speed layout, and the narrow-bodied car could again be a factor this weekend, particularly at the hands of James Thompson.
Many fans’ eyes will be on local hero Mehdi Bennani, who will be hoping he can repeat his heroics in 2009 (pictured), when he claimed the Independent Trophy victory on his first-ever WTCC appearance. His performance was enough to earn him a more permanent call-up to the series for the rest of the year and beyond, but he’s yet to consistently hit the heights that many would have hoped. Will the added support of local fans be the impetus this weekend?
Nonetheless, this promises to be a fascinating weekend of touring car action. As always, make sure you visit RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from Morocco!