Gabriele Tarquini will start on pole position for the opening WTCC race at Marrakech

On just his second World Touring Car Championship outing for the new Honda team, former series champion Gabriele Tarquini has claimed the carmaker’s first pole position with an outstanding qualifying performance on the tight streets of Marrakech.

The Italian beat James Nash to top spot by just three-hundredths of a second, with the Englishman claiming his – and Bamboo Engineering’s – best ever qualifying performance and in prime position to claim the team’s first ever outright win in Sunday’s opening eleven-lap race.

The Italian navigated a traffic-impacted final phase of qualifying to perfection to beat Nash, while the frontrunning RML Chevrolets of Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton could do no better that third and fifth respectively.

The pair came across the slower SEAT of Fernando Monje on their final flyers, just as the Spaniard was gearing up to start his own timed lap and bid for Race 2’s reverse-grid pole.

Monje simply had to go out onto the track after the twelve-car session was reduced to just ten, courtesy of separate session-ending accidents for James Thompson (LADA) and Tom Coronel (ROAL BMW).

Thompson had clipped the wall after a clocking a time good enough for Q2 and was unable to participate in the session, while Coronel scored a silly own-goal for the ROAL team when he hit the back of teammate Darryl O’Young in Q1, eliminating both from further proceedings.

Muller and Chilton were split by the other NIKA Chevrolet of Michel Nykjær, while the fifth and final Chevrolet of Alex MacDowall was sixth-quickest, ensuring the carmaker had all of its qualify on the first three rows of the grid.

Reigning champion Rob Huff was the quickest of the SEAT runners in seventh place, edging out impressive rookie teammate Marc Basseng to claim an all-Münnich Motorsport fourth row for the opening race.

Pepe Oriola was ninth-fastest in his Tuenti SEAT, while teammate and compatriot Monje managed to escape sanction from the stewards and keeps tenth place – and pole position for Race 2.

The tight Marrakech circuit claimed several runners in an action-packed half-hour Q1 session. Aside from Thompson, Coronel and O’Young, Tiago Monteiro also came to grief in his Honda, damaging his front left suspension after thumping into the barriers and bringing out a red flag. The Portuguese driver will start both races from fourteenth position on the grid.

Local hero Mehdi Bennani was another to come unstuck. The Moroccan overcooked it exiting Turn 4 and suffered a tank-slapper which fired him into the outside wall and a major repair bill for his Proteam BMW team. He will line up in eighteenth position.

2013 FIA WTCC Race of Morocco Q1 & Q2 Session Times:

Driver Team Q2 Time YIT
1. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Castrol Honda Civic WTCC Honda 1:44.358  
2. James Nash GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:44.406 Y
3. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:44.504  
4. Michel Nykjær DEN NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:44.745 Y
5. Tom Chilton GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:44.863  
6. Alex MacDowall GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1:45.060 Y
7. Robert Huff GBR Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:45.228  
8. Marc Basseng DEU Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:45.552  
9. Pepe Oriola ESP Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:46.341 Y
10. Fernando Monje ESP Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT no time Y
11. James Thompson GBR LADA Sport Granta LADA no time  
12. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW no time
  Q2 CUT-OFF: 1:46.194 Q1 Time  
13. Darryl O’Young HKG ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 1:46.327 Y
14. Tiago Monteiro POR Castrol Honda Civic WTCC Honda 1:46.396
15. Fredy Barth SUI Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW 1:46.412 Y
16. Franz Engstler DEU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:46.494 Y
17. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC Honda 1:46.629
18. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW 1:46.660 Y
19. Tom Boardman GBR Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:46.713 Y
20. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 1:47.140 Y
21. Stefano D’Aste ITA PB Sport BMW 320TC BMW 1:47.390 Y
22. Mikhail Kozlovskiy RUS LADA Sport Granta LADA 1:47.598
23. René Münnich DEU Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT 1:49.754 Y

The starting order for Race 1 is determined by the qualifying results indicated above, unless states otherwise. The ten-fastest drivers – as indicated by their Q2 fastest times – start in reverse starting order for Race 2, unless stated otherwise. (‘Y’ denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy entered driver).

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.