Michel Nykjær has secured his (and the NIKA Racing Team’s) first ever outright FIA World Touring Car Championship victory at the end of a dramatic opening race on the streets of Marrakech.
There was drama in the morning’s warm-up session when Special Tune Racing driver Tom Boardman had a massive accident in his SEAT León after suffering a brake failure on approach to Turn 7. The Englishman heroically avoided T-boning Alex MacDowall’s Chevrolet right ahead of him and slammed nose first into the barriers.
He was extricated from his wrecked car and taken to Marrakech’s military hospital complaining of pain caused by seatbelt trauma. He was released later in the day with bruising, but fortunately without any further injuries.
The race itself was interrupted for five laps with a Safety Car period, and the opportunistic Dane took the lead from Gabriele Tarquini only seconds before the full course caution was declared, following an accident to Tarquini’s Honda teammate Tiago Monteiro.
Nykjær gained two positions from his fourth-place grid slot on the opening laps, and quickly set about the challenge of hunting down polesitter and race leader Tarquini in the opening laps.
The pair was closely followed by James Nash in the first of the Bamboo Chevrolets, while behind him RML Chevrolet driver Yvan Muller was engaged in a good scrap with former teammate and reigning champion Rob Huff.
Huff claimed fourth from Muller with an opportunistic dive into the final corner hairpin, but the positions were reversed on the third lap when the pair came across local driver Mehdi Bennani, who had just emerged from the pits after sustaining damage to his Proteam BMW.
On the sixth lap, Monteiro crashed and it took the marshals a full five laps to clear the Portuguese driver’s Civic before racing could resume with a two-lap sprint to the chequered flag.
Nykjær held his nerve up front with Tarquini tucked up right behind his rear wing, while Nash and Muller diced for the final podium spot with Rob Huff and Alex MacDowall shadowing their every move.
Huff’s teammate Marc Basseng finished seventh, ahead of fellow SEAT runner Pepe Oriola, while Tom Coronel was the only BMW to finish in the points, claiming ninth position ahead of James Thompson in the LADA Granta.
2013 FIA WTCC Race of Morocco – Race 1 Final Classification (13 laps):
|1.||Michel Nykjær||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||28:51.561||Y|
|2.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 0.566|
|3.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.612||Y|
|4.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 2.224|
|5.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 2.248|
|6.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 2.476||Y|
|7.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 3.201|
|8.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 3.565||Y|
|9.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 5.270|
|10.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||+ 5.881|
|11.||Fernando Monje||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 7.078||Y|
|12.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 7.879||Y|
|13.||Fredy Barth||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 8.485||Y|
|14.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 9.298||Y|
|15.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 14.192||Y|
|16.||Mikhail Kozlowskiy||LADA Sport Granta||+ 15.333|
|17.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:03.246||Y|
|18.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 1 lap||Y|
|DNF.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||5 laps|
|DNF.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||5 laps|
|DNF.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||5 laps|
|DNF.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||1 lap||Y|
|WD.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||Withdrew||Y|
“Y” denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor.