Michel Nykjaer secured his first WTCC race win at Marrakech

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.

Polesitter Tarquini lead the field awayt, but it would be Nykjaer who would triumph

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.

Huff snatches fourth place from former teammate Yvan MullerHuff was momentarily delayed as he came across the Moroccan, and that was all the enterprising Muller needed to reclaim fourth at exactly the same corner where he’d lost it just moments before.

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):

Driver Team Result YIT
1. Michel Nykjær DEN NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 28:51.561 Y
2. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Castrol Honda Civic WTCC Honda + 0.566  
3. James Nash GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 1.612 Y
4. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 2.224  
5. Robert Huff GBR Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 2.248  
6. Alex MacDowall GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 2.476 Y
7. Marc Basseng DEU Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 3.201  
8. Pepe Oriola ESP Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 3.565 Y
9. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 5.270
10. James Thompson GBR LADA Sport Granta LADA + 5.881  
11. Fernando Monje ESP Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 7.078 Y
12. Darryl O’Young HKG ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 7.879 Y
13. Fredy Barth SUI Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW + 8.485 Y
14. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 9.298 Y
15. René Münnich DEU Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 14.192 Y
16. Mikhail Kozlowskiy RUS LADA Sport Granta LADA + 15.333
17. Franz Engstler DEU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 1:03.246 Y
18. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 1 lap Y
  Not Classified Result  
DNF. Tiago Monteiro POR Castrol Honda Civic WTCC Honda 5 laps
DNF. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC Honda 5 laps
DNF. Tom Chilton GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 5 laps  
DNF. Stefano D’Aste ITA PB Sport BMW 320TC BMW 1 lap Y
WD. Tom Boardman GBR Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT Withdrew Y

“Y” denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor.

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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.